Blessings of Local Church Membership
William V. Beasley
The New Testament clearly sets forth strong reasons for being a member of the Lord's church. In the church one serves under the headship of Christ (Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18) to give glory to God (Eph. 3:21). In Christ, his spiritual body the church, we enjoy all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), where there is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Each of these, I believe, refers to the church universal, to being a member of the body of Christ. There are duties which cannot be obeyed, blessings which cannot be received, unless and until one is also a member of a local congregation, such as the church in Ephesus (Rev. 2:1), Smyrna (Rev. 1:8), etc.
The New Testament also sets forth strong, clear reasons for being a member of a local congregation. There is no such thing in the New Testament as a "member at large." Saul of Tarsus "assayed to join himself to the disciples" (Acts 9:26). To the immature, nominal ones who "play church" all of the things to be mentioned may not seem like blessings. To those who truly want to go to heaven, the blessedness will be seen. Consider, with me, some blessing associated with membership in a local congregation.
Fellowship In Worship
When we meet together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as the spiritual children of the Heavenly Father, to offer worship to God, we can draw strength one from another. Our God recognized this need, and such is shown in our worship. When we are "making melody with y(our) heart(s) to the Lord" we are also "speaking one to another" (Eph. 5:19), we are "teaching and admonishing one another" (Col. 3:16). When we partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week, we "proclaim the Lord's death" (1 Cor. 11:26). Working alone, worshiping alone, standing alone, and serving alone are discouraging (see Rom. 11:2-3,4). We ought to recognize the blessing of being able to worship with others.
Fellowship In Work
The basic meaning of "fellowship" is "joint participation." Fellowship in work means that all are working. If you are not working (there is more work to be done than there are willing workers) you are not in this fellowship. Surely it is good, is a real blessing, to be able to share the work (consider 1 Cor. 12:12f). There are some people whom I cannot reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ, but you can reach them. For this, I thank God, and see a great blessing in having others (you) to work with me.
Being Able To Do Work Afar
Few of us could individually support a gospel preacher . . . but together (in a local church) we can help with the Lord's's work in other states, in other nations. Few of us could afford to preach over the radio, through the newspaper, publish a bulletin, etc., but together (as a local congregation of God's people) we can and do. Our little bit, in comparison to the great need, is multiplied and the work is being done. There is, beloved, much more to do.
Blessings Of Brotherly Love
In times of physical problems, thank God for brethren who care. In times of a spiritual crisis, some care enough to be there. Some love enough to "reprove, rebuke, exhort" (2 Tim. 4:1-2), when it is needed. "Better is open rebuke than love that is hidden" (Prov. 27:5). It even helps when one says, "We missed you." When someone is there when we must cry "Help! ", we have received a great blessing from God.
Elders' Watchful Care
If you are working, serving in a congregation that is fully organized, having qualified elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9) who are concerned for your soul, you are enjoying a blessing from God, found only in being a member of a local church of Christ. Elders are such only in a local congregation (1 Pet. 5:2). Elders must give account for your soul and how they worked for its salvation (Heb. 13:17). Your obligation is to obey (Heb. 13:17a); this is done only in the local church. Dear reader, Matthew 11:17 cannot be obeyed except through local church membership.
When an elder, as God's appointed shepherd of the flock, comes to you to encourage, to strengthen, to reprove or to rebuke they are a blessing to you. Those people who are determined to live as the world see such ones as meddlers, busy-bodies; but those who want to go to heaven will see a blessing from God. This blessing is given only through local church membership.
This, too, is a blessing. So many times when corrective discipline is mentioned someone will say, "It will drive them away." Such is not the purpose. We strive to bring the erring back to God's fold (2 Thess. 3:14; 2 Cor. 2:5-9) thus the blessedness.
We need to be thankful to God for all of his blessings to us. We need to be thankful for the blessings associated with being a child of God, a member of the body of Christ, which is the church of Christ. We also need to be thankful for the blessings associated with being a member of a local congregation. If you have never obeyed the gospel of Christ, you are not a child of God and are missing all of these blessings God has provided for you.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 18, p. 554