We live in a time when church membership is on the decline. Since the 1990s the number of people who claim to be members of a church has dropped around 30%. Why is this the case? Why do more and more people have less interest in church membership?
In my own experience I have found that some people don’t want to be members of a church because they are happy where they are in life without it. Some people have had a bad experience and have decided that churches are filled with hypocrites. Some think that they are actually a member of a church even though they have never darkened the door.
I was talking to a man who wanted me to try and study the Bible with his parents. He warned me that they were die hard members of a denomination. However, he could not remember them ever going to church. There are many people like this. The denominations that teach “once saved always saved” created this particular monster. And when these people die, they will find a preacher for the denomination to which they “belonged” who will preach them right into heaven.
Almost all the reasons why people don’t go to church can be identified in the reasons that Jesus gave in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:19-23. He says that trials and tribulations of life will keep some away. For others it is the cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches.
But notice how Jesus begins talking about this issue in verse 19, “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the evil one, and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart.”
Jesus makes it clear that the church is his kingdom (Matt 16:18). Therefore, the phrase “word of the Kingdom” means what the Bible says about the Lord’s church. This is the very message that Philip preached in Samaria (Acts 8:12).
The point is simple. People do not go to church because they do not understand what the word of God says about the church.
The opposite is true as well though. The majority of people who do go to church, do not do so out of an understanding of what the Bible says about the church. The proof of this is in the responses that I receive when I ask people, “Why do you go to ________ church?” The answers are usually along these lines:
“I like the pastor there. I have known him my entire life. He was at the hospital when my daughter was born. He did the funeral for my mother.”
“I started going to the methodist church because it was across the street from my house when I was a kid.”
“I go there because the messages make me feel really good.”
“I go there because it is new, it is fresh, they have a good young group. They have a good worship team.”
“I go there because I was raised in it. My grandmother was a Baptist, my mother was a Baptist, and I am a Baptist”.
These are all examples of bad answers for being a member of any church. Church membership should be based on understanding what the Bible teaches about the church. “Is this church scriptural?”, should be the foundation to church membership.
Scripture teaches us that there is only one scriptural church (Eph 4:4). If we are going to be members of any church, shouldn’t we want to be members of the one that you can find in the Bible? Shouldn’t we want to be members of the church that the apostles were members of? Shouldn’t we want to be members of the one church that Jesus died for and purchased with his blood?
To “understand” is to know and comprehend the nature of something. Honestly ask yourself if you really understand what the Bible says about the church of Christ?
Here are some basic questions to ask about the church. These questions serve a starting point to gauge your understanding:
Does it matter what name my church wears?
Do men have authority to start their own denomination?
Was the church established by John the Baptist?
Did Peter start a church that was different from the church Paul started?
What event had to happen before the church could be established?
Who bought the church?
What are members of the church of Christ called?
Where was the church established first?
Did The Apostles Creed organize the Church?
Can one be saved but not be a member of the church?
Is a saint an extra faithful church member?
Who decides how the church should worship?
How did you do? The purpose of the questions is to reveal to you just how little you may know about the church of the Bible. It is not to embarrass you. Just to cause you to critically think about the fact that Church membership is not a flippant decision. Church membership should not be something we do because of family tradition, the building, the friends we have there, the events they have, or the even the feeling we get. It should be based on an understanding of what the Bible teaches about the church.
I would like to make a challenge to every reader. Please respond with the scriptural proof that God wants you to be a member of your particular denomination. Prove to me in scripture that He wants us to be a Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Catholic, LDS, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Hope and Stand, Harbor, or any other denomination. If you need help, ask your pastor for the scriptural proof. But what will you do when the proof is lacking?
On Sundays at 6pm we will be presenting a series of lessons titled “Why I am a Member of the Church of Christ”. They will be presented at 205 S. Cumberland Ave in Lafollette. We welcome all to come and hear. What I know you will be impressed with is that every single reason to be a member of the church of Christ is based on one foundational reason:
It is scriptural to be a member of the church of Christ.
I can almost promise you that if you come with a Bible and an honest desire to understand the truth, you will want to become a member of the church of Christ too.
If you would like to respond with questions, comments, request to study, or organize a public discussion please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: This series of articles dealing with the reasons to be a member of the Lord's church is highly influenced by the book "Why I am A Member Of The Church of Christ" by Leroy Brownlow.