Twenty Reasons Why Every Christian Needs A Local Church

Active membership in a local church is required for every Christian who desires to be faithful and honor Christ by following him and contributing to the church, which is the only thing Christ is building in this age (Matt 16:18). The following summarizes twenty reasons why every Christian should be an active and contributing member of a local church.

  1. The New Testament demonstrates the local church is at the center of God’s plan of carrying out his mandate to build the universal church (Matt 16:18; 28:18–20; Eph 4:11–15). The term for church, ekklēsia, appears one hundred and fourteen times in the NT.[1] Four times the term is used for non-church gatherings.[2] Of the remaining one hundred and ten references, only eighteen refer to the universal church, which leaves ninety-two times, 84%, referring to the local assembly of believers.[3]
  2. Local church commitment is a prerequisite for adequately understanding and applying the New Testament to our Christian lives because all the Epistles and Revelation were written to or for a local church. They teach us how to live, first in the community of a local church.
  3. Scripture repeatedly commands Christians to submit to their leaders (Heb. 13:17; 1 Thess. 5:12–13). These passages refer, in context, to local church leaders.
  4. The church is the pillar and support of truth (1 Tim 3:15). While this is true of the universal church, it is no less true of the local church. That Paul has the local church in mind is also evidenced when he explains his reason for writing to Timothy. “I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The context further confirms Paul’s focus when he addresses the place of men and women in the local church (1 Tim 2:11–15). And in the immediately preceding verses are the qualifications of the officers of the local church (1 Tim 1–13).[4]
  5. The local church is the nucleus for caring for those in need. These needs can include such things as widows who meet the qualifications of a “widow indeed” (1 Tim 5: 3, 9), those suffering, sick, or in need of prayer (1 Cor 12:26; Jas 5: 13–16).
  6. The local church is where we as Christians are to regularly serve one another with our spiritual gifts (Rom 12:3–21; 1 Cor 12–14; 1 Pet 4:10–11).
  7. The local church is where Christians are to be matured in the faith under God’s leaders (Eph 4:11–12; 1 and 2 Tim; Titus; Heb 13:17) in order to minister truth and the gospel to the church and the world (Eph 4:11–17).
  8. The local church is where Christians are to be cared for by God’s undershepherds (John 21:15–17; Eph 4:11–12; Heb 13:17; 1 Pet 5:1–3).
  9. We are commanded to give weekly to our local church (1 Cor 16:1–2).[5]
  10. The New Testament uses terms like whole church to speak of local churches to which surrounding Christians belong (1 Cor 5:6; 14:23).
  11. A lack of commitment and active involvement in a local church indicates a spiritual problem. Why would a Christian who seeks to obey Christ not commit and actively belong to a local church, as is the New Testament pattern?[6] Christians have no qualms about joining a school, athletic club, or sports team or signing legal contracts to secure material blessings.
  12. New Testament metaphors of the church, such as body, flock, and household, are intimate images, which are most poignantly and superbly expressed in the body life of the local church.[7] We see these images used of the local church: body (1 Cor 10:16–17; 12:27; Eph 4:12),[8] flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:2), and household (1 Cor 3:9; Gal 6:10;[9]1 Tim 3:15). These images are all characteristics of local units of relationships that are up-close and personal.
  13. The ordinances of the church, baptism and The Lord’s Supper, are within the domain of and carried out in the local church (Acts 2:41–47; Rom 6:3–4; 1 Cor 5:11; 11:20, 23–11:32).
  14. The context for Christian accountability is the local church (Matt 18:15–20; Rom 16:17–18; 1 Cor 5:1–13; Gal 6:1–2; 2 Thes 3:6–15; 1 John 2:19).
  15. The idea of a faithful at-large Christian who is not identified by a commitment to and active membership in a local church is not entertained in the New Testament.
  16. The local church is like marriage and family but on a larger scale. It is where we learn to live out the principles of Christianity in real relationships with other believers, up close and personal (1 John 4:20).
  17. Living local church life is essential to submitting to God by following his command to be committed to a local body of believers. As we are told in Hebrews, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:25).
  18. The regular gathering of local churches for fulfilling the Great Commission by visibly worshiping, equipping, serving, and loving each other in fellowship and going out to advance the gospel is an excellent and perennial image of the work of Christ building his universal church (Matt 16:18).
  19. To be a part of the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 3:16).[10]
  20. To receive rewards that will be given at the judgment seat of Christ for our contribution to building a local church (1 Cor 3:10–15).[11] To not be an active member of a local church is to lose those rewards.

 

[1] ekklēsia is translated assembly (3), church (74), churches (35), and congregation (2) for a total of 114 times; Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries, updated edition, H8674 (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998, 1981).
[2] It is used of the congregation of Israel in Acts 7:38 and a non-church assembly in Acts 19:32, 39, 41.
[3] This is an approximation, which could vary by 1 or 2 depending on whether one interprets a couple of usages as referring to the universal or local.
[4] I understand vs 11 to refer to the wives of deacons rather than deaconesses. The word is women or wife (gynē) and not ­the word deaconess (diakonon). It is the same word used in verses 2 and 12 that outlines the requirement for overseers and deacons that they “must be the husband of one wife.”  Additionally, it seems odd that the Holy Spirit would address deacons in verses 8–10, then deaconesses in verse 11 and return back to deacons in verses 12–13. It does not seem odd to address the wives of deacons in the context of addressing deacons. My experience of pastoring would strongly indicate that the wives of deacons are vital to the ministry and suitability of a man to serve as a deacon.
[5] The words do verse one and put aside verse two are commands, second-person plural, aorist, active tense, imperative and second-person singular, present tense, imperative respectively.
[6] We see this throughout the entire New Testament.
[7] This is not to say these images are not applied to the universal church, but rather to say they are also applied to the local church.
[8] 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of spiritual gifts in the universal body and local body of Christ and 1 Corinthians 14 immediately applies the body concept to the local church at Corinth.
[9] Timothy George notes, “Luther and Calvin, following Jerome, saw a linkage between this verse and Paul’s earlier admonition in v. 6 concerning the liberal support of the ministers of the churches. Others have interpreted the adverb “especially” (malista) as an oblique reference to Paul’s collection of funds for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The language Paul used can allow for either of these interpretations, but it is more likely that he was here simply pointing to the special responsibility all Christians have to help alleviate the suffering of their needy brothers and sisters in Christ.” Note the local church emphasis. Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 428.
[10] The you here is plural, referring to the local body of believers, whereas 1 Cor 6:19 refers to each person’s physical body.
[11] The context of these rewards and losses is the local church. Christians will be rewarded if their contributions to the local church were according to God’s plan.