What’s the difference between a church and a group of Christians gathered at a camp or conference? Should a Bible study group think of themselves as a mini-church? Is church essentially gathering in the same room, singing the same songs, and listening to the same sermon?
Many features of a church are lacking in these scenarios—elders and deacons, the ordinances, etc. But the one I want to emphasize which distinguishes a church from every other Christian gathering is COMMITMENT.
Christians in a church are committed to each other in ways that Christians gathered in other contexts simply are not.
In Acts 4, this mutual commitment appears in the form of sharing each other’s goods and possessions. In 1 Corinthians 12, it means we depend on each other’s unique and indispensable service for our own wellbeing. In Galatians 6:1-2, our commitment obligates us to bear each others’ burdens. In Hebrews 10:24-25, this mutual commitment requires us to think about how to stir each other up to love and good works. In James 5:16-20, it affords us a safe place to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other. In Matthew 18:15-17, our commitment compels us to confront sin and demand obedience to Jesus.
The point could not be more clear: a church shares an essential commitment to every member’s complete wellbeing—body, soul, and spirit. Church isn’t about shared meetings; it’s about shared life. This is why we make such a big deal out of church membership. We want to call you to more than just attending church with each other; we want you to BE the church FOR each other. Church membership is not an organizational affiliation; it’s a personal responsibility involving us in each other’s lives!
Can you imagine carrying out the above activities with people you don’t know and to whom you’ve expressed no commitment? Without a robust understanding of the church, many of these duties would seem too weird (sharing all your possessions) or too risky (confessing your sins) or even just plain mean (confronting their sin). But if we truly are a New Testament church together, that makes me quite literally “my brother’s keeper.”
Think about the names and faces of your church. Then ask yourself, “Am I truly committed to these people in ways that I’m not committed to anyone else in my life?” …which is simply to ask, “Is this really my church?”