Many of us at times have found ourselves longing to be part of the perfect church. The church that is just right for us. The church that you have always been longing for. But unfortunately, the odds of finding that “perfect church” are slim to none. So if you are looking for Northstar to be that perfect church, let me save you some time and trouble of looking under the hood. We are not a perfect church. Why? Because, for one thing, I am the pastor!
Still people are continually on a search for a perfect church and as a result become more like tourists, visiting churches in hopes of finding that ideal church. And because the search is ongoing they don‘t want to put down roots by joining a church no matter how close to their ideal the church they attend may be. The question is what’s holding them back from membership?
There are some typical responses to that question. “Joining a church sounds too serious.” Or “there are too many hoops and classifications.” Some say “I’m not old enough” or “I’m still trying to get a proper footing on this Christianity thing.” Others say that “I shouldn’t commit to a church if I’m not sure I’ll be in Panama City in 12 months.” Or finally, “Why is there so much pressure to commit to things right now?”
Wait, isn’t joining a church something you do once you have a minivan full of kids and you’ve bought a house?
I believe we need to be members of a local body of believers. I believe the local church plays a significant role in your spiritual life. In most cases, the local church is the primary source of Bible teaching, worship, discipleship, accountability, admonishment, encouragement, and fellowship.
In addition, the Scripture requires it. Granted, there is no direct command in Scripture that says, “Every Christian must join a local church,” but two factors in Scripture indicate that Christians should be a member of a local church.
Jesus established the church to be a public, earthly institution that would mark out, affirm, and oversee those who profess to believe in Him (Matthew 16:18-19 and Matthew 18:15-20). Jesus established the church to publicly declare those who belong to Him in order to give the world a display of the good news about Himself (John 17:21,23 and Ephesians 3:10). Jesus wants the world to know who belongs to Him and who doesn’t. The best way for Christians to publicly identify themselves is through the church God established for that very purpose. Jesus intends for His people to be marked out as a visible, public group, which means joining together in local churches.
Scripture repeatedly commands Christians to submit to their leaders (Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13). The best way to do that is joining the church. By joining the church, the Christian is saying in effect, “I commit to listening to your teaching, following your direction, and to submitting to your leadership.”
Many Christians view their Christianity as a personal relationship with God. While this is true, this personal relationship has implications for how we as Christ followers should live. But I’m concerned that many Christians don’t realize how this most important relationship with God necessitates a number of secondary personal relationships, including the relationships that Christ establishes between us and His body, the Church. In my opinion, God doesn’t mean for these to be relationships that we pick and choose at our whim among the many Christians “out there.” He means to establish us in a relationship with an actual community of believers.
If you have concerns about taking the plunge and joining a local church, let me tell you it’s no big deal. It is a pretty simple, howbeit important task. Pray and ask God if this is where you should serve Him. If Northstar is where God wants you, He will use this church to grow your faith more than you ever thought it could. And whether you feel “plugged in” yet or not, you will be part of seeing God’s vision come together for our church.
If you feel drawn to Northstar, then attend one of our membership classes. In that class you will learn more about Northstar and about what you’re committing to as a member of our church. My guess is it is not nearly as much as you think.
If you attend the membership class, learn what it means to be a member and you’re still not interested in joining yet – no worries. Please feel free to still keep attending and worshiping with us. We are always happy to have you. No one will know any different. I would encourage you to reconsider joining in the future or even joining another local church if Northstar is not for you.
I promise this joining Northstar thing isn’t as scary as it can be made out to be, and that it is vital for us all to grow in our walk with Christ.
Next week: Do I really need to serve in the church?