Church Membership Part 1


Church Membership—Why is it Biblical

Some people think that church membership is unimportant and in fact not even biblical. I want to make a case that membership is biblical and give you my reasoning.

We know that New Testament congregations had some simple way to track their members. For instance, Paul gives instructions concerning the care of widows and speaks of them being put on a list. List keeping was a thing. People were tracked as on or off a list. 

Membership is implied by the fact that the church knew those who were in and those who were outside. In 1Corinthians 5:2 Paul speaks of a man who was in unrepentant sin and needed to be removed. Jesus, in Matthew 18 implies something very similar. Removal requires prior inclusion.

You cannot know who is in and who is not if there is no formal or informal way of making that determination. There has to be agreement. A member cannot simply be anyone who comes into the church to visit, because Paul speaks to the fact that unbelievers can come into the church. Such a visit by an unbeliever is a good thing, but it does not mean he should be regarded as members of that church.

As a pastor, it is my duty to shepherd the flock of God. But how would a shepherd do that if he has no sense of who the sheep are? As pastor/elders we must give an account for those under our care. Who are they?

The final indication that I want to add deals with the idea of covenant. Biblical history is replete with covenants. It is in our DNA to make agreements to join together in common work. That process may be more or less formal, and every church may vary as to what it looks at, but it’s inconceivable that the local church would not consist of those who have agreed in heart and mind to walk together in the Lord. Some kind of membership covenant is expected.