According to one website, the top five New Year’s resolutions are:
- Exercise more
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Learn a new skill or hobby
- Live life to the fullest
Not surprisingly, joining a local church did not make the list. But joining a church is one of the best New Year’s resolutions you could make. Here’s why.
In the third century, Cyprian of Carthage (c 210-258), once said: “No one can have God for his Father, who does not have the church for his mother.” Protestants might think this sounds too Roman Catholic. But the Reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564)—a definite Protestant—quoted Cyprian favorably and in agreement. Why is this? Because of the purpose of the church.
The purpose of the church is to provide worship to God, witness to the world, and nurture to the Christian. When Cyprian talks about having the church for a mother he is not only saying that a churchless Christian does not exist, but he is speaking about the purpose of the church—to provide nurture for the Christian. Just as a mother provides nurture to her children, so the church provides nurture to the Christian. At Grace Community Bible Church, we state our purpose this way: “Grace Community Bible Church exists to exalt Christ, edify the saints, and evangelize the world to the glory of the triune God.” Edify the saints is another way of saying “nurturing the saints.”
The church of Jesus Christ is meant to have a nurturing effect on the believer. Most importantly, the primary means of grace—preaching the Word, the ordinances, and the fellowship of God’s people through the “one anothers”—all happen in the context of the local church.
One pastor put the nurturing effect of the church on the believer like this. He says that he tells people that there are three things that one must do to become a Christian: (1) repent; (2) believe; and (3) join a local church. But then he goes on to say that there are really two things one must do (repent and believe), and the third thing is the context for the first two things. Christians live out their repentance and faith in the context of a local church. To put it differently, Christianity is personal but never private.
It is not enough to be a passive attender; you must be an active participant. It is not enough to be a casual observer; you must be a committed member. Jesus Christ shed his blood for his church—a real, flesh and blood people who gather in commitment to one another. Christianity demands that you join a church—in whatever way a specific local church does the membership process.
If you are not a member of a local church, resolve this year to join a gospel preaching local church. It is one of the best New Year’s resolutions you can make.
For more on the necessity of the church in the Christian life, see the sermon here, here and here. For more on the purpose of the church, see the teaching here. For more on the means of grace, see the teaching here.