With membership classes set to begin in a week or so (at least as of the time of this writing), I thought that it might be good for us to take some time to look at why someone should become a member of the church. This might be helpful for those who may find themselves on the fence right now about whether or not to join the church as well as those who have been members of the congregation for quite a while now but who have forgotten the significance of their membership. We all could use a reminder of why it is necessary for us to be an active member of a local church.
One reason why every Christian ought to be a member of a local church is to be obedient to Scripture. Now, you may say, “Wait a minute. Where does God give us a specific command to officially and formally join a local church anywhere in Scripture?” While it is true that you will not find mentioned a “Thou shalt become a member of a local church” in the Bible, we do have a number of commands given to Christians that practically cannot be lived out properly outside of the context of being a member of a local church. For instance, there are 51 “one another” commands in Scripture such as love one another (John 15:12), encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25), and pray for one another (James 5:16) just to name a few. These are all things that you cannot do unless you are continually with some “another” Christians on an ongoing basis to get to know them. How else can you effectively understand how specifically to encourage them? What ways you can go about to show love to them? If you have nothing more than a loose connection with a group of people, you can’t effectively love, encourage, pray, or anything to or for them. Also, keep in mind that the initial entrance ramp onto the road of membership is baptism, which clearly is a command that Jesus Himself has given Christians. In His parting words to His Church, He instructed that all new converts are to be “baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). And there is no idea in the New Testament of a Christian who would not be baptized and committed to a local congregation.
Another reason a Christian should become a member of the church is to officially be counted as part of the congregation. Until a formal commitment to the other members of the congregation has been made, someone who attends the services and volunteers their time are just “hanging out” with us but are not fully “all in” with us or “belong” to us. It is like the difference between spending time with someone as their boyfriend or girlfriend rather than being committed to them as their husband or wife. In the first case, there is no close bond of commitment holding the two parties together whereas in the other they are bound by a commitment expressed in vows. There are many folks today who merely “date” a congregation but who fail to commit to join it. And while someone can point to the church that they have merely be attending and say that it is MY church, that doesn’t carry as much weight as if they have made an official commitment to the people there and can say that they are a member of it. Then, and only then, they rightfully can say that they genuinely belong to it.
A Christian should be a member of a congregation to affirm their faith in Christ. In both baptism and being received as a member of the church, a Christian professes their faith in Christ publicly before the congregation that they are joining. The congregation in receiving them as members in essence affirms that they recognize that profession and will seek to hold them accountable to it (more on that in the next point). One of the reasons why we at Mt. Joy require every candidate for membership to first have a meeting with the pastor and one of the deacons is to ensure that, as much as we are able, we can affirm someone’s faith. We can affirm that there has been a moment in their life where they came to, by the work of God’s Holy Spirit, see their sinfulness, were brought to repentance and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone to be their only Lord and Savior. In a sense, when someone is received into the membership of the local church, the congregation is saying “we recognize that you belong to us as a fellow believer in Christ and will both view and treat you as being a blood bought member of the family”.
A Christian also should join a local congregation of other believers to be held accountable for their faith. The truth of the matter is that every single one of us have blind spots. Areas of sin in our lives that we just cannot see or are aware of. (Or sometimes, perhaps more often than not, they are areas that we are aware of but don’t want to address or deal with.) What we need are brothers and sisters in the Lord who love and care for us and our walk with the Lord enough that they will point out to us some of those areas when they become visibly noticeable to them as we spend time together. The desire of every Christian should be to grow in grace and holiness. The reality is that this growth does not occur on our own. God must bring it about and one of the primary means that He uses is the local church; through the faithful encouragement and challenge of fellow believers as we sing, pray, worship, listen to God’s Word, serve and live together.
And, finally, a reason a Christian should become a member of a local church is so that they can take a more active role in the life and ministry of the church. There are some privileges that are understandably restricted to only members such as voting in our congregational business meetings and teaching a Sunday School class as well as serving on certain committees and boards. Once someone joins us as a member, they are free to serve fully with the gifts that God has graciously given them in the areas that He has called them. Certainly you want to use those gifts in their fullest capacity, right? Officially becoming a part of us enables you to do so in the way that God has intended.
If you have any questions yet about becoming a member here at Mt. Joy, why not come to the membership classes to see what it is all about? You can find out more there about the importance of becoming a member of the church. (More than I was able to share here in this brief article.) And for those of you who faithfully have been serving as members, in some cases for a number of years, let me say “thank you” for honoring the Lord with your commitment to those in this congregation and encourage you to continue for His glory.
Love in Christ,