Sometimes a person will say to me, “I’m a Christian, but I don’t believe you have to belong to a church to be one.” Or they will ask, “Can I be a Christian without being a church member?” In short, the answer is “no.” One hundred percent of the time when a person has said such things to me it is because they are not really committed to following Christ and being a part of His purpose—I’m not being judgmental, but you can tell. The Bible is clear that to be a Christian IS to belong to the Church, and the way one does that is to belong to a local congregation wherein they can grow in their understanding of Christ and mature in their service on behalf of His Kingdom. Such things do not happen outside of involvement with other Christians in the church.
In Romans 12:5 the Apostle Paul indicates that in Christ’s body “each member belongs to all the others.” He is talking about the church, and this goes deeper than the modern concept of being a “member” of some club. Paul is saying that we are profoundly interdependent with one another, much like the various parts of our body are interdependent with each other.
Throughout the New Testament there are a number of “one another” verses that show Christians what it means to be a responsible church member. There are no less than nine different ways illustrated by which the church interacted with “one another.” As you read through the practices of a responsible member of Christ’s community, the church, see how you’re doing in your service to “one another.”
Practice 1 – Affirm one another’s strengths, abilities, and gifts by honoring one another (Romans 12:10), not grumbling against each other (James 5:9), and confirming the gifts of one another (Rom. 12:3-8).
Practice 2 – Affirm one another’s equal importance in Christ by accepting one another just as Christ accepted you (Rom. 15:7), having equal concern for each other (1 Cor. 12:25), and not showing favoritism (James 2:1).
Practice 3 – Affirm one another through visible affection by being quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19), and by being kind and compassionate to one another (Eph. 4:32). See also Romans 16:16 and 1 Thessalonians 3:12.
Practice 4 – Share one another’s space, goods, and time by being devoted to one another in brotherly love (Rom. 12:10), by offering hospitality to one another (1 Peter 4:9), and by doing good as you have opportunity (Gal. 6:10).
Practice 5 – Share one another’s needs and problems by carrying each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and encouraging one another (1 Thess. 5:11).
Practice 6 – Share one another’s beliefs, thinking, and spirituality by teaching and admonishing one another (Col. 3:16), speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19), and by living in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16).
Practice 7 – Serve one another through accountability by confessing your sins to each other and praying for each other (James 5:16), instructing one another (Rom. 15:14), and by speaking truthfully (Eph. 4:25).
Practice 8 – Serve one another through forgiveness and reconciliation by being completely humble and gentle, patient, and bearing with one another in love (Eph. 4:2). Don’t provoke or envy one another (Gal. 5:26), don’t slander one another (James 4:11), and reestablish broken relationships with one another (Matt. 5:23-24; 18:15).
Practice 9 – Serve one another’s interests rather than your own by spurring one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24), not pleasing yourself but pleasing others (Rom. 15:1-2), and by serving one another (Gal. 5:13).
As you can see, it is impossible to be a Christian by yourself outside of the community called “the church.” In this fall season, I want to encourage you to be committed to Jesus by being faithful and responsible as a member of His body and the community He established—the church.
Blessings to you!