We live in a time and age where people are skeptical. They’re skeptical about organized religion. They’re skeptical about authority. They’re skeptical about making a commitment to God. Thus, it has led to a membership at-large mentality. I can come and go as I please. I can worship at one place this Sunday, then go to another place the following Sunday. I can drop in whenever I feel like it. There’s no rhyme or reason. But let me suggest to you that being a part of a local congregation of God’s people is a scriptural practice — one we find in the pages of the New Testament.
We don’t have to look any further than Saul — later renamed Paul — in Acts 9. In chapter 8, we learn Saul is in Jerusalem consenting to Stephen’s death (v. 1). Saul then makes his way to Damascus (9:1-3), where he’s eventually baptized and becomes part of the universal church. After escaping death in Damascus, Saul returns to Jerusalem and tries to “join” with the disciples there (9:26). The word “join” in the Greek means to glue together, to cement, to cleave to. And once someone joins a local church, there comes with it a number of responsibilities.
Here are four:
Involvement (Eph. 4:16): Saul was “coming in and going out” (Acts 9:28). It’s the idea that Saul was part of the local group in Jerusalem. He assembled with them (Heb. 10:24-25) and was involved by faithfully attending. As a responsibility to the local church, the very least I can do is make a commitment to be here every service.
Receive the Word of God (Acts 2:42): It was a vital part of the early church and it continues to be a vital part of the church today. We bear responsibility in the way we receive the Word (James 1:21-22). The preacher or teacher has a very important responsibility that can never be taken lightly. But those who are listening also have a very important responsibility that can’t be taken lightly.
Contribute to the work of the local church (Acts 20:35): It’s not about what we get out of it, but what we give. The early Christians were devoted to what they could give (Acts 2:41-47). I have a responsibility to support my local church with not just monetary contributions, but with my time and my talents (I Cor. 12:12-18).
Maintain unity (John 17:21): The unity of the local church must be a priority (Eph. 4:1-6). I know we’re all a little bit different. We’ve got our own quirks and personalities. But when it comes to doctrinal issues, we are not to be divided as a local church. We are to be one. We can accomplish more as a church if we are unified than if we are divided.