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What We Believe About Membership
Church membership is a topic that usually generates a lot of curiosity. For some, membership sounds stiff; something expected by your bank or the country club but too formal for the church. While most of us agree that we need community and fellowship with other Christians, we still bristle at the thought of officially joining a church. Why all the steps and labels? Why box the Holy Spirit into member/non-member categories?
The fact is that membership matters. In addition to some very tangible benefits to membership (for example, only members can hold church office), here are five good reasons why Christians should join a church:
1. In joining a church you make visible your commitment to Christ and his people. Membership is one way to raise the flag of faith. You state before God and others that you are part of this local body of believers. It’s easy to talk in glowing terms about the invisible church – the body of all believers near and far, living and dead – but it’s in the visible church that God expects you to live out your faith.
2. Making a Church commitment makes a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture. The church is often a sad reflection of its culture. Ours is a consumer culture where everything is tailored to meet our needs and satisfy our preferences. When those needs aren’t met, we can always move on to the next product, or job, or spouse.
Joining a church in such an environment makes a counter-cultural statement. It says “I am committed to this group of people, and they are committed to me. I am here to give – more than get.”
3. Church membership keeps us accountable to each other. When we join a church we are offering ourselves to one another to be encouraged, rebuked, corrected, and served. We are placing ourselves under leaders and submitting to their authority (Heb. 13:7). We are saying, “I am here to stay. I want to help you grow in godliness. Will you help me to do the same?”
Mark Dever, in his book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, writes: “Church membership is our opportunity to grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the pastors and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We allow fellow believers to have great expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the responsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve and encourage as well.”
4. Joining the church will help your pastor, elders and those in leadership to be more faithful shepherds. Hebrews 13:7 says “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” That’s your part. Here’s ours: “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” We take seriously our responsibility before God to watch over your souls. This is hard to do in a church when we don’t know who is really a part of this flock.
5. Joining the church gives you an opportunity to make promises. When you become a member here, you make promises to pray, give, serve, attend worship, accept the spiritual guidance of the church, obey its teachings, and seek the things that make for unity, purity, and peace. We ought not to make these promises lightly. They are solemn vows. And we must hold each other to them. If you don’t join the church, you may miss an opportunity to publicly make these promises, and in so doing, invite the elders and the rest of the body to hold you to these promises–which would be missing out on great spiritual benefit, for you and for us.
Think about why membership might matter more than you thought. And if you are looking to make a counter-cultural commitment and invite more accountability and responsibility into your life, why not join a church?