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.
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 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.
God makes us a part of his larger family when we are born again. But then we should covenant in a local body and live in community with them, agreeing to live by certain established godly principles and standards.
Membership doesn’t save us. But it enables us to grow and become spiritually mature in Christ. Not only should we be members of the body, each of us should also be able to express the value of membership. Hopefully, then people will stop squirming when we bring up the topic, but instead passionately embrace the biblical nature of church membership.