Church Membership

We live in a society that has, by and large, rejected church membership.

I came across this by [1]John R. Muether; “A child without a family is an orphan to be pitied. A man without a country is a refugee to be welcomed. A Christian without a church is, well, a typical American evangelical.” (I suspect this is even more true of Australian evangelicals.)

In “To Be or Not to Be a Church Member”, [2]Wayne Mack writes,

“Being outside the church is being in Satan’s domain. The Bible indicates that Satan is the “god of this world,” whereas the church is the expression of God’s kingdom on earth and is ruled by Christ, not Satan. Those who are in the world (i.e., outside of Christ) are in Satan’s domain and under his authority. Those who are in the church are under Christ’s authority (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; I John 5:19). Consequently, because Christ reigns supremely in the local church, it’s a dangerous thing for a believer not to be identified with one. When we function on our own, outside the church, we’re asking to be knocked around by Satan.

Church membership is not an incidental or optional matter for the Christian. Rather, it’s an essential and important aspect of the Christian life. According to Scripture, being a part of a local church brings with it tremendous privileges, and serious responsibilities, that can be fulfilled in no other way.

[3]Just how important is your church? Consider the following:

1.    It provides you with daily and weekly fellowship.

2.    It warns and encourages you.

3.    It helps hold you accountable.

4.    It provides communion for you.

5.    It challenges you to use your spiritual gifts.

6.    It provides a place for those gifts to be exercised.

7.    It helps protect you from heresy.

8.    It guides you to godly living.

9.    It spiritually ministers to your family.

10. It collectively supports Christian causes and missions around the world.

11. It often means the salvation of souls (perhaps even your own).

12. It helps you when you are spiritually, emotionally, physically or financially in need.

13. It is the pillar and ground of the truth in your area.

14. It disciplines you when you develop a sinful lifestyle.

15. It helps bring down racial barriers.

These are just a few of the benefits of belonging to a good local church.

[1] John R. Muether “Knowing His Voice”, Tabletalk, March, 2009
[2] Wayne Mack, “To Be or Not To Be a Church Member”, Calvary Press, 2004, p. 68-70
[3] Curtis C. Thomas,  “Life in the Body of Christ, Founders Press”, 2006, p. 73-74

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5 responses to “Church Membership

  1. Hi Don. I guess it all depends on how one defines “church membership”. It’s clear from the survey at the end of the article that one can attend a church and not be a member. I think this is a great confusion, especially given the strong wording of the article. There is nothing I can see in the Bible that would suggest such a definition for church membership. While I have no problem with asking for such a commitment (eg in writing) from folk per se, I see nothing like this required of Christians in the Bible. It seems clear to me that church members in the New Testament are those who trust in Jesus and are part of the fellowship of believers that meet in that city (eg Corinth). There is no hint of anything further required, especially baptism (1 Cor 1:14-17). To suggest that one is outside the church when not such a member is un-Biblical and dangerous. I certainly hope that John Muether and Wayne Mack are not saying any such thing. Christians must go to church, and I agree entirely with the sentiments of this article in that respect. However Christians who go to church ARE members of that church. For God has asked nothing more of them in this matter. There must be no guilt whatsoever placed on MEMBERS of a church who have not signed up to an extra requirement of their churches. They may lose voting privileges, etc, but they are BIBLICALLY speaking most certainly church members. We must be very careful not to add to the Scriptures. Legalism takes Christians away from the gospel.

  2. I agree with Martin wholeheartedly and would add that sadly in today’s sad state of many churches, one can often be placed in danger INSIDE the church rather than outside!

  3. I agree that church membership is important, but I also think that the reasons for declining membership are valid in most places in the world. I am an American Christian. While my family worships at 2 local churches (we only belong to one of them), it took us two years to find anything that actually met our needs. Many pastors today do not truly study the Word of God. Many of them teach based on experiences and emotions instead of the inerrant Word of God. We study at home, so learning is not a challenge. We found ourselves MORE negatively challenged by attending church each week, to be completely blunt. This is a great post, but I hope that the ultimate goal for Christians will not be church membership but real membership in the Body of Christ. At least for my family, that is what we are trying to make sure of…that we are Covenant Keepers and not breakers. Thanks for this!

  4. The subject of church membership is fraught with difficulty. And, unfortunately, for many it touches on an area of our Christian experience that may bring back painful memories. 

    Martin is correct, church membership is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. But, I would argue that it is implied. I am not referring to the church universal, our membership in which is a result of our redemption. All believers are therefore a ‘member’ of the church universal. 

    When I speak of church membership in this post, I am referring to membership in the local church.

    The members of Hills Bible Church have defined ‘membership’ in terms of our mutual obligation to each other. We refer to this as “covenant membership” which defines our mutual support, ministry and accountability. It is not a piece of paper on which is recorded our membership, but is rather a covenant that outlines our biblically based obligation to each other and our missional aspirations. At our church, membership is renewed annually on Covenant Sunday when members affirm their commitment reflected by their ongoing participation in the life and ministry of the church.

    One of the reasons that church membership, as we have defined it is important, is because it is an agreement to hold each other accountable to fulfilling our membership obligations. Church discipline is a biblical concept, but the accountability principles outlined in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, where the destructive consequences of sin are taken seriously, needs to be followed carefully and in the context of loving supportive relationships. It is doubtful that church discipline carried out in the context where ones church affiliation is casual, would result in anything other than hard feelings and resentment. Let’s face it, improperly carried out, church discipline can be ugly and hurtful. But conducted in a setting where members have mutually committed to each other and have agreed to be held accountable, is much more likely to succeed. 

    Perhaps the simplest way to distinguish between membership in the church universal and the local church is to think in these terms. Membership in the church Universal describes our relationship to God, whilst membership in the Local Church describes our relationship to each other under God.

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