Are you a member of a church? Well, you should be.
Mark Dever says, “If you call yourself a Christian but you are not a member of the church you regularly attend, I worry that you may be going to hell.” That’s a pretty extreme statement, but I totally agree with it.
You see, what Dever is suggesting here is not that membership in a church contributes to a person’s salvation, but rather church membership is a vital means of confirming that a person’s salvation is genuine. After all, it should be obvious to us that nobody is a true Christian simply because they think they are. There are objective criteria that must be met. And the local church helps clarify those criteria while affirming (or denying) an individual’s claim to meet those criteria.
In other words, the church says, “Okay, so Joe claims to believe the Gospel. Well, we the church are an authorized distributor and guardian of the Gospel, so we can look at Joe’s life and let you know whether we think Joe’s claim is legitimate.”
With that in mind, allow me to briefly offer three reasons for that every Christian should join a local church.
1. For your own sake
If you claim to be a Christian, you should join a church for your own sake. Namely, you should join a church so that you can better understand the state of your own soul and thus be more equipped to repent from sin, hope in Christ, and live in obedience.
All too often, we believe the lie that we are the world’s experts on ourselves. I know I am a Christian, I might say, because I know my own heart. I know what I truly believe, regardless of what others may think. Other people cannot see into my heart, but I can.
To be sure, we do indeed have unique insight into our own internal thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. To assert otherwise would be ridiculous. But we must not give ourselves too much credit. We are all sinners, and one of the most tragic and difficult aspects of sin is how deceptive it can be—even for repentant followers of Jesus.
Scripture is rife with warnings about the deceptiveness of sin. For example, the apostle Paul warned the church in Corinth “not to associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler.” (1 Cor. 5:9)
So apparently, it’s possible to believe you are a Christian even when your life gives clear evidence to the contrary. I don’t know about you, but I find that terrifying!
But notice what Paul tells this church to do about such a person—do not associate with him. Cut him loose. In other words, the church should make it clear to this individual that his conduct is inconsistent with his claim. He is not a Christian, but rather an idolater, a slanderer, a drunkard, etc. Despite his own claims to love Christ—a claim that could very well be honest and well intentioned—he appears to be deceived.
In the same way, it is vital for us to submit to the authority of a local church in order to more clearly see the reality of our own hearts. What a joy it is when my profession of faith is affirmed by a church who observes my life and agrees that Christ indeed lives in me. But if it appears that Christ does not live in me, the most loving thing anyone can do for me is warn me of that fact so that I can turn from my sin and seek salvation.
2. For the sake of other Christians
Similarly, you should join a church for the sake of other Christians. In the same way that the church serves to affirm the veracity of your Gospel profession, you can be a part of doing the same for them. Do you want to really love and help those who claim Christ? The church provides you with an effective outlet for holding up the Gospel and helping others see whether or not they believe it.
However, your role as a church member is about more than just affirming or denying the professions of others. Church membership is about Christians making a covenant with one another care for one another in particular ways and guard one another from sin.
The writer of the book of Hebrews instructs Christians to “spur one another on” and “not neglect meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.” (Heb. 10:24-25) If you read the New Testament, I am confident you will find that the normal means of this kind of Christian community is the church.
3. For the sake of non-Christians
Finally, it is vital that you join a church for the sake of non-Christians. Just as church membership clarifies the Gospel to those inside the church, it also clarifies the Gospel to those outside. When we accept some people as members of a church—while excluding others—we are, in a sense, distinguishing ourselves from the rest of the world. We are in effect saying, “Hey world, check out our church members. This is what a Christian looks like! This is what the Gospel looks like!”
When we refuse or neglect to take part in church membership, we are forfeiting a tremendous witnessing opportunity, one which God himself has graciously ordained for the spread of the Gospel in our neighborhoods and in the nations.
So why pass that up? Sure, no church is perfect, and living in covenant with other sinners will always bring challenges. But I can say from experience that for the three reasons I discussed above—and many other reasons—it is more than worthwhile.
Are you a Christian? Prove it. Join a church.
 Mark Dever, What Is a Healthy Church? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 21.