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Our mission is to love and serve our community and world with the good news of Jesus Christ, bringing people together across the lines of race and class to worship and follow Jesus.

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01.20.17

Why Join a Church?

Q

Why should I join a church? Isn't attending enough?

A
  • You can attend meetings without being a member.
  • You can give financially without being a member.
  • You can pray for members without being a member.
  • You can find Christian friends and fellowship without being a member.
  • You can receive spiritual nourishment and encouragement without being a member.
  • You can profess Christ as Savior and Lord and be a witness to the faith without being a member.
  • You can serve fellow-believers and your community in many ways without being a member.

So Why Join a Church?  Are there Biblical Reasons?

Enrolling a Membership is a Practical Necessity for the Practice of Biblical Church Government and Discipline.

God has ordained His Word that His Church is to be led and governed by officers called elders. These men are also called "shepherds" and "overseers."  As shepherds of God's flock, they are called to lead, direct, counsel, exhort, teach, admonish, correct, protect–being servants for the care and edification of the flock, but exercising these responsibilities from a position of God-ordained authority.  Some verses which describe this total Spiritual oversight which the elders are responsible to carry out are the following:

1 Timothy 3: 1, 2, 5; Titus 1: 9, 11, 14; Acts 20: 28 - 30; Acts 11: 29, 30; 1 Thessalonians 5: 12; Hebrews 13: 7, 17; James 5: 14; 1 Peter 5: 1 - 3; Ephesians 4: 11, 12; 1 Timothy 5: 17

God has ordained in His Word that His People submit themselves to the spiritual authority and leadership of the elders of the church. The people are to "respect" them and "hold them in highest regard in love."  (1 Thess.. 5: 12)  According to Hebrews 13:17 they are to "obey" them and "submit to their authority" (unless their leadership goes contrary to Scripture, in which case they are not to be obeyed).

The practical way for the elders to give and the people to receive the spiritual oversight God commands  is to enroll a membership. The Shepherd needs to know which sheep are his flock.  He can not give proper care to all believers in the world, or even in a city.  He probably knows many more "sheep" than he can shepherd.  He needs to know which ones to commit himself to and which ones are committed to receive his shepherding. The member cannot “obey” and “submit” to all elders/leaders of all churches. He needs to know which leaders to commit himself to and which ones are committed to providing him spiritual leadership.

 

Enrolling a Membership is a Practical Necessity for the Practice of Biblical Church Life and Fellowship

God has ordained His Word that His People "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Ephesians 5: 21)  This submission involves both being open a and accountable to one another and being responsible for one another.  In other words, it involves a commitment to receive ministry from other members of Christ's body and a commitment to give ministry to other members of the body.  Scriptures which describe the responsibilities of this sharing of lives together include

Acts 4: 32 - 35; Colossians 3: 16; Ephesians 4: 29; 1 Thessalonians 5: 11; Hebrews 10: 24, 25; Leviticus 19: 17; 1 Thess. 5: 14; 1 Peter 4: 10; Ephesians 4: 15, 16; James 5: 16; Ephesians 6: 18; Eph. 5: 19; 2 Cor. 1: 3, 4; 1 Peter 2: 17; 2 Cor. 6: 11 - 13; Galatians 6: 2; Acts 2: 42, 46; 1 John 3: 18; 1 Thess. 2: 8; 2 Cor. 12: 15 . . .

The practical way for God's people to develop and maintain the relationship God commands is to enroll a membership. Priorities and practicality dictate that the members of Christ's body know which believers to commit themselves to in their everyday lives and which believers are committed to them.  Membership is the way of expressing commitment to the responsibilities described above.

 

Does the Bible Specifically Teach Local Church Membership?

The answer really depends on how one decides to look at it.  In a strict sense, the answer is no.  There is no verse in the Bible which says, "You shall become a member of a local church."  On the other hand, while the word "membership" is not found in the Bible, the concept of membership is present almost everywhere in the descriptions of church life and responsibilities, especially in the Biblical concept of the authority of the elders, and the subjection of the people to their elders.

 

Advantages of Local Church Membership

Membership insures regularity in the spiritual lives of God's people. Christians need regular worship, regular observance of the Lord's Table, and regular fellowship and discipline.  However, we are all inconsistent at times, perhaps even indifferent.  The concept of local church "belonging" provides a safeguard against the dangers of inconsistency, independency, (Lone Ranger Christianity), and indifference.  Where there is a commitment of membership, there are always others who are aware of their responsibility to the person who becomes neglectful of his duties to the church body.

For example, suppose a person is a Christian, but a member of no particular church body. No one has official, recognized spiritual authority over him!  If he chooses to attend worship, receive the Lord's Table, fellowship with his brethren, and live according to Christ's rule in his live, all is well, perhaps.  But what if he does not choose to do these things on a consistent basis.  No one has official spiritual authority in his life.  Who can exercise the elder's role in his life with authority?  The answer is:  "no one."

The careless Christian may choose to sleep in on a particular Sunday and forsake assembling with his Christian brothers and sisters.  He may decide that he can get as much from watching a TV worship service.  He may decide to spread his personal giving around so that his giving becomes very thin, or sporadic; or worse, he may become very negligent about giving financial support to the work of God at all.  He becomes a poor steward of his money.

If such a Christian does attend church at all, he may develop the unhealthy habit of "church hopping."  Such a person has permitted his entire spiritual experience to become characterized by a lack of regularity in these important matters.  Several serious problems have developed in his life:

  1. No particular church can depend on him for anything.  With no commitment, he has very little value to the life of the church.
  2. His entire spiritual life gradually reaches the point that he makes spiritual decisions according to "the mood" he happens to be in.  He is not guided by God's commands regarding church responsibilities.
  3. His spiritual health is also completely unchecked because he is independent of spiritual oversight.  He does not believe himself to be subject to any particular church officers anywhere, and no church officers anywhere believe that they have the specific charge of this man's spiritual welfare.

Perhaps this example seems extreme to you.,  Unfortunately it is a very common reality in our society today.  People have grown accustomed to lax church life.  We will enjoy God’s greatest blessings when we follow HIS WILL for His Church!

In a church where membership is properly maintained, we find a very different scenario.  When a person commits himself to membership in such a church, he is expected to attend worship regularly, to receive the Lord's Table regularly, to regularly support and participate in the programs of the local church.  If a member absents himself excessively from church worship,  the Lord’s Supper, or other activities, his elders will be aware of it and be in touch about any special needs.   If in some way his life becomes unruly or openly sinful, his elders will know about it and will seek to help bring restoration and reconciliation.

In churches where membership is enrolled on the basis of the principles mentioned above on p. 1-2, the result is greater spiritual strength–the members are involved with one another, worshipping together, working together, supporting programs and activities together, and growing in the discipline of the Lord together.  The public testimony of such a church is strong.  The members are committed people, devoted to each other and to the leadership appointed over them by the Holy Spirit.  These people can not only "count on each other," they are also formally committed to each other in regard in spiritual matters.  They promise to keep the life of the body at the top of their priority list.  They need the other members, and they know the others need them.

 

Membership Ought to Imply the Following Commitments:

From the Member:

  1. He will attend the Lord's Day worship services faithfully
  2. He will seek to know other members in personal fellowship through a Teaching Fellowship Community, or church small group
  3. He will pray for the officers and members of the church.
  4. He will give faithful financial support to the church.
  5. He will willingly serve the church with his gifts.
  6. He will willingly submit himself to his brethren and to the elders.

These are not goals for being better Christians.  These are assumptions implicit in the idea of belonging to the testimony of Jesus Christ in a local place.

From the Elders:

  1. They will supply careful instruction in the Scriptures, being careful to maintain their teaching in balance with all Scripture, and in relevance to the culture in which the church lives.
  2. They will maintain regular worship services, special services which appear to be needed, and regular observances of the Lord's Supper.
  3. They will officially receive into membership believing persons, and will baptize those who are to receive baptism.
  4. They will pray regularly for their people
  5. They will meet with their people to encourage, comfort and exhort them in spiritual matters.
  6. When necessary, they will exercise discipline in the lives of their people, following the procedure of Matthew 18, and other related passages (1 Cor 5: 1 - 13; 2 Cor. 2: 5 - 11; 2 Th. 3: 6 - 15; 1 Tim. 5: 17 - 20, etc.)
  7. They will at all times seek to live lives which are a example of godliness before the flock and the community.

 

Conclusion

In a society which is so accustomed to a lax church life, where people come and go (or don't come) as they please without Biblical oversight by the elders or fellowship relationships with the body, in a society accustomed to laxness, the above concepts seem extreme.  But in fact they are merely a serious response to Scripture.

If God’s Word and Authority are to be honored in the local church, membership will be practiced with strong commitment, accountability and faithfulness!


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