I've got a personal relationship with Jesus. I spend daily, personal, and private time with the triune God in prayer, petition, study, worship, confession, etc. So why do I need to join a local church?
Here are at least five biblical and practical reasons to join a local church.
1. Join a local church for the glory and praise of God.
Conspiracy theorists, don't worry! Local church membership isn't just the idea of pastors that need money to feed their families. Nor was it the idea of the local Chamber of Commerce either to attract people to their city. The idea of the local church is traced back to God Himself. You see, there is a unique and profound fullness of knowing God. What's more, there is an intimacy with God that you find in committed relationships within the local church with one another that crescendos as a foretaste of heaven.
The local church, having been birth by God's predetermined, providential will, is a reflection of God's own character, love, and grace and brings Him the highest praise when done according to His plan and His plan alone.
2. Join a local church for the sake of those without Christ.
Jesus said in John 13:35: "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
This, of course, doesn't mean you join a church filled with non-Christians (even though, sadly, they exist!). No, you need to join a church that that will biblically teach and show what the Gospel is (1 Cor. 15:1-8). The leaders will dedicate their lives to show, teach, and live out what it means to be a true believer and communicate what it doesn't mean (Phil. 3:17).
Some would say: "Well, the church is full of hypocrites! People believe one thing and believe another."
My response is simply: "Let's hope so! Where else on earth should we have them? All the sinners are welcome here insofar as we repent and cast ourselves upon the grace of God only available in His Son, Jesus Christ and see the Holy Spirit working in our lives."
Every true Christian is part of the answer to this objection. As part of that local church, you are called to be an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). Join a biblical local church to clear up what it means to be a follower of Jesus!
3. Join a local church for the sake of a true, feebler Christian
This is not original to me, but it has been well said by many a pastor: "There are no Lone Ranger Christians!" I heard someone say once, "Well, I am strong-blooded American. I am independent. I can handle myself!"
Really? So, you are not "strong enough" to save yourself from you sin, but you can maintain your own sanctification apart from other Christians also called by God? Really?
You will not make it! You need to be an example of Christ for weaker Christians and them for you.
According to 1 John, if you do not live a life marked by love toward others, the Bible has no encouragement for you to think you are a Christian—none (1 John 3:11-24 with 2 Pet. 1:10 )!
How do you do this, you ask? One sure way is to join a local church and get involved in it.
When you see the character of Christ worked on in your own life personally, you can help grow other true believers by God's grace and power that may be weaker corporately.
4. Join a local church for the sake of seeing, knowing, and learning from mature and stronger Christians.
A wise mentor once told me:
Darin, God is not just about you. He is not just about you like your spiritual life is some kind of weightlifting experiment. No, He wants you to work hard for Him. God has redeemed you and saved you to be a member of a local church to give your time, effort, life, and love to other true believers that may 'slow you down,' but that will also 'speed you up.'
You see, being a stronger Christian is simply having the ability to love like Jesus Himself said in John 13:35 above. It means that you dedicate yourself to a local group of saved sinners. It means that you try to love them, not just for a month or a year, but year after year, as long as God would have you there.
This is ultimate test of whether or not you love God—the truth will come out. And, most of all, you will be grow because personally and corporately unto God's glory.
5. Join a local church for the sake and backing of the local leaders.
As a pastor, it is imperative that I know who is committed to our local church. I (we) need to know who I (we) am (are) caring for!
Think about it: How can I be a blessing and encouragement to someone as God commands me to be as a pastor if a person hasn't committed him or herself to the local church? If the person is gone 3 out of 4 Sundays a month? If the person is always late and never attends anything else outside of a worship service?
As a member of a local church, this means a person should be attending regularly (Heb. 10:24-25), praying regularly for the church (Col. 1:9 ), and giving regularly (1 Cor. 16:1-2 ; 2 Cor. 9)—to name a few.
Please understand that if you are a true believer, you aren't called to be just a consumer, but you are called, biblically speaking, to be a provider. It is your responsibility to hold out the Word of life to others (Eph. 5:19 ; 1 Cor. 14:26 ; Col. 3:16 ; James 5:13 ).
It is not just the job of the pastors that serve you or of the other people around in the local church. It is also your responsibility. By the life imparted by the Holy Spirit of God to regenerate and save you, it is your glorious privilege and responsibility to be one of the providers of ministry in that local church.
Local pastors need your support, prayers, and encouragement. Perhaps the greatest way to do is to say, "What can I do to serve? I don't know much. I don't have much ability, but with God's strength, whatever I can do that you name, I just want to do it."
Darin Smith is the senior pastor of Tower View Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. He has a B.A. in Communication from William Jewell College, a Master of Divinity from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently pursuing his Doctorate of Ministry in Apologetics from the Puritan Reformed Biblical Seminary. Darin is the author of The Daily Message Devotional: 365 Devotions to Bring You Closer to Christ and has been published and featured since 1999 on numerous Christian websites, blogs, and podcasts. He is married to Natalie, and they have three children.