Why We Need Church Membership in Missions - Radical

Why We Need Church Membership in Missions

Being a part of a church won’t save you, but why do we truly need church membership in missions? All throughout Scripture, the church is presented as precious to Christ. Living outside of the body of Christ as we follow Jesus is living without the very bride of Christ. In this interview, Pastors David Platt and Mark Dever investigate the importance of church membership and the necessity of a Biblical community. The church is far more than a good sermon on a Sunday, or an excellent pastor leading the body. The love demonstrated within the church is a direct reflection of the love Christ first poured out on us.

  1. The Church’s Value to Christ
  2. Benefits of the Church
  3. Pastors in the Church
  4. Finding the “Right” Church

The Importance of Church Membership

Is it possible to be a Christian and not be a part of a church?

Oh yeah. Oh yeah, sure. Yeah. Being a part of a church won’t save you, and not being a part of a church won’t damn you. But it’s kind of like driving at night with your lights off. I don’t think you want to do it. I mean, yeah, you can do it, but those headlights are there for a reason. There are real problems out there. You can be driving off a cliff, you can be driving to a tree. I mean, there’s just all kinds of things you don’t want to do that you’re not meant to be doing on your own. And Jesus set up the church. Read Matthew 16, Matthew 18, Matthew 28, the Book of Acts. Jesus set it up. Acts 2028, Paul’s talk to the Ephesian elder says that God bought the church with his own blood. It’s just extraordinary language. The bride of Christ is the image that’s used in Ephesians five and in Revelation 21.

So, the church is precious to Christ. He found it, he bought all these different images for the church. So, it’s at least arrogant and also frankly dangerous for us to try to live as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus apart from the church or outside of a church. So, I think it’s a highly irregular way to try to follow Jesus because part of what the local church does is service by telling us if we’re deceiving ourselves as part of what the local church is there for, and to help encourage us when we’re feeling down and to get us to plug into other people’s lives. One of the stories I always tell about, this is a friend when I lived in England, who was a strong Christian in many ways there to evangelize and disciple who would come to the same church that I went to, but come just in time for the sermons.

And I asked him, I said, “Well, have you ever thought of coming earlier? Why don’t you come for the singing and the praying?” And he said, “Oh, I don’t get anything out of that.” And I said, “Well, would you ever think of joining the church?” He said, “Join the church?” He said, “Why would I join the church? If I lock arms with all those other people, they’re just going to slow me down.” And I knew what he meant. This is a sweet brother. He was a child of parachurch ministry. And I said to him, “If you link arms with all those other people, they may slow you down, but you may help to speed them up. And God may care more about the speed of the hole than just about you. He may just be playing at a much bigger game than you imagined.

So, even if you’re slowed down in those goals you have for yourself, the good that’s distributed out among these people may be aiming more at a bigger picture he’s trying to create and hold out to the world.” This brother did it up, joined the church and become a very useful member of the church.

That’s good.

Praise God.

Church Membership in Missions

I know here in Birmingham, for example, it’s one of the things we were talking about with our waitress today, that there’s more churches than people here. Seems like there’s everywhere, and there’s, I would say on a whole, a pretty strong spectator mentality in the church, and then also a church hopping, shopping kind of picture in the church, just sometimes, obviously not in all, but in some renaissance, not just to join a church, but to commit life to the church. Why is that so important, and how can the church address the spectator mentality that really is so destructive?

I think it’s hard for a church to address that apart from the senior pastor addressing it. The main preacher, the guy who’s normally up there opening up the word to the people. That person needs to understand this. That’s why 9Marks is aimed at pastors and church leaders because we think that’s where so much of the change can happen and needs to happen. Because you need to lead out in teaching from the word, what it means to be a Christian. According to 1 John, we can say that we love God, but if we don’t love our brothers whom we have seen, we lie, and the truth is not in us. So, we need to understand that Jesus said, this is how the world will know you’re my disciples by the love you have for one another. He doesn’t even say, well, the love you’ll have for the world as you serves them, Matthew 25, that’s serving brothers, actually. But I mean the outgoing love you have, but each other seems to be the witness.

So, we need to understand that as pastors, we need to teach that clearly that there is an important demand. Mark 8:38, you’re demanded to take up the cross if you’re going to follow him. And then if you don’t, if you deny him in front of men, he’ll deny you when he comes with his father’s angels.

So, there’s a seriousness and a weightiness to it that sometimes just praying a prayer, the end of an emotionally moving sermon doesn’t communicate in the room of a bunch of people that want you to do that anyway. So, I think we as pastors need to be the ones who think about that especially, and other Christians just need to humble themselves and be aware. You know what? I see this stuff like in Hebrews 13 about me obeying and submitting to my leaders in church when I’m not really a part of a church to even do that with.

What is True Church Membership?

So, I guess, as I read the New Testament carefully, I see that this was meant to be done in the context of a local church. So, I guess I should stop shopping around for the best youth group, the best music, the best things for my kids, the best preacher that I just enjoy hearing, and I better look at the whole package and what’s good for my soul, what’s good for the soul of my family, and go there and officially affiliate. I don’t care what they call it. Call it partnership, membership, whatever the word would be, but make sure that you click in and say, “Hey, come get me. If you don’t see me here.” I understand following Jesus is going to be inconvenient, but my flesh is not going to like that. So, I am calling on you guys in the name of God, come get me, and I’m pledging do the same for you insofar as I can. I’m going to try to open up my life to you, get to know you, get to know me, and we will try to help each other, make it home to be with the Lord.


Mark Dever

Mark Dever (PhD, Cambridge University) is a pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., the president of 9Marks, and a Council member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the author of many books, including Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. He and his wife, Connie, have two children.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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