Membership in a Local Congregation

Questions about membership in a local congregation often arise - questions like: When? How? Why? We believe that many such questions can be answered by studying the case of Saul (Paul) when he returned to Jerusalem following his conversion: ''And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus ..." (Acts 9:26-29).

Notice the things we learn from this text:

  • The action was immediate. There was no long delay on Saul's part before seeking to identify with God's people in Jerusalem. Oftentimes folks today wait months, even years, before identifying with a local congregation.
  • It was Saul who took the initiative in this matter. The KJV says "he assayed to join himself to the disciples". Other versions say "he tried to" or ''he was trying to': Clearly, he made the effort. He did not wait for others to approach him.
  • The church put him to the test. They needed to know of his conversion and his faithfulness. Evidence was presented to them to verify that Saul was a faithful Christian. They were not obligated to receive him into their fellowship until they were convinced of his proper standing before God. And, too, observe that Saul was not "put off' or turned away by their desire to know these things about his former life.
  • As soon as he was a part of that congregation, he got actively involved in the work that was being done.

Surely we can all learn some important lessons from this about membership in a local church. Are you are member of a sound congregation? Are you active and working? If not, why not?