Why Should I Be a Church Member? Response from Pastor Ed Stetzer
Bring up church membership and watch people squirm. It isn’t that people in culture are against membership as an idea—Costco seems to be doing well. Perhaps it is because church membership is not often defined well…
The reality is we have often thought of membership like belonging to a select club, or like the old American Express commercial where “membership has its privileges.” That is not the way the Bible refers to membership. In fact, in 1 Corinthians Paul doesn’t say the church is like a body. He says the church is a body. The phrase he uses to describe the individual connectedness is we are “members of the body.”
Why then do we have membership? Because regardless of how the culture sees it or Christians misunderstand it, membership is not simply an opportunity to say, I’m a part of a club, but rather a scriptural expression of covenant connectedness to a church. There are three things that help us understand why church membership is biblical and important.
1. Membership Reflects What the Church Is. First, membership is a reflection of the organic community already existing in the body. Paul says we are a body. Can one part say to the other, “I’m not part of you”? No, it is already a part. But too often we live as if we are separated.
As a matter of fact, too many churches or Christian gatherings look like piles of dismembered body parts, not a body knit together as God’s agent, his body, his kingdom, at work in the world. To reject the value of membership is to deny what God has already established in fact.
2. The Bible Teaches Covenant Community. We find in Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth that they were putting people out of the body. So Scripture teaches that we can be a part of the body, and we can be apart from the body. It is difficult to get around Scripture when it talks about being brought into the body and also being put out of it.
And yet for most churches there’s no way to put somebody out because they’re not even in. While there seems to be flexibility according to various bodies, there is no such thing in the New Testament as a church without some recognition of belonging—of membership in community. People need membership commitment because they need to be connected to a Christian community.
3. People Need Church Membership. Finally, we recognize biblical membership matters because people need it. People need membership commitment because they need to be connected to a Christian community. This is not just for the sake of the faith community, but also for the sake of the individual.
Individualist Christianity is a myth and a damaging pursuit. At the end of the day we’re redeemed. We’re placed in the body. The Bible specifically says he has redeemed us. He has transferred us, Colossians 1 says, from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of the Son he loves. A kingdom has a king. The king has subjects and his kingdom has a community together where we function as God’s people.
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