The Question of the Need for Church Membership, part 2
When I pastored in West Michigan we had Christians from Reformed or Christian Reformed backgrounds attending our church. Inevitably this created a problem for them because they had been sprinkled as infants but we required baptism by immersion for church membership. One solution would have been to attend the church without becoming members. The ones who decided our church was the one for them, instead chose to be immersed and became members. Membership was so important to them that it was inconceivable that they would attend a church where they were not members. They wrestled through the biblical issues of being immersed rather than not being members. Let’s wrestle through in this article three Scriptural benefits of church membership every Christian needs to consider.
Community. Romans 12:5 says that “we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Because we are united to Christ and He lives within us, we also are united to each other in a spiritual relationship. In 1 Corinthians 12:25 Paul says “that the members may have the same care for one another.” Peter says in 1 Peter 1:22 we are to treat each other with the loving care that exists in a family as brothers and sisters. The apostles are describing the community that exists between believers in a local church. The word “community” is from “common” meaning “sharing common duties.” The word common also means “belonging to all.” (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/common) That’s what Christian community is, belonging to all in shared relationship, privileges and duties. Surely membership says in a very strong way “I am in relationship,” “I belong,” “I share the common duties of this local church.”
Commitment. In 1 Corinthians 12:21-22 Paul says that “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” Here Paul is clearly laying down that the church is interdependent and all believers are indispensable to one another. The metaphors of the church that we love so much are clearly corporate images: the people of God, 1 Pet. 2:10; the household of God, 1 Tim. 3:15; living stones, 1 Pet. 2:5; the body of Christ, Eph. 4:12. The church as “the household of God” clearly applies to the local church because Paul lays down instructions for Timothy about “how one ought to behave in the household of God.” It is clear that we not only need each other in the local church but we are to be committed to one another. Membership is part of that process that says that I am committed to my local church. I need it and it needs me. I am not partially in, but all in bearing the duties of belonging.
Accountability. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” One of the important parts of membership is being accountable to one another and church leadership. It means we are willing to place ourselves under the authority of God-ordained leadership and stand corrected when it is necessary. Even the pastor himself is under the authority of the Elders who are in turn under the authority of the corporate members of the church who are under the authority of Jesus Christ. Apart from commitment to this authority structure in church membership, any attempt at corrective church discipline breaks down. A local church only has authority legally to discipline its members, not its non-members. If we believe we need accountability, then we need membership.
Your friend, in membership with you, Pastor Brian (:-}).