Church membership is a topic within the church that can be a little confusing. The majority of believers know that it is something good but aren’t exactly sure why it is good. Most members know that they should be members but then don’t exactly know what that means for them. Recently we held a class during the Sunday School hour to discuss what membership is, why it is important, and what it looks like. In order to gain a better understanding as to what membership is we need to first uncover what it is not.
Before anything else we must know that Membership is not salvation nor is it a means to salvation. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, I am the truth, and I am the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” There is no favor earned through joining a church. Any grace that we have before God has been purchased by Jesus Christ at the cross. Salvation isn’t found in membership or in a specific church. No church name, fellowship, or denomination can bring us to heaven or get us a better seat. Peter proclaimed in Acts 4:12 that there is salvation in no other name but Jesus. It is only through faith in what Jesus accomplished on the cross and in His resurrection that we are brought to God (1 Peter 3:18). This is an important starting place because some people are taught or have the misconception that membership is a part of their salvation when the Bible does not teach this.
Secondly, Membership is not a means to become a part of the body of Christ. This point connects with the first. If you are saved then you are part of the body of Christ. There are no membership classes with Jesus. No forms to fill out or tests to complete. At salvation the Lord calls us to be part of His body. Paul says in Ephesians 4:4, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling.” And in 1 Corinthians 12:13 he says, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.” By the Holy Spirit through salvation we are in. There is no other work that needs to be done apart from the work of God. There is a differentiation in Scripture between the body of Christ as a whole and local church bodies. Membership is about the latter.
It might sound surprising that Membership is not an ordinance but it’s true. An ordinance is a command given from Jesus to His followers. Jesus gave ordinances to teach spiritual principles. There are two ordinances that Jesus gave to the church; Baptism (Matthew 28:19) and Communion (John 13, Luke 22). This is where people become confused and begin to argue, “If there’s no direct command from Jesus to be a member then is it really that important?? If Jesus doesn’t command it then why should we do it??” Although there is no command we can see through study of the New Testament that the early church modeled membership. Lists were kept, offices were given, and members were exhorted in many ways to serve their local body. The church is important to Jesus. We know that Jesus has a plan to build the church (Matthew 16:18). We know that Jesus died and purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). The apostles lead the church and cared for it according to the Lord’s plan. We may not be able to find a clear, “Thou shalt be a member” in Scripture but we are able to find principles and practices that point to membership.
I believe a key passage in understanding membership is Hebrews 10:23-25. There the writer says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Here the challenge is to commit to one another. He says, “Don’t forsake your own assembly.” The reason for that commitment is to hold fast to what we believe and to grow in love and good deeds. Our growth as believers and our perseverance in the faith happens through committing to a specific community of believers. It is here that I see that Membership is not an option but this is something that we should each be seeking as we trust and obey our Lord Jesus.
Committing To You, Pastor Rudy