From time to time I want to highlight the importance and the meaning of church membership. In my opinion, this is a subject that is horribly misunderstood in American churches. 9 Marks is one of the most profitable resources to moving the church back to it’s Biblical roots.
In one sense, we become part of the body of Christ the moment we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. In another sense, we become part of the body of Christ the moment we commit to a particular body. So in a very real sense being a Christian means being joined to a local church.
Church membership is not simply a record of a box we once checked. It’s not a sentimental feeling. It is not an expression of affection toward a particular place. It’s not an expression of loyalty or disloyalty toward parents. It should be a reflection of a living commitment to a group of people.
The practice of church membership occurs when Christians grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular local church, we are telling the pastor and other members not just that we commit to them, but that we commit to them in gathering, giving, prayer, and service. We are telling them to expect certain things from us and to hold us accountable if we don’t follow through. Joining a church is an act of saying, “I am now your responsibility, and you are my responsibility.” Biblical membership means taking responsibility. It is seen in our mutual obligations to each other. The church is a body in which all parts care for one another.
Those members who are not faithful or who shirk their responsibility as members confuse both real members and non-Christians about what it means to be a Christian. Since membership is the church’s corporate endorsement of a person’s salvation, we do them no favors by ignoring their lack of commitment.
We must continually be reminded of each member’s commitment to the life of the church.