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Church membership


IN  nowadays,  when committing to something has become rare, it's not surprising  that church membership is a low priority for many believers. It is no longer uncommon for Christians to pass from church to church without ever submitting to the care of the elders (see doctrinal emphasis  Biblical Elders)  and not bonding permanently with any group of believers.

Meanwhile, neglect  or refusing to join a church through formal membership  reflects a misunderstanding of the believer's responsibility to the body of Christ. It also separates him from the many blessings and opportunities that come with such a commitment. So every believer needs to understand what Church membership is and why it is so important.


The definition of church membership


When someone is saved, he becomes a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). By being thus connected with Christ and with other members of the body of Christ, he is also eligible to become a member of the local form of that body.

Becoming a church member means making a commitment to a specific local community of believers,  who came together for specific, God-defined purposes. These goals include: receiving the teachings of God's Word (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4: 2), serving and upbuilding one another through the proper use of spiritual gifts  (Rom. 12: 3-8; 1 Cor. 12: 4-31; 1. Pt. 4: 10-11), baptism and communion (Luke 22:19; Acts 2: 38-42) ) and the preaching of the gospel to those who are lost (Matt. 28: 18-20). Moreover, when a believer becomes a member of the church, he submits himself to the care and authority of elders who fulfill the biblical qualifications that God has placed in that congregation.


The basics of church membership


Although the Scriptures do not expressly command you to formally join a local church, the biblical basis for membership runs through  New Testament. This is best seen in (1) the example of the early church, (2) the existence of church authority, (3) the application of church discipline, and (4) the call to edify together.


An Example of the Early Church


In the early church, coming to Christ was coming to the church. The idea of experiencing salvation without belonging to a local church is alien to New Testament teaching. After someone repented and believed in Christ, he was baptized and attached to the church (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16: 5). This meant joining formally with fellow believers in the local congregation and dedication to apostolic teaching, fellowship, breaking bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42), which was much more than an individual life of obedience to Christ.


New Testament letters were written to the churches. In the case of several of them written to people such as Philemon, Timothy, and Titus, these people were leaders in the churches. The New Testament letters themselves show that the Lord assumed that believers would be devoted to the local church.

There is evidence in the New Testament that, just as there was a list of widows eligible for financial support (1 Tim. 5: 9), so could there be a list of church members that increased as the number of people saved (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16: 5). Moreover, when a believer moved to another city, his former church often wrote a letter of recommendation for the new church he entered  (Acts 18:27; Rom. 16: 1; Col. 4:10; 2. Cor. 3: 1-2).


In the book of Acts, much of the terminology fits only the concept of formal membership. Phrases such as "all the congregation" (6: 5), "the church in Jerusalem" (8: 1), "the disciples" in Jerusalem (9:26), "in every church" (14:23), "all the congregation" (15:12), and the "elders of the church" in Ephesus (20:17), suggest a recognizable church membership with clearly defined boundaries (see also 1 Cor. 5: 4; 14:23; Heb. 10:25).


The existence of church authority


The pattern that recurs throughout the New Testament is that of a group of elders governing the local body of believers. The special responsibilities assigned to elders include a clearly defined group of church members who are under their care.

Among other things, these godly men are to care for God's people (Acts 20:28; 1 Pt. 5: 2), to work diligently among them (1 Thess. 5:12), to admonish them (1 Thess. 5). : 12; 1 Tim. 5:17), and to watch over their souls (Hebrews 13:17). The Scriptures teach that elders will bring an account to God for those entrusted to their care (Hebrews 13:17; 1 Pt. 5: 3).


These responsibilities require recognizable, collective membership of a local church. The elders can be pastors of people and can only account for their spiritual condition to God when they know who they are. Or, they can only provide care if they know who they are responsible for. Finally, they can only fulfill their obligations to the community when they know who is part of it and who is not.


Church elders are not responsible for the spiritual condition of those who visit the church or only occasionally. Instead, they are primarily responsible for the pastoral care of those who have submitted to the care and authority of the elders, and this is accomplished through membership.


On the other hand, the Scriptures teach that believers are to submit to their elders. Hebrews 13:17 says, "Be obedient to your guides and be submissive to them." So the question for every believer is: Who is your spiritual leader?  Those who have not joined the local church and entrusted themselves to the care and authority of the elders have no guides. For such a person, obedience to Hebrews 13:17 is impossible. In short, this verse suggests that each believer knows to whom to submit, and this in turn implies clearly defined church membership.


Applying ecclesiastical discipline


In the Gospel In Matthew 18: 15-17, Jesus gives a course of action when the church attempts to bring back a believer who has fallen into sin, a four-step process known as church discipline. First, when a brother sins, it is necessary to talk to him personally (v. 15). If he does not want to repent, take one or two other believers and try again to win that believer (v. 16). If a sinning brother refuses to listen to two or three, they are to tell the church (v. 17). If such a person is still unrepentant, the final step is disfellowshipping (v. 17 and 1 Cor. 5: 1-13).

Applying the church discipline of Matthew 18 and other Scriptures (1 Cor. 5: 1-13; 1. Tim. 5:20; Titus 3: 10-11) implies that the elders of the church know who the members of the church are. Local church elders have neither the obligation nor the right to discipline other church members. Unfortunately, a widespread misunderstanding of church membership often forces local church elders to discipline also those who participate more or less regularly in that church community. Regardless, teaching the Scriptures on church discipline simply implies membership of the local church.


Encourage mutual building up


The New Testament teaches that the church is the body of Christ and that God has called every member of the church to live a life of dedication to the growth and development of that body. In other words, the Scriptures encourage all believers to build up other members of Christ's body by applying the New Testament principle of "one another" (eg, Heb. 10: 24-25) and using their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12: 6-8; 1). Cor. 12: 4-7; 1. Pt. 4: 10-11. Mutual upbuilding can only take place in the context of a specific body of Christ. The encouragement to this type of ministry implies that believers have made commitments to one another in an clearly identifiable local church. Church membership is just the formal way to express this commitment.




The practical expression of commitment to the local church carries with it many responsibilities: setting a model of a godly lifestyle towards those around you,  Use your spiritual gifts in diligent service, financially support the congregation's service, provide and accept correction with humility and love, and participate in joint worship to God. The expectations are considerable, but also the stakes are considerable, because only when every believer is faithful to this commitment will the local church be able to fulfill Christ's calling to be His representative on earth. Simply put, membership matters.

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