Why Church Membership?
What identifies you as being a Christian and part of God’s family? Simply going to church occasionally or even regularly is not enough. What identifies you is being a member of and active participant in a local church. Being a follower of Christ makes you part of the Church universal (all believers, united in Christ), but membership is what identifies you as a part of a local church. The membership commitment communicates clearly that you represent Jesus Christ through your local church.
Here are four reasons why you should be a member of a local church.
It is Biblical
While the term ‘church member’ is not used in the Bible, the concept of committed and regular gathering of God’s people in a location certainly is. Throughout the Bible believers were identified with a local church whether in Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae or other cities. In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul noted that the believers had standards and requirements of behaviour ‘when you come together as a church…’ [1 Cor 11:18].
The Bible talks about ‘the body’ of the church, where each part is a member of the body, has a function and purpose, and has an importance. The body of the Church cannot exist based on a casual interaction – it requires commitment for all parts to work together, and that commitment comes in the form of Church membership.
It Helps You Be Faithful
The Christian life is a struggle against our original sin and the constant temptations and activities of the devil. Peter warns us to ‘be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ [1 Peter 5:8].
On our own as Christians, the world is an overpowering place. We are surrounded by things, people and influences which tempt us away from Christ. Jesus lived on the earth and understands the struggle of remaining pure and undefiled within the world. Jesus recognised that on our own as individual Christians, we are weak and vulnerable to all of the temptations around us.
When He ascended into Heaven, Jesus therefore provided two great gifts to help us live for Him: the Holy Spirit and the establishment of the Church. The Church provides us with other Christians to encourage, strengthen and help us live holy lives for Christ – strength in numbers. Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. [Ecc 4:12].
It Provides Accountability
Being a church attendee is not the same as being a church member. Attending allows you to be a part of a church worship without necessarily being known by the church, and without the need to make any commitment to serve Christ through a local church. When you become a member you are making commitments (see below.) that you are then held accountable for fulfilling. Membership brings responsibilities and accountability to each other and the leaders in the Church, to help us follow Jesus better, for our own spiritual growth and for the building up of others in the Church.
It Benefits You
Becoming a member of a local church is a defining moment in following Christ. It is a statement that you take your commitment to Christ seriously enough to make a commitment to Christ’s church in a local place – to want to serve Jesus Christ through the local church; to be blessed through the fellowship, preaching and activities of a local church; and to want the responsibility and accountability to others in the church to help you in your spiritual life. Membership is making a commitment and communicating it in a public way.
In summary, in his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul writes: And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. [Eph 4:11-16]
A series of sermons preached by Ken Stebbins on Church Membership is provided below.
Vows of Membership in the PRC
Aligned with what we believe as a Church, applicants for membership are asked to confirm before the congregation and God:
- Do you believe in God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as the one and only true God?
- Do you know yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving eternal punishment for your sin?
- Do you trust only in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for your salvation, as the One punished in your place on the cross?
- Do you promise, in humble dependence on the grace of God, to turn away from all sin and live a holy life?
- Do you promise to serve in and contribute joyfully to the worship and work of Christ’s Church, and your local church in particular, to the best of your ability?
- Do you submit to the Biblical oversight and discipline of the elders in your local church?
- Do you affirm all these things, believing the whole Bible to be true and the Word of God?
The congregation is then asked:
- Do you, the members of this congregation promise to love this brother/sister in Christ; and to encourage and pray for him/her in his/her Christian walk and witness?
Sermons on Church Membership
Following is a sermon series preached by Ken Stebbins in 2013 on the purpose, requirements and blessings of church membership.