Why Membership?

Church membership is often misunderstood as laborious and unnecessary. On the contrary, the New Testament describes church membership as a necessary part of growth and sanctification as a believer! The following is meant to explain the biblical meaning of membership and to extend an invitation for you to be a part of our church. The culture has downplayed commitment as unsatisfying and dangerous. “You don’t want to feel stuck” is the common quip on commitment in general.  But this cultural norm cannot and should not be the norm for the church.  We as believers need accountability and fellowship with other believers in the context of a local body for the sake of our own spiritual health and vibrancy.  Our joy and growth as Christians depends on it!

Members of a Body

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (I Corinthians 12:12)

“….so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Romans 12:5)

The word member comes straight from this text. Paul is arguing that the body of Christ has many parts and that each part works together with Christ as its head.  The parts do not operate separately but work as one with one common goal and vision.  Having a membership simply means identifying who those members are.

Accountability to Leaders

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Members of a local church are called to obey their leaders and submit to them.  They are not called to obey and submit to all pastors everywhere but only to those leaders who God has put over them. Membership gives opportunity for this command to be embraced with joy and gratitude.  Without it, believers are living unaccountable lives without the protection and guidance of the church.

Accountability to Members

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Church leadership is a high call that no one should take lightly.  God holds leaders accountable for how well they lead and feed the people He has put in their spiritual care.  Membership identifies the people whom leaders are primarily responsible to lead and shepherd.  Just as members are not to obey all pastors, so also leaders are not responsible to keep watch over all believers but only those who God has entrusted to them.

The Local Flock

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you….” (I Peter 5:1-5)

To “shepherd the flock of God” means to care for those whom God has given the elders to care for.  It is specific. Not general. There is a definite, identifiable “flock” of people who the elders are to care for.  This implies membership. 

Church Discipline

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (I Corinthians 5:12-13)

“As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.” (1 Timothy 5:20)

Without a robust membership established, church discipline becomes nearly impossible. If God judges outsiders and leaders are to judge those inside the church, then how do we know who is inside the church?  Does occasional attendance imply that a person is inside the church?  The implication in this passage is that the Corinthian church knew who was in the church and who was outside the church. In our society, it is not so easy to tell. Membership helps to solve this problem and to clarify the leaders’ role in disciplining its members.

Giving to the Church

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17)

Giving to a local body is the joy and responsibility of all those who benefit from its teaching and preaching.  The purpose of giving is two-fold: to enable the ongoing work of the ministry and to bless those who give. Giving assumes the active participation of the believer in the life and mission of the church.  It is meant to orient the believer to his or her mission in the world and to further the kingdom of Christ.

Unity of the Church

 “….complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:2)

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…” (Philippians 1:27)

A church cannot function well without unity of purpose.  Membership helps to identify and formulate the leaders of the church who will together “contend for the faith” (Jude 1:3) and strive together “side by side for the faith of the gospel.”  It establishes accountability among leaders and relinquishes hidden motives.  It also provides more opportunities for ministry in the church.

In Summary:

Paul calls the church the household of God and the pillar of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). It is a city on a hill and the light of the world (Mat. 5:14). For the church to fulfill its great task of making disciples and spreading the light of the gospel, the church must know who she is. The church must be identifiable and consistent. The church as a body must have members!