Why does membership even matter?
When it comes to the issue of church membership, there are usually two predominant questions that I have been asked since starting Life Community in 2008.
The first is “how do I become a member at Life” and the second is “why should I become a member”. Since the second is the most common, Ill start there.
As a kid growing up in church, I never questioned whether or not being a member of a local church was important, primarily because like most people my age, I didn’t care. As I got older though and began to understand the idea of the church universal, from time to time I would contemplate why something like joining a local church would even matter. I never gave it any real consideration until the early 2000’s. At the time I was a youth pastor in Ohio at a church that called attenders to become members, much like the one I grew up in. I remember on one particular Sunday morning being confronted by a teenage girl who asked me “why membership even mattered”? At the time I confess I didn’t really know. I began studying the Bible to see if membership was even Biblical; and if it was, I also wanted to know how was it beneficial?
In relation to the Biblical precedent for membership, we see in the scriptures that there was a numerical record of converts kept and that they were tracking the churches growth (Acts 2:37–47). There were also specific instructions for keeping records of the widows (1 Tim. 5:3–16), and there even seems to be an awareness of who church members were (Romans 16:1-16). There were elections held in response to a specific problem (Acts 6:1–6) and discipline was carried out on those who were living in unrepentant sin that were “inside the church” (Matt. 18:15–20; 1 Cor. 5; Gal. 6:1). In addition, the scriptures are also clear that elders are held accountable for specific people, and that all Christians are expected to submit and obey their elders. (Heb. 13:17). The list could go on, but for now, suffice it to say, that when it comes to church membership, the Bible is clear that God intends for everyone in His church to covenant with a local community of believers. This if for the protection of the church as well as the benefit of all the believers. Below I have listed a few of the benefits of membership.
First, membership helps us form authentic community by establishing accountability among a particular group of people that we live in community with. As we interact and share life together, we are reminded of our own flaws and sinfulness, as well as confronted lovingly by the brothers and sisters we are in covenant with to help us grow and mature through confession and repentance, and when necessary, discipline. In short, if you just see the church as a place you attend with out ever becoming a member, then you will always be tempted to leave when the Spirit begins to expose your sin andyou will rob yourself of any real growth.
The Second aspect of membership is clarification. As I mentioned earlier, the Bible is clear that elders are held accountable for specific people, and that all Christians are expected to submit and obey their elders. So am I, as the lead pastor of Life Community, going to be held responsible for every Christian in the world? Or, how about you, are you as a Christian called to submit to every elder in the world? Membership clarifies who the elders are responsible for and also what elders individual Christians are called to submit to.
Third, living in covenant with a community of believers encourages consistency, accountability, and loving unity within the family of God; which reflects the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. Not to mention, it’s always encouraging to know that we are not in this alone, and that we have brothers and sisters who are in the trenches with us.
Finally, we are able to accomplish the mission God has given us most effectively when we are able to identify who, specifically, we are on mission with.
In sum, church membership is a vital part of the Christian life and should be treated as a gift from God meant for the strengthening of our faith and the increasing of our joy. My prayer is that everyone who attends Life Community Church would desire to become a member, so that we might live together as a family of missionaries for the glory of God and the good of our city!