The following series of articles comes from David Cloud and gives us some helpful insight into how to really make the most of being a member of a church. I am so grateful for the church that Jesus Christ loved and gave Himself for, and I want to have a right relationship with the church, which is his body, his bride. I would not agree with every point he makes, but I think there is alot of good truth in what he writes. Check out Part 1 as well.
1. WE MUST HAVE AN ABIDING RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST
2. WE MUST UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE CHURCH
Another thing we must understand to be a fruitful church member is that God ordained the church. It is a divine institution and it is the center of God’s work in the world today and is to continue until Jesus returns.
The Bible emphasizes that the church is God’s chosen means of accomplishing His purposes in this age. Even the most cursory study of the New Testament reveals that the church is God’s chosen means of accomplishing His purposes in this age. There are more than 100 references to the church in the New Testament. This shows the emphasis that the Holy Spirit has put upon the church, and the vast majority of those references are unquestionably to the local assembly, not to a general or prospective aspect of the church.
Men have corrupted churches, but the church is God’s plan. The Lord Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18). The church is Christ’s program.
The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:16), and that is a church with elders and elders (1 Tim. 3:1, 8).
Most of the New Testament was written directly to churches. And even those portions not written directly to a particular church refer to the church. The theme of Acts is the planting and multiplication of the first churches. The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were written to instruct church planters in their work.
Even the General Epistles, which are not written to particular churches, always have the churches in mind. Hebrews refers to the church in chapters 10 and 13. Hebrews 10:25 exhorts God’s people not to forsake the assembling of themselves together. In Hebrews 13:7 and 17 Christians are exhorted to obey church rulers. The last chapter of James refers to the church. Those who are sick are to call for the “elders of the church.” The final chapter of 1 Peter also refers to the church, in exhorting elders in their duties. John refers to the church in his third epistle, when he mentions the proud Diotrephes. The book of Revelation, of course, is addressed to the seven churches that existed in that day.
Consider, too, that there is no Bible instruction about the discipline and watch care of Christians apart from the church. There is no instruction about leadership among Christians apart from the church. The entire life and work of God’s people for this age appears in the context of the assembly.
We must also understand what a church is. A proper New Testament church has certain biblical ingredients. It is not merely a group of Christians meeting for prayer and Bible study. Paul wrote to Titus about church work in Crete. The gospel had been preached and there were believers who were meeting together, but that was not sufficient. Paul instructed Titus that certain things were lacking (Titus 1:5). What were those things? The thing that was lacking was proper qualified leadership and biblical organization, and these are the thing that Paul addresses in the book of Titus. The very first thing that Paul instructs Titus about is the ordination of elders. “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5).
We see the same thing in the book of Acts. When Paul and Barnabas raised up groups of believers in various towns, they were careful to “ordain elders in every church” (Acts 14:23).
A proper New Testament church, therefore, is a body of baptized believers who are congregated together under the oversight of qualified and ordained pastor/elders and who are following the pattern of government and accomplishing the work described in the apostolic epistles.
It is clear from Scripture that it is God’s will that every believer be a faithful and fruitful member of a sound New Testament church. That is what we see in Acts 2. Those who were saved on the day of Pentecost “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42)
If there is not such a church in the area, the establishment of such a church must be the highest priority. A believer should never be content merely to listen to preaching sermons on a cassette player or CD, or to read sermons from a book, or to listen to preaching on the radio or television, or to meet together with a loose-knit group of believers without proper biblical leadership and organization.
The reason I have remained a faithful member of a church for 32 years is not that I have found perfect pastors and perfect churches, but because I know that this is God’s will and anything less would displease Him. It is my understanding of the doctrine of the church that keeps me going in spite of grave imperfections I have found in churches.