Recently I finished another edition of Discover OGC, our newcomer orientation series. Over the next few weeks our officers are interviewing various candidates for membership at our local church.
Perhaps you have yet to make this decision. I commend these brief thoughts from Hebrews to your consideration as ample argument for moving ahead with membership. If you have made such a decision and are a covenant member at OGC or some other local church, I commend these thoughts to you as well as an encouragment that such a choice is in your best interest.
1. It will help protect you from the peril of spiritual drift (Heb. 2:1,3). The writer pleads for greater attention to spiritual realities “lest we drift away” and warns “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Connection to a church body can be one strategy to counter the tendency to drift.
2. It can protect against the danger of an evil heart of unbelief (3:12-13). “Exhort one another daily . . . lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” the text says. Membership puts you more readily in touch with people who will do that for you. And, of course, it assumes that you will do the same for them.
3. It will add to the extent of your eternal reward (6:10). “God is not unjust to forget what you do toward His name, in ministering to other saints.” Where will you more readily find other saints to which to minister than in your church where you are a member?
4. It puts you in a place where mutual provocation can take place (10:24-25). Love and good deeds continually require external stimuli, the kind which comes from not forsaking assembling together but exhorting one another more and more.
5. It enables the pursuit of sanctification (12:14). We are to pursue peace with all and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. No one grows in a vacuum. We need each other to achieve Christ-likeness. Mark Dever calls church membership “an assurance of salvation cooperative.” We need each other in covenant community to help promote the assurance that we are indeed saved based upon some degree of evident sanctification in our lives manifested within the church and among its membership.
6. It more readily exposes you to examples worth imitating (13:7). Hebrews assumes the necessity of leaders whose lifestyles set a pace worth emulating.
7. It offers you the benefit and profit of glad spiritual oversight (13:17). How are you to ensure adequate shepherding of your life if you do not readily “arrange yourself under” (the literal meaning of the Greek for submit) spiritual leaders and gladly receive their spiritual ministrations on your behalf? Notice how often the writer emphasizes the assumption that you have spiritual leaders who rule over you – vv. 7, 13, and 24.
Don’t give in to modern evangelicalism’s pervasive plague of individualism. Covenant to become a member of your local church. The stakes are too high to neglect this gracious provision of God on our behalf.