Oct 20, 2019: Is Church Membership Really Required?*

Do you value Christ and the body of Christ, the church? Do you cherish being a member of God’s church in its local expression? Are you grateful to be a member of a local church where you can grow and serve together with fellow brothers and sisters of God’s family? Many Christians regrettably do not esteem being a member of a local church. If you’re one who looks upon church membership lightly, then I invite you to reconsider.

When we hear the word membership, we immediately think of a club. A member pays dues, comes to meetings, and fulfills the obligations of a club member. When you move, or no longer have time for the club, you simply withdraw your membership and move on. The Bible says membership is much more intimate. “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body” (Eph. 5:29-30).

To be a church member means we are a member of Christ’s body—just like your finger is a member of your body. His blood runs through us. His Spirit animates us. His will moves us. He feels our pain, cleanses us when we get dirty, nurses our wounds, and cherishes us with pride. Leaving the church is not simply leaving a club. When you walk away, you dismember yourself from the body. Jesus and the rest of the body sorely miss you, and bleed after your departure. You cut yourself off from your only source of life and nourishment. Like an amputated hand, you will slowly bleed out, wither, and die.

I hear you complaining already. “My, he’s being a bit dramatic. I’m a member of Christ; I just can’t find a local church I like. I’m a member of the universal church, just not of any one in particular.” I want you to understand that being a part of the universal church without submitting to a local church is not possible, biblical, or healthy.

First, it’s simply not possible. To imply you can be part of the greater community without first being part of the smaller is not logical. You cannot be part of Rotary International without also being part of a local chapter. You cannot be part of the universal human family without first being part of a small immediate family.

Second, it’s not biblical. Every letter in the New Testament assumes Christians are members of local churches. The letters themselves are addressed to local churches. They teach us how to get along with other members, how to encourage the weak within the church, how to conduct ourselves at church, and what to do with unrepentant sinners in the church. They command us to submit to our leaders, and encourage us to go to our pastors and elders to pray. All these things are impossible if you aren’t a member of a local church.

Finally, living without church membership is not healthy. Independence—the desire to choose for yourself what’s right and wrong—is at the heart of sin. You need the humility lesson of submitting to flawed leaders of the church. You need the encouragement of sharing victories with your church. You need the fellowship of sharing sufferings with your church.

You need to know we’re all in this life together, and we won’t walk away from you just because you let us down or we disagree. Together we build each other up into the image of Christ; no one can make it alone. I encourage you to rethink the importance of church membership. Our fellowship may be an affliction, but we are a glorious affliction. And we will walk into glory together.

* Adapted from an article on church membership by Ricky Jones

This Week’s Bible Reading Schedule:

Monday: Ezekiel 34 Thursday: Ezekiel 37
Tuesday: Ezekiel 35 Friday: Ezekiel 38
Wednesday: Ezekiel 36 Saturday: Ezekiel 39