Occasionally, someone will ask me why they should join a church… “I just don’t see it in The Bible, so I don’t think formalizing my relationship with the church is really a thing. It doesn’t feel right. After all, I am here aren’t I? I am serving in some way, aren’t I? Isn’t that good enough?”
The truth is you are right… In a way. Jesus never commanded that you should “join a church.” The Apostle Paul never commanded that you go to a membership class. There is no verse that says “thou shalt join a church.”
The thing is, though, that you can’t actually read the New Testament without seeing the active, local church all over it.
First, you have to remember that these letters that make up the New Testament were all written within just a few short decades of Jesus’ ministry here on earth. At that time, communities didn’t have multiple church congregations, like we do in America today. the church wasn’t nearly so pervasive and prolific in it’s sheer number and many forms. The first century believer simply didn’t have the luxury of choosing between the big, contemporary megachurch, the traditional “first” church, and the small, family-oriented church… All within driving distance. In that day, church was just beginning to spread, mostly into unfriendly territory. So, you had the church in Corinth. The church in Ephesus. The church in Galatia. The hope was for each town to have it’s own expression of the Body of Christ.
At that time, church wasn’t a stylistic, social choice… It was a way of life.
In fact, that way of life pervades all of the New Testament. You just can’t honestly read it without the clear presumption of a tightly-knit local body (1 Corinthians 12-14) that met together regularly in large group and small group, serving each other (Acts 2:42-47) and working hard with their gifting (Romans 12:6-13) because they were on mission together as one for the gospel (Philippians 1:27). They were officially organized and appointed leaders (Acts 6:1-7) which had job descriptions and qualifications (1 Timothy 3:2-13) and maintained order in their worship services (1 Corinthians 11:17-34) Even though they blew it every now and then. They held one another accountable, and discipled each other. (1 Corinthians 5:1-13)
Most of the New Testament is composed of letters written to specific, local churches. A notable exception are the “pastoral epistles,” (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) that are written to actual pastors of local churches. In those letters, the Apostle Paul goes into a lot of detail on how to care for their congregations, which first have to be identified before they can be cared for. (Think of a shepherd with sheep from many different owners just roaming about amongst each other. Which sheep is the shepherd responsible for?)
When you honestly read the Scripture, it becomes pretty clear that the New Testament doesn’t even recognize a believer who is not part of the Body of Christ. In fact the term “disconnected believer” would be an oxymoron in that culture.
Basically, the response of “I am here, I don’t need to be formally connected” isn’t a Biblical response… It is much more of a post-modern American, spirit of independence response.
On Sunday, we are offering our “Orchard Orientation.” It is our chance to show you very clearly why being connected to The Orchard Church is very different than being connected to most other churches. We believe our calling and our mission in Ellijay is distinctive, and we want to let you in on it. Why don’t you come to the Orientation and discover what that is all about? I promise, no hard sell tactics. Nobody will make you sign on any dotted lines. We just want to give you the chance to connect they way they did in the New Testament.RSVP for Orientation