Why is it important to be a member of the church? I’ll be the first to admit that I can find nothing in the Bible that says you have to be a member of the church. Church membership does not save you, assure you of salvation or a home in heaven. Likewise, the ordinance of baptism or the Lord’s Super does not give you a license to eternal life. We are saved by God’s grace and by faith and not by membership with any organization or institution.
The absence of a church membership requirement in the Bible does not by any means suggest that church membership is irrelevant. Church as we know it today did not exist in the early centuries. Christians gathered in homes voluntarily and freely to worship and fellowship together. They were truly a community of believers.
Neither Jesus, Paul or any of the Biblical writers state specifically that you must join a church. But the writer of Hebrews said, “Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.”
Church has evolved from those early centuries so that today the community of believers and the church as an institution are more clearly recognized, accepted and identified in society.
Being a church member today clearly identifies you as a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ. It gives you a sense of belonging to a group of people of like faith. Jesus established the church. He said, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)
Being a member of the church gives us public recognition of who we are. Membership in a church gives us a legitimate way to publicly confess Christ before men. Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33).
In our modern culture membership is closely identified with big box stores like Costco, Walmart and BJ’s or social clubs. You have to join to take advantage of their benefits and privileges.
The Biblical concept of membership is quite different. The Biblical teaching is that we are “the body of Christ”. Paul sees it in medical terms like the various members of our physical body (foot, hand, ear, etc.) We function much better when we have all our parts connected and useful. If by accident we lose a finger, foot or eye, we are dismembered and handicapped.
Christ is the head of the church and individually, as Christians, we are members of his body. If we refuse to be members of the body of Christ, we are dismembered and separated from the body. Biblically and spiritually speaking – that is a tragedy. How can a person claim to be a Christian and choose to be separated from Christ’s body? Christians need membership commitment because they need to be connected to a Christian community. Finally, the church, the Christian Community is “the family of God.” We all need family. In family we are nurtured, encouraged, instructed, cared for and prayed for. In family we grow physically and spiritually. In the family there are also privileges and benefits. Do you see now why it is important to be a member of the church?
In His Love, Charles