All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. …They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. [Acts 2:42,46-47 (NLT)]
When a church friend won a trivia contest because she knew the day and year Elvis Presley died, I asked how she could recall the exact date. She replied, “I remember because August 16, 1977, was the day I traded one king for another one—it’s the day I accepted Jesus!” Indeed, it is an important date for her to remember.
Although I don’t know exactly when my mother-in-law became a Christ follower, my father-in-law marked his acceptance of Jesus with his baptism at the age of 17 (in 1925). I only know this because my in-laws kept a letter attesting to his baptism with the rest of their important papers in their safe deposit box. Along with their birth certificates, voter registrations, social security cards, marriage certificate, and that letter, I found the membership document and church bulletin from the Sunday they joined their church in 1967. Belonging to the body of Christ and a part of His Church was so important to them that they’d also kept a record of their 1946 membership in another church in a different city.
Understanding that the date of our rebirth is as important as the date of our birth and our commitment to Christ is more important than the commitment we made to our spouse, I can see why my friend knows the date of Elvis Presley’s death and my in-laws kept their church papers alongside the rest of their valuable documents.
As followers of Jesus, we are members of the body of Christ or, as the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds state, the holy catholic (or universal) Church. As important as that is, it also is important to belong to a local church. In joining a church we make a visible commitment to Jesus and His body. Just as hanging a Cubs flag indicates our favorite team or a bumper sticker indicates our politics, our church membership is an outward and visible sign of our faith in Jesus. Joining a church is like joining a movement; we become part of something far bigger than ourselves,
A church provides a place to learn God’s word so that our faith is grounded. It’s the place to openly ask questions and get them answered. It’s where we find fellowship with other believers and learn from, share with, help, and encourage one another. It’s where we observe the Lord’s Supper and break bread in Christian fellowship. The church is where we pray both as a unified body and as individuals; we pray for the world at large and in answer to our brothers’ and sisters’ specific requests. The church is where we minister, not just to one another, but to the community at large, by providing for both physical and spiritual needs. The church also is where we are held accountable. Rather than complain when the pastor’s words make us squirm in our seats, we should be thankful. If we’re just looking for a feel-good message, there are plenty of afternoon talk shows and New Age self-help books for that. Jesus, however, was never about making us feel good—he was about making us better and making us better is what His shepherds (our pastors) are called to do!
As the Apostle Paul so aptly put it, the church is the body of Christ. Although we are different parts of that one body, no part of the body can function by itself. We need one another just as much as our feet need our legs and our lungs need the nose and mouth. Although many of us don’t remember the date we accepted Jesus or even the date we joined our church, may we always honor our commitment to be a valuable part of the body of Christ.