A Case for Church Membership

The general perception that most have towards church membership is that it is something rather unnecessary. “Why do I need to have church membership in a formal capacity when I am already attending and have even formed relationships with other members?” some might think. Others might excuse themselves by saying, “I travel a lot, so it just wouldn’t be practical.” But nothing could be farther from the truth. Having a church membership myself, I have realised that for the Christian, there is no greater comfort than being formally recognised as one who belongs.

This is because when people covenant (something people do when they choose to belong to a given church community formally) with one another to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), they are joyfully obligated to seek the good of their fellow brothers and sisters (Romans 1:14-15). The words brothers and sisters here are of great importance because they capture as of necessity something that the church has been failing at for quite some time.

The Church as Family

We live in an age when the concept of church is growing less and less familial; in other instances, the church has become more of a product to be consumed. This has mainly to do with the consumeristic nature of our age. Yet, in the Bible, the church that we see is one of remarkable intentionality and togetherness; one that is every bit familial and not in the slightest consumeristic. People sold land to care for those who were needy (Acts 2:45; 4:34-37). They fellowshipped with one another in their homes and went to the temple together (Acts 2:46-47). On display for us to see is their genuine care and “one anothering” attitude towards each other.

This attitude is only made possible because God himself explicitly calls us his children, which can only imply one thing: as the church, we are the family of God (Romans 8:15-17). This was made possible because of Christ (Romans 8:29). Since we are brothers in Christ with God as our Father (Hebrews 2:11-18), we are then to delight in our fellow brothers and sisters. We are no good besides God; because this is true, we are to delight in all who consider him their good (Psalm 16:1-3).

Church membership is crucial, therefore, because the church is a family—the family of God!

What is Church Membership?

What, then, is church membership, and why is it essential and of absolute necessity? Those opposed to church membership like to offer as a first line of argument that the phrase appears nowhere in Scripture. Their claim is valid. However, if this objection were admissible, I’m afraid there are numerous doctrines that we would have to dismiss based on the same line of reasoning. The most crucial of the bunch is the doctrine of the Trinity, as the word is found nowhere in the Bible.

Got Questions defines church membership as “identifying oneself with a local body of believers and making oneself accountable to proper spiritual leadership.” It is also a formal acknowledgement that not only will you seek the good of others (2 Corinthians 8:1-7) but that you will also seek to be in solidarity with others as well as of one mind, as Paul tells the Philippians (Philippians 2:2). In short, both church unity and church discipline are rendered impossible if there is no formal way to acknowledge one as belonging to a particular congregation. Think of it this way: no one would seek to discipline a child unless a few things are cleared up, and these things are related to how close the person is to the child in a way that’s acknowledged. The same is true about church unity and discipline.

Why Church Membership?

There is a need for a formal acknowledgement of a Christian as one who belongs to a local church. Church membership is implied in Acts 2:41 and 4:4, where we are given an actual number of those who were added to the church. It means that a record was kept so the church could better serve them (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; 6:1-7). The seven deacons in Acts 6:1-7 were chosen because of the increasing number of people in the church, which brought about certain unnecessary rifts. The apostles could only make such decisions because they had a formal acknowledgement of those within their ranks.

A Formal Awareness of Fellow Soldiers

However, another reason formal acknowledgement is needed is the idea of Christians as soldiers. The scriptures teach that Christianity is warfare (Colossians 2:15, Ephesians 6:10-20). One rule regarding warfare is that we must be extra careful not to open the drafting of soldiers to just about anyone. There is a reason Paul tells the Corinthians that they are not to associate with so-called brothers who are immoral (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). Again, this implies the need to know directly who you would call a brother and who you wouldn’t. Hence the reminder by the author of Hebrews to encourage one another so that none may fall short (Hebrews 3:12-14). The same you find in Jude 20. These verses speak to the need for camaraderie and togetherness, which are needed to fend off principalities effectively.

Church Membership as a Building Block

Until around 240 AD, churches met in people’s homes for a variety of reasons, with the main one being the escalation of persecution against the Church. As a result, there needed to be familiarity and commitment to one another, lest you allow those bent on destroying you into your house. The people you allowed in had to be known to you or someone else you considered a brother. The exclusivity stems from the fact that it is the saints, not the unregenerate, who are the building blocks for God’s dwelling place (Ephesians 2:19-22). Moreover, one wouldn’t simply build a house to dwell in without planning it because doing so would lead to over-budgeting or a faulty building.

The church is no exception. If we are to be the dwelling place of God, then we need to ensure that none among us is a ‘so-called brother’ (1 Corinthians 5:9-13, Hebrews 3:12-14). Church membership helps weed out unwanted plants through practices such as church discipline, which Jesus commanded to do (Matthew 18:15-20). It ensures we are not unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Defines the Pastor’s Responsibility

Also, if we are to be the dwelling place of God, then we need to be anchored to our main cornerstone. The office of a pastor is crucial to achieving this, and it is through church membership that his flock is marked out. Our leaders will give an account on our behalf (Hebrews 13:17). Obviously, this can’t mean every Christian. A pastor wouldn’t know every Christian, but he ought to have a sense of knowledge of every Christian under him, which is impossible without actual membership within the church. The name pastor denotes shepherd. As we would appreciate, a shepherd only cares for his sheep. Why should that be different for a pastor? As told in John 10:1-18, Jesus knows his sheep, and his sheep know him. While it certainly wouldn’t be to the same degree, his representative shepherds ought to pursue the same. 

Dear saint, just like anything in life, you shouldn’t desire the privileges of being in a local church without first taking up the responsibilities of being in said local church. The way to do that is by committing yourself and covenanting with fellow saints as a church member, all to the glory of God, so that you may be equipped for service for the building up of the body (Ephesians 4:11-16).




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