In the previous article, I wrote a short doctrinal statement of our church based on 2 Timothy 1:9-13. We are committed to these doctrinal truths as all churches should be. If these doctrines are true, they must be true for all churches, not just ours. Thomas Paul Simmons wrote in his systematic theology, “When one is saved, the next consideration that should claim his attention is the church. Gratitude to God for salvation should make him as conscientious about church affiliation as about matters pertaining to salvation.” I believe this is an accurate assessment of the value placed upon church membership by the apostles in two ways. As Simmons states, we should be conscientious about affiliation. His primary meaning is that each Christian should carefully choose a church that is faithful to New Testament doctrine. To this we would add, a Christian should be conscientious about becoming a church member in the first place! Neither the apostles nor Simmons would imagine a Christian not being a part of a church.
In the Great Commission, the apostles were told to preach the gospel, to make disciples, to baptize them, and teach them to observe the commandments of Christ. Thus, we find another great reason to become a part of the Lord’s church. The church is the place for the teaching of God’s word. Paul explained in Ephesians that God put pastors and teachers in the church for building the faith and knowledge of His people. Contrary to what many think, the church is not primarily a place for evangelism. The church is for believers and teaching them is our primary mandate. Since God predestined us to be conformed to the image of Christ, He gave His church as a place to receive instruction that we might come “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
Additionally, I would mention the fellowship of the church. The church is a place for Christians to meet to encourage one another. Hebrews says, “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another…” (10:25). Church membership identifies you with other Christians and is acceptance of the responsibilities of your faith. Membership is commitment to the cause of Christ and the responsibility of the commission Christ gave to His disciples. The Great Commission was given to the apostles as they were the first church. They were commissioned as a church, not as individuals, for the perpetual work of evangelism. It is your responsibility as God’s child to assist in carrying out the commission under the authority of the church.
The New Testament is filled with instructions for the church. Nine of Paul’s epistles were written specifically to local congregations. Three were written for instructions to pastors and deacons and for church order. The Revelation written by John begins with a message to seven local churches. Acts is the history of the organization and growth of the local church in the first century. These books along with the gospels and general epistles are centered on the church. We cannot escape the reality that the local church is the plan and purpose for God’s people today. I encourage you to join a true Bible believing church and serve God faithfully by committing yourself to its ministry. Be conscientious about your choice of affiliation. Be sure your choice is a church that is committed to sound doctrine. I can think of none better than Berean Baptist Church! Join with us as we minister to this community and send the gospel around the world.
Pastor V. Mark Smith