Why We Practice Church Membership

We believe church membership is the normal pattern established by the apostles and presented in the New Testament.  The term church in the New Testament usually refers to a specific local church like that at Corinth, Jerusalem, or Rome.

Four indications that Christians identified themselves with a local church:
  1. The biblical metaphors used to describe local churches: flock, temple, body, and household are used specifically of local churches (Acts 20; Eph. 2; 1 Cor. 12; 1 Tim. 3). Each metaphor draws a distinction of who is part of the church, and who isn’t.
  2. The meaning of “the whole church.” In 1 Corinthians 14:23, Paul says, “if the whole church comes together in one place…” How would the leaders know if the whole church was present if no identifiable relationship was established?
  3. The instructions for pastoral oversight and spiritual leadership. Pastors/overseers/shepherds/elders were to care “for all the flock” (Acts 20:28; 1 Tim. 3; Acts 20; Phil. 1:1, Titus 1). Leaders of the churches must have had some listing of believers. Since leaders were accountable for the souls of the flock under their care (Heb. 13:17), they must have had some commitment for their care.
  4. The meaning of the word join. After the end of Ananias and Sapphire in Acts 5:13, no non-Christians “dared join them (the church), but the people esteemed them high.” The Greek word for join has strong connotations of commitment.

  • Church membership recognizes that eternal life is a shared life and that Jesus Christ is a shared savior; He died not just to redeem a person but a people.
  • Church membership is not a loose affiliation with a group of Christians; rather, it involves entering into a community of other believers in which you can know others and be known by others.
  • Church membership emphasizes the truth that community is the context for change. It provides a tangible context for spiritual growth and accountability.  
  • Church membership protects against individualistic and consumeristic approaches to the Christian life.
  • Church membership values unity and perseverance in working through interpersonal conflicts and struggles.
  • Church membership shows the power of the gospel that enables us to get over ourselves so that we can give of ourselves in love to one another.
  • Church membership unifies our time, talents, money, gifts, and abilities towards the goal of proclaiming the gospel, making disciples, and planting churches.
  • Church membership shows the agreement of belief and ownership to the other members of the church and leaders.

A Covenant Commitment  
The term covenant refers to a bond voluntarily entered into by two parties. Throughout Scripture and the history of redemption, the covenant serves a theological model for the relationship shared between God and His people. Covenantal language was used to describe the relationships shared by those who comprised the first church in Jerusalem. “And they devoted themselves to the apostles; teaching and the fellowship, to the breading of bread and prayer.” The Greek term for “fellowship” is koinania. The term speaks to the life shared together by members of the church. A covenant is more personal than a contract and more accountable than a friendship.

A covenant commitment is our way of saying, “In Christ, we stand with one another and we are for one another.”