Thursday, December 11, 2014

How does one become a member of a church? Does church membership matter?

Before this question can be answered, some terms need to be clarified and defined. 

What does the word “church” mean?

The word “church” in its most simple and literal sense means “assembly or gathering”.  Often times people will say “I am going to church”, when they are talking about attending the assembly. The word church is at times in reference to a local body of believers like the churches mentioned in the beginning of the book of Revelation (such as  “the church of Ephesus”). 

The word “church” may also be in reference to the universal body of Christians in all locations. This is what is being referred to in passages like (Ephesians 5:25) where Jesus is said to have died for the church, or in (Colossians 1:18) where Jesus is called the “head of the church”. 

When does one become a member of the church?

Once you believe in Jesus (John 8:24), change your life/Repent (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38), God saves you by His grace and adds you to HIS CHURCH (Acts 2:41,47).
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A person does not “join” the church, but instead, at the moment of their salvation, God adds them to the church. For a person to say they are a Christian, but not a member of the church, would be an impossibility. 

What about local church membership?

The Bible does not specifically outline how a person becomes part of a local congregation. It would be assumed that one would assemble regularly with the people who brought him or her to Christ. It is important for an individual to be part of a local congregation in order to be spiritually shepherded and encouraged.

What if you move to a new town? Can one choose to not be a member of any church?

The Bible is full of examples of how local churches are to function. You do not have Christians ever mentioned as living in a specific locale and refusing to gather with other Christians (except for those “forsaking the assembly” in Hebrews 10:25). 

Elders are to help shepherd a local flock of Christians. How could this happen if one is not part of a local congregation? The Bible mentions a church gathering together and trying a restore a lost brother (Matthew 18). This could not happen if one is not part of a local church. The church is to raise up elders from its membership. If a local church had no members, this would be impossible (1 Timothy 3). A local congregation is to reach out and meet the needs of widows (1 Timothy 5). This would not be possible without local church members working together as one. The church functions because each member depends on one another. 

There is not set way that a person “places membership” in a congregation, however, it is needed for a person to let a congregation know that they desire to be at that location full-time. Some congregations have you fill out a “getting to know you” type form, others have you stand and introduce yourself to the congregation, while others just list your name in the directory. However it is done, the leadership of a church does need to know who they should expect at services. It is important for ministry coordinators to know who they can call on to staff programs. Being an active member of a local congregation of the Lord’s church is very important to one’s spiritual growth.

By Cliff Sabroe