First of all, I want to announce that New Life Church is open again each Thursday. Bible Study starts at 6 pm and worship is at 7 pm. Join us!
There are many Christians who attend church regularly but aren’t members of any particular church. The reasons for this vary, but most of these attenders either don’t see church membership as biblical or important. I want to challenge that thinking by saying church membership is a biblical concept.
Does the Bible explicitly say, “Thou shalt join a church?” Well, no. It doesn’t. But in all fairness, neither does the Bible say that God is a Trinity. There are, however, some doctrines (such as the Trinity) that Scripture teaches more implicitly rather than explicitly. Instead of being able to point to chapter and verse, we notice patterns developing, but this in no way makes it any less important.
For example, in the book of Acts, we see evidence that the early church kept track of its members. Before Pentecost, there were about 120 people that belonged to the church (Acts 1:15).
Then, after the Spirit was given and Peter proclaimed the gospel to the Jews who were in Jerusalem for the Feast, “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Added to what? Well, presumably, these new converts were added to the membership roll of the church. We see this pattern continue in Acts chapter 4 when Peter and John were jailed for preaching, “But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand” (Acts 4:4). The membership roll continued to grow.
There is no question that the church kept track of who belonged to their number and who didn’t, and this wasn’t just the practice of the church in Jerusalem. The Corinthians seem to have been practicing church membership as well. In 1st Corinthians chapter five, Paul commands the church to expel the man who was sleeping with his father’s wife (5:1, 13). This clearly means that this man is not to be considered a member of the Corinthian Church any longer. In other words, he is to be removed formally and practically from church membership.
Further evidence is given in Hebrews chapter 13 where we learn how Christians should relate to their church leaders. In verse 17, the writer to the Hebrews commands the church saying, “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.” How does this passage prove church membership? Think about it. If you’re a Christian, who are your leaders? Your leaders are the pastors and elders of the church that you belong to as a member. Those are the leaders who will give an account for your soul before God. As the pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church, I am not responsible for every Christian in Shelbyville. I am not even responsible for all the people in the community of Blue Ridge. I am responsible and will give an account to God for the Christians who have committed themselves to the membership of my church. The flip side of that is also true, Christians aren’t called to obey every Christian leader. Christians are called to obey the leaders of their church; the church they have joined as a member.
So, is church membership biblical? Yes, it is. It’s not only biblical, it’s important, because the local church is God’s design to reach the world with the gospel and build up His people in godliness. Church membership is our way of formally saying, I belong to the Kingdom of God. My citizenship is in Heaven. My name on this church membership roll is a reflection of my name in the lamb’s book of life.
Thanks for reading!
Brandon Sutton (Pastor2334@gmail.com) is the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge CU Church and New Life Church. Check out both at Blueridgecuchurch.com and Newlifeshelbyville.org.