Four Reasons Church Membership Is Biblical
As believers, one profound blessing stemming from our salvation is that we are joined as members to the very body of Christ—that is, the church. Though the word “membership” does not itself appear in the Bible, the formal expression of commitment to the body of Christ in membership is a thoroughly biblical teaching:
The early church models membership. Paul wrote to Timothy in order to give him specific instructions on leading the church and in 1 Timothy 5:9–10, Paul instructs Timothy to keep roll. The local church in Ephesus knew specifics about the people in their church so they could effectively shepherd them. Individuals were associated with specific local churches—consider Phoebe, the servant of the church of Cenchrea (Romans 16:1). Furthermore, the early church kept lists to help them identify who was in and who wasn’t.
The responsibility of church leadership requires membership. Elders have the responsibility to shepherd a specific flock made up of the people among them (1 Peter 5:1–2). For this to happen, there has to be a clearly identifiable flock that an elder is responsible to shepherd—it can’t simply be anyone who happens to wander through the church doors on a Sunday. Membership makes this command viable and sustainable. There is, moreover, an implied relationship between elders and the members of the church. Shepherding involves a relationship, and believers are called to imitate the faith of those God has placed in spiritual leadership (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Imitating involves knowing your leaders well and being committed to sharing life together with them.
Church discipline necessitates membership. The goal of church discipline is always restoration (Matthew 18:15–17). Church discipline is practiced here at Grace Church with a desire to call believers to repentance and restore them to holiness and fellowship with the church. If church discipline progresses to the final step, the church is instructed to put the unrepentant individual out of the church. A person cannot be removed from the church, however, if he or she never officially belonged to it. For church discipline to work in the way God has ordained, church membership has to be in place.
The “one another” commands demand membership. There are over fifty “one anothers” in Scripture. God cares very much about how we interact with each other. We are called to be devoted to one another (Romans 12:10), rebuke one another (1 Thessalonians 5:14), serve one another (1 Peter 4:10), forgive one another (Ephesians 4:32), and bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), just to name a few. These commands demand a commitment to a local church. Who are you devoted to? Who are you serving? Whose burdens are you bearing? You must know other believers, and you must know them well. This doesn’t work without a commitment to be involved in the lives of other believers. In other words, the “one anothers” only work consistently and effectively with the ones who you are committed to, and those who are committed to you.
If you have any questions or desire to become a member of Grace Community Church, please stop by our Member Center after the 11:00 am service.