Our church’s 20th anniversary was this past Sunday, and I was pondering on what to blog in light of such an occasion. I thought it would be helpful to give several reasons for church membership and involvement.
Since the local church has been so instrumental in developing my love for God, I hope that you would not deprive yourself of this same experience. Here are the reasons why every Christian must be a member of a local church and consistently involved in the life of the body.
1) The Early Church and Church History
In the New Testament (NT), local assemblies existed in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1; 11:22), Asia Minor (Acts 16:5), Rome ( Rom 16:5), Corinth (1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1), Galatia (Gal 1:2), Thessalonica (1 Thess 1:1), and in Colosse (Philemon 2). They were specific and identifiable. Also, Church history is filled with statements and descriptions of how they were involved in local churches. Local church membership was vital to the life of the the early church.
2) The Fellowship
The Bible requires all Christians to be involved in consistent fellowship with other believers. The New Testament church gathered (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 11:20). The church is instructed to do good to the household of faith (Gal 6:10). Our gifts are meant for equipping the saints and building of the body (Eph 4:12).
3) The Accountability
The Bible’s promotion of accountability shows the need for church membership. Sin cannot be pointed out in the lives of people if there are no people in the local church (Prov 9:8-9; 12:1; Gal 6:1-2; Heb 10:24). Regular involvement with people and living life together allows for an open and intimate relationship. Without organized church membership, there are no official obligations to specific people.
4) The Organized Body
God demands orderly worship from His people. Some may see the structure of the local church as outdated, traditional, or irrelevant. However, despite these feelings, order in the church is biblical. Living an orderly life is demanded by God. Membership is essential to an orderly administration of the church (1 Cor 14:40; 2 Thess 3:6-7, 11).
5) The “One-Another” Commands
The Bible teaches that Christians have biblical responsibilities toward one another. And these are expressed in commands given to the readers of the NT. Wayne Mack says there are 58 “one-another” commands in the Scripture (e.g. 1 Thess 5:11; James 6:16, see Wayne Mack’s “To Be or Not To Be A Church Member.”).
6) The Relationship with Elders
Elders have a responsibility toward the flock of God, and God’s people have a responsibility toward their elders. Without church membership, biblical oversight would not be able to function properly (1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17). You are accountable to them, they are responsible for you and not for every Christian.
7) The Worship and Purposes of the Church
Church membership is implied through the regular practices of every Christian. These regular practices in worship cannot be fulfilled without participating in church membership. They’re meant to be exercised in a local body.
Studying the Word (Acts 2:42; 5:28; 20:20; Col 1:28; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 4:2), Reading the Word (Acts 4:24-26; 1 Tim 4:13; 2 Tim 3:15-17), Equipping the People (Eph 4:11-13), Practicing the Ordinances (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Matt 28:19; Acts 2:38; 1 Cor 11:23-34), Praying the Prayers (Acts 4:24; 12:5, 12; 13:3; 1 Tim 2:1-8), Using the Gifts (Eph 4:8-13; Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12-14), Singing the Songs (Acts 15:25; 1 Cor 14:26; Eph 5:14, 19; Col 3:16), Giving the Contributions (Acts 11:27-30; 2 Cor 8-9; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17-18), Serving the Ministry (Evangelism, Acts 8:4; 11:19, 20; Needs of others, Rom 12:8, cf. James 1:27; showing mercy, (Rom 12:8); helping others, 1 Cor 12:28; accountability, 1 Cor 5:1-13), Evangelizing the Lost (Matt 28:19-20)
8) The Sorting of Sheep and Goats
Church membership allows people to differentiate between believers and non believers in an easier way. Membership causes the visible church to better reflect the invisible church (even though there may be false converts).
The “numbering” of people implies that they were seen as different from the unbelieving world (Acts 2:41-47; 5:14). Also, in their baptism, they identified with the church.
Here are statements that showed some way of knowing who belonged and who did not belong: (1) The “whole church” in Corinth assembled together (1 Cor 14:23); (2) They put unrepentant people out of the church (1 Cor 5:1-13); (3) Paul handed people over to Satan who were unrepentant (1 Tim 1:18-20).
A persons lack of love for God’s people may be an indicator of unbelief. Love for God means love for His people (Heb 6:10). One cannot claim to love God and not display love toward his brother (1 John 3:10).
The church does bestow or grant salvation to an individual. But the formal membership roll or roster distinguishes believers from the non-believing world.
These eight reasons from the Bible demand all believers to be part of a local assembly. There is no question or debate.
We are protective over the things that we love in life. And I get very protective and defensive over the local church. Christ, as the bridegroom of the church, is also protective of His bride. He cherishes and loves His church, so if any person neglects or mistreats His church, He takes it as a personal attack on Himself. This acts as a warning to us all.
If you are not a member of a church, then you must understand that these passages go against your lone ranger lifestyle. However, if you are a member of a church but you are not truly dedicated to it, then you should really examine your heart before the Lord. Search the Scriptures to see how much God desires for you to be in a harmonious relationship with a local church.
*Here is an old lesson on the importance of church membership for the Christian.