There is a mountain of confusion about church membership and what it means for many American Christians. Some don’t believe it’s helpful or necessary, while other churches have “membership” rolls that far exceed the actual people who are plugged into their church body. These churches have lists full of people who decided to be a “member” 10 years ago by way of ceremony only, never having actually belonged to a group of believers or fulfilled any sort of membership responsibilities. Of course, these experiences only fuel the idea that church membership is, at best, meaningless.
So why does church membership matter? There are many reasons, but we will focus on two: 1) It is biblically important, and 2) It is good for the church and for you.
1) Membership is Biblically Important
Although there is not in depth detail on the specific topic of church membership in the New Testament, there is much evidence pointing to its importance and vitality.
For example, Hebrews 13:17 states:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
If there is no such thing as belonging to a specific local church body, then to which leaders are we to be responsible to? Do we submit to any random church leader in our city that may or may not be biblically faithful?
From the opposite side, Scripture gives clear instructions to elders to specifically care for, lead, and shepherd “the flock of God among you” (1 Pet 5.1-5). The metaphor is shepherding, which of course implies a shepherd overseeing and protecting a specific and defined group of sheep. If there were no such thing as defined church membership, to whom would elders be responsible to God for?
Lastly, the New Testament concept of church discipline laid out in Matthew 18 would have no functionality whatsoever without a definite account of who is and is not a member.
2) Membership is Good for the Church and for You
Beyond the biblical evidence for the importance of church membership, there are practical benefits galore. Choosing to commit to a specific church body allows the believer to treat church as a family with warts, struggles and all—as opposed to seeing the church as a pick-and-choose buffet that I will most certainly leave if things get too difficult. It allows for the long-term growth that can only come from being committed to the same group of people for an extended period of time—people that know your flaws, weaknesses, and struggles as much as you know theirs.
Church membership gives us the opportunity to belong to one another and practice the myriad of “one another” commands we see littered throughout the New Testament. Membership allows us the similar benefits of deep sanctification and belonging that marriage allows. It teaches us that commitment, even to an (of course) imperfect church is far better for our souls than treating church like a buffet line.
Practicals of Membership at Midtown
At Midtown we take membership seriously. We have at least 2 events each year (Family Meetings) specifically designed to encourage, train, and support our members. In addition, missionary members receive extra attention, care and oversight from our pastors through regular member check ups, as well as the added benefit of officially belonging to, committing to, and serving our church family as we all make disciples together.
So if you have people in your LifeGroup that are not yet members, encourage them to come to the next Midtown Class. You can find the next session on our Upcoming Events page. Let them know that officially plugging in to a local church body is not only good for the church—it’s good for them and their continued maturity.