Gallup reported this week that “U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time.” “In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999” (news.gallup.com). New Testament Christians know the spiritual value of being members of a local body of saints (1 Cor. 12:12-27). The Lord arranged local churches for our spiritual edification (which includes worship), the spread of the gospel, and relief of needy Christians (Acts 2:42-45; 4:32-35; 11:22; 20:28-35). Churches of Christ assemble on the first day of the week to offer God worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Scripture shows how true worship honors God and strengthens Christians in the faith (1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19). Therefore, membership in a local church is a responsibility of great importance to Christians (Acts 9:26-28; Rom. 16:2). Being a member of a local church identifies each Christian as part of a working group of believers striving to do God’s will (Rom. 12:4; Eph. 4:16; Rev. 2-3). Christians will be active members of faithful congregations (there is no floating membership or “membership-at-large” in the New Testament). May each Christian be committed to fully participating in assembled worship and the other scriptural work given the local church by the Lord (Heb. 10:24-25).
17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse. 18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. (1 Corinthians 11:17–18, NKJV)
It is disruptive and discouraging when Christians are not united in spirit, doctrine and practice as they “come together as a church.” Such was the state of affairs in the Corinthian church, and the apostle registered his protest. Clearly, God was not pleased with them. There is a clear and important lesson here for us: Sin prevents the true worship of God (Jno. 4:23-24). A local church nullifies its praise of God in assembled worship when brethren are divided against one another. Just because brethren assemble under one roof does not mean that church has Christ’s approval. Indeed, when sinful attitudes and actions exist in a local church, both true worship and effective edification are hindered. Therefore, it is essential that Christians solve personal disputes of sin among themselves so their worship is not impeded. It is necessary that truth, not error, defines our conduct when the church comes together. God has no praise for those who offer Him corrupt praise.