Monday, January 3, 2011

Church Membership

My Brother-in-Law, Tim B, posted a comment to my article entitled, Could the Apostasy be Upon Us?, where he mentioned church membership. That comment prompted me to make a few comments about the way we Christians handle the church membership these days.

Although I have been a member of several churches throughout my adult life, I began to question this practice a few years ago and decided to study the scripture about it. Can you guess what I discovered? Membership in the visible church is nowhere to be found in the Bible! It is NOT required of us to be a card-carrying, on-the-roll member of any “church” here on earth.

I now attend a church in which I teach a weekly Bible study, but I am not a member. The pastor has told me, though, that I, and my family, may have to “join” the church in the future. My question is, “Why”? I am a member of the invisible church, meaning that I have accepted Jesus as my Savior and attempt to follow Him daily. So where am I commanded to join a local congregation in order to serve Christ?

Yes, I know we are to gather together as a body of believers, to fellowship with other believers, but nowhere does the scripture say that we are to “become members” of a congregation of an earthly church.

I’ve often thought that if I were to become the leader of a group of believers, be it a “church” or a “group” or whatever – that I’d not require “membership” in this group. It’d be a group of believers in Christ, where non-believers who are seeking answers about Christianity are also welcomed.

The church is special, it’s a foundation of Christianity, but let’s not turn it into something the Pharisees would be proud of! Let’s keep it biblical. Let’s honor God with our meetings by not imposing man-made rules which hinder godly growth in Christ.

Concerning the pastor of the church I now attend; I get the impression that he thinks the same way I do (this is a board-run church which the pastor and I both agree is not biblical (although I do not want to speak for him)). I do know that he fully wants to serve God, not man; of this I have no doubt. He is trying hard to lead this small congregation to service and obedience to the Word (and I do see some positive responses).

But to have a “sign-on-the-line” membership church is not biblical. I know that I will have to “sign” again someday so that I can serve God; but I won’t like it. When will the Church of Christ seek only to please Him and not man? When will we, as a Christian body, say “I will follow you, Lord”, and not throw in my rules on top of His?


Tim B said...

Once again I agree. We've elected in a couple of occasion to choose not to join over positions at churches. The argument made to me by one of the Pastor's was the idea of commitment and service. If you weren't committed enough to join then you most likely wouldn't serve or give financially. I disagree, your commitment is to Christ (the body) therefore if you see the need and can meet that need, then you will by conviction or leading of the Spirit.

Anonymous said...

The universal Church—the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5)—is composed of all true believers in Christ, but there is nothing in the Bible about “membership” in a local church assembly. As believers, we have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 20:12), which is the only “membership roll” spoken of in Scripture.

The New Testament churches apparently had no need of formal membership, relying instead on God to gather together believers in a local body. “And the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved” (Acts 2:47). This verse indicates that salvation was a prerequisite for being “added” to the church. Churches today who require salvation before membership are simply following the biblical model. See also 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

Although there is no scriptural mandate for church membership, there is certainly nothing to prohibit it. Church membership is a way of officially identifying oneself with a local body of believers. Church membership is a statement that a Christian is in agreement with that local church and is willing to be identified as a representative of it. Church membership is also valuable for organizational purposes and a good way of determining who is allowed to vote on important church decisions and/or who is involved in official church positions and functions. Church membership is not required of Christians. It is simply a way of saying, "I am a Christian and I believe _____ church is a good church."

Frank said...

Hi Martin,

I've heard pastors speak of both the "visible" and the "invisible" church; and I can agree with why they say this. There are over a billion members of the visible church in the world today while I believe that the invisible church has only millions of members worldwide.

Only true believers, whose names are written in the Lambs Book of Life, are members of the invisible church, and only they will go to be with God.

I'm not saying that the visible church isn't good, it has it purpose. I'll become a "member" my the church I attend when I have to, I'm not totally against it, it just seems that some (most?) church put too much importance on it.