11 compelling evidences that every follower of Jesus should be passionately committed to a specific local church

Until setting out to plant Downtown Cornerstone a few years ago, I had done little investigation into the biblical rationale behind church membership - or, more simply, being passionately committed to a specific, local, loving community of Jesus-followers. Though I had previously belonged to a church that practiced membership, I had a very cursory understanding of its biblical depth. I find this is very common. When it comes to the Christian life, the local church’s importance is often overlooked, minimized or misunderstood. Have you ever stopped to ask, “What is the local church? What is God’s purpose for the local church? What is church membership all about? Is that some sort of legalism or authoritarian power-grab? Is it biblically essential or merely optional? Is membership a matter of obedience to Jesus Christ or a matter of personal preference?” Over the years, through my own study and that of others, I have compiled the following list of 11 compelling evidences that every follower of Jesus should be passionately committed to a specific local church. I hope they serve to biblically root and stoke your affections for Jesus' local church as they have mine. 

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Eight encouragements to single men

This is for single men. However, I'm throwing it out to everyone because I want single ladies, in particular, to know what you are called up to. I’ve been married for twelve years, but I too was single at one point. I, for one, know the pro’s and con’s of singleness intimately. I made my share of honest mistakes and outright stupid moves. I also, by the sheer grace of God, made some good, godly, wise decisions that I am thankful for to this day. I know that the season of singleness, like marriage, comes with its own unique set of fears, temptations and idolatry. So, I want to help. If you're interested I addressed this topic about a year ago in our church's study through Proverbs in a sermon called, Understanding Singleness.

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An opportunity to become a disciple-making-disciple (and be trained to plant a church)

This fall Downtown Cornerstone Church, which gathers in downtown Seattle, is rolling out two discipleship training tracks: a 1-Year Gospel Leader track and a 2-Year Pastor/Church Planter Residency. Each track leverages a mixture of BILD, Porterbrook and other resources to create a world-class, yet very local, training environment for making disciple-making-disciples. This is a great opportunity to be further equipped, whether you hope to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus, desire to grow as a disciple-maker and/or be trained as a church planter. For more information, track descriptions, frequently-asked-questions and to enroll, go here. 

If you're involved in ministry (in any form) you should read this

I'm currently in the middle of two weeks of vacation. One of my goals during this time is to revisit a number of books which have impacted me most (so far) this year. One of those is Sensing Jesus, by Zack Eswine. Before reading this book, I had never heard of Zack and, to be honest, would have judged this book by its cover. However, if I had, I would have missed a treasure trove of gospel-laden wisdom for modern-day pastors ministering in a culture of consumerism and celebrity. If you're involved in ministry (particularly in the US), you should read this. In my mind, this book should be read alongside Dangerous Calling, by Paul Tripp. I have lost track of how many times I have recommended it since I first read it. Here are a handful of my favorite quotes...

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"If I feel called to local church leadership, but know I am not ready, what should I do in the meantime?"

Our church is currently working its way through First Timothy. One of the major topics the Apostle Paul addresses is leadership, particularly qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-13). One of the questions I get from time to time is, "If I feel called to local church leadership, but know that I am not ready, what should I do in the meantime?" Over time I have put the following thoughts together. While I have potential pastors and deacons in view, as that is what the text addresses, clearly these could apply to any form of leadership at home and/or at the office. Wherever you may land, I have the following eight suggestions...

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15 questions to ask when searching for a local church to serve, participate in and call home

Cities are places of transition. Seattle is no different. Many people move to Seattle for school, work or new opportunities. Moving to a new community is difficult. But, finding a church that loves Jesus, believes the Bible and preaches the gospel is even more so. Since launching in 2011 we’ve met many new-to-the-city Jesus-following transplants in search of a church to call home. That search is not as easy as it might sound, particularly in Seattle. What follows are questions I encourage others to consider when in search of a new church family. There's no such thing as a perfect church or a church that will fulfill everything you wish a church would be, but there are a number of things that should be non-negotiable as you consider partnering with a local body of Jesus followers...

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Terry Virgo on charismatic leadership as God's gift to the church to retain his rule

Charismatic leadership is God’s gift to the church. He chooses whom He anoints with gifts of leadership so He retains His rule. When God anoints someone, His anointing becomes apparent to all. The spiritual gifting that is demonstrated as a result of the anointing gives public profile to the individual concerned. Often gifting in preaching or communicating the word begins to demonstrate God’s hand upon a man. This gives him a sphere of influence, and people begin to realize that they hear God through this man – he seems to bring God nearer to them. If his character and leadership skills match this public skill in the word of God, people begin to gather to him for spiritual leadership. This is a spiritual development, not an institutional one. As his vision, leadership skills and ability to communicate bear fruit in lives, people become joined to him like people did to David. They begin to speak as those who said to David: “We are yours, O David.”
— Terry Virgo, The Spirit Filled Church

Helping in the aftermath of "Sandy"

Now that we're a couple weeks out from hurricane "Sandy" the news coverage is slowly transitioning to other topics. Yet many in the hardest hit areas are still without power. Many are still trying to piece their lives back together. Many are still determining what's next. Many are still in need of the basics - food, water, shelter. If you haven't yet, you should consider giving something toward the relief effort taking place on the ground. Everything counts.

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William Still on pastors as men of the Word

It is to feed sheep on…truth that men are called to churches and congregations, whatever they may think they are called to do. If you think that you are called to keep a largely worldly organization, miscalled a church, going, with infinitesimal doses of innocuous sub-Christian drugs or stimulants, then the only help I can give you is to advise you to give up the hope of ministry and go and be a street scavenger; a far healthier and more godly job, keeping the streets tidy, than cluttering the church with a lot of worldly claptrap in the delusion that you are doing a job for God. The pastor is called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it out in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness. Do we really believe that the Word of God, by his Spirit, changes, as well as maddens men? If we do, to be evangelists and pastors, feeders of sheep, we must be men of the Word of God.
— William Still, Work of the Pastor

Michael Horton on the church and Christ's kingdom

The church is not simply another voluntary society, like the Boy Scouts or the Sierra Club. It’s an embassy of Christ’s Kingdom….unlike the rulers of this age, Jesus doesn’t ask us to shed our blood for his empire; he instead gave his own life for his realm. Then he was raised in glory as the beginning of the new creation, and now he is gathering coheirs into his kingdom who belong to each other because, together, they belong to him. The visible church is where you will find Christ’s kingdom on earth, and to disregard the kingdom is to disregard the king.
— Michael Horton, Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus by Jonathan Leeman (Foreword, 14-15)