Why Church Membership is a Biblical Concept

In my years as a pastor, I have encountered people who join a church without any thought at all, people who join and take it very seriously, and people who refuse to join on the basis that the Bible doesn’t command them to join. How are Christians to understand the issue of church membership?

While it is true that there are no verses in the Bible that command believers to “join” a local church, it is still a biblical concept. In fact, I would suggest there is plenty in the Bible that indicates that church membership is assumed for the believer. This Scriptural support has led me to believe that church membership, while not overtly commanded, is clearly assumed, and as such, is a biblical concept to be embraced by believers.

Scriptural Support for Church Membership

Here are the passages of Scripture that I believe point to church membership being a biblical concept.

1- Hebrews 13:17, I Timothy 5:17, & I Peter 5:1-5

This verse in Hebrews instructs believers to submit to and honor the elder body. If there is no church membership, to which elder body are believers to submit? To all of them? Certainly that is not the case. This command only makes sense under the umbrella of church membership.

Likewise, elders are the overseers of the body. This is clearly their biblical responsibility. If there is no church membership, who are elders to oversee? All believers? All believers in a certain city? Again, this instruction only makes sense within an understanding of church membership.

2- Matthew 18:15-20

This is a passage that deals with the process of church discipline. The idea of removing someone from the church because of sin presupposes that there is some defined body to which someone belongs. You can’t remove someone from something to which they do not belong.

3- I Corinthians 5:1-12

In this passage Paul gives instruction for the church at Corinth to remove an immoral man from their church. As Matt Chandler stated, “How can you kick someone ‘out’ if there isn’t an ‘in’? If there is no local commitment to a covenant community of faith, then how do you remove someone from that community of faith? Church discipline doesn’t work if local church membership doesn’t exist.”

4- II Corinthians 2:6

In this verse Paul talks about the decision of the majority. “You can’t have a majority unless you have a definite set of people from which a majority is constituted.” (Michael McKinley)

5- Acts 5:12-13

In this passage people had to decide whether or not they would join the church in Jerusalem. It is clear that this joining was a public action, not a private decision.

6- Acts 6:1-6

In these verses we find an election being held to address a problem within the church. An election (a vote) only makes sense if there is membership.

Closing Thought

There are other passages we could mention which further support the idea that church membership is a biblical concept. To quote Matt Chandler, “Local church membership is a question of biblical obedience, not personal preference.”

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3 Practical Benefits of Church Membership

In an upcoming post I will explain why I believe church membership is a biblical concept, but for this post I want to highlight some of the practical benefits of church membership. While there are many benefits of being a member of a church, here are three.

1- It Provides Accountability

We all need accountability in our lives. In fact, it is loving accountability that helps to fuel spiritual growth. Without accountability we can easily find ourselves slipping into a pattern of negative attitudes, wrong behaviors, and sinful activities. Membership in a local church provides that needed accountability. When we belong to a church, we know that sin in our lives will be addressed. That accountability is a huge benefit.

2- It Commits You

It is easy to treat the church like an elective you attend when it’s convenient. Obviously that is not a healthy approach. Membership to a church is a proclamation that says “I am committed.”

It lets people know that you are serious about your faith, about your relationship with other believers, and about your relationship with Christ. Avoiding this kind of commitment should be a warning sign that something is wrong.

3- It Offers Protection

Membership to a local church offers protection that can come in a variety of forms. There is doctrinal protection. By that I mean that when you belong to a church you are placing yourself under (1) the doctrinal beliefs of that church and (2) the regular teaching from the church pastors. These both provide protection from error.

There is also protection from isolation. God did not design us to live the Christian life in isolation. We need each other. Committed membership to a church offers that protection.

While there are many other practical benefits of church membership, these are a few that sometimes get overlooked. Are you a member of a church? If not, join one and experience the benefits of accountability, commitment, and protection.

What are some other practical benefits of church membership. Comment Below!

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6 Truths to Help Us Understand Church Membership

Church membership is something that is often taken for granted. It is something that is occasionally mentioned, but not completely understood. We recently spent some time talking about the importance of church membership with the goal of understanding it correctly.

Here are a few of the points we covered.

1- Membership is about submitting, not joining.

Jonathan Leeman put it like this. “Just as the Bible establishes the government of your nation as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your citizenship of that nation, so the Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ.”

Sine the church is a God-established authority, [Tweet “membership to a church is about submitting to that authority, not just about joining a congregation.”]

2- Membership combats lone-rangerism.

Lone-rangerism says “why depend on someone else if you can do it all yourself? Why entangle ourselves with others, we may be a burden to them, and they will most certainly be a burden to us.” But membership in a church combats this self-centered idea.

3- Membership should lead to a focus on others.

The vast majority of the “one another” passages in the Bible are presented in the context of the church. It is assumed that it will be in the context of a community of believers that these one-another instructions will be carried out.

If we decide whether or not to attend a church event/service/activity based solely on whether or not it will benefit us, without giving any thought to how we might be able to benefit others, we are missing a key reason why we should attend.

4- Membership implies commitment.

[Tweet “Membership to a local church implies commitment to that church.”]

I once knew someone who attended a different church for each service. One church on Sunday morning because they like the preaching, a different church on Sunday evening because they had a good teen program, and a different church on Wednesday because they offered AWANA. This lack of commitment to a church undermines the church’s place in the life of a believer, hurts the ministry of the church, and is characteristic of a consumeristic approach to church.

5- Membership provides accountability.

Our sin nature automatically resists accountability; but by submitting to a local church we are provided with the accountability that we all need. I would suggest that we should long for and search out that accountability.

6- Membership is about propelling our Gospel witness forward.

The church is the “gospel made visible.” (Dever) Membership in a local church is about seeing our gospel witness advanced. We should be partnering together for the sake of the gospel.

Membership is a bigger deal than we tend to make it. Perhaps we need to be sure that we understand it correctly.