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Why Church Membership

Why Church Membership

Understanding the Biblical Foundations of Church Membership


Jon Delger

Executive Pastor

Peace Church

Published On:

May 24, 2024

Why do churches have membership? Is this a biblical idea, a practical idea, or an attempt to operate like a country club? 

Let me share a few reasons I believe many faithful churches around the world continue the practice of church membership. 

What does the Bible say about church membership?

While the Bible doesn’t use the word “membership,” there are many teachings of Scripture that are best lived-out through the process of membership. 

1) The New Testament assumes Christians are part of a local church. 

A majority of the letters of the New Testament are addressed to churches or church leaders, and none of them are addressed to Christians flying solo. In the words of J.I. Packer, “The New Testament knows no such thing as the unchurched Christian.” Membership is how we formally identify ourselves with a local body of believers. 

2) Christians are designed to live, grow, and serve in community. 

The phrase “one another” is used more than forty times in the New Testament (i.e. love one another, forgive one another). These commands don’t refer to how Christians treat people in the world, but each other. Scripture is filled with images of the church as a body (1 Corinthians 12), a building (1 Peter 2), and a flock of sheep (Acts 20). Membership is how we commit to living, growing, and serving together.

3) Church leaders need to know their flock. 

Shepherds will one day have to give an account for how they cared for the flock of God (1 Peter 5). Membership is how leaders know who it is they are to care for, pray for, encourage, and challenge. The membership process also enables leaders an opportunity to make sure people entering our community have received the gospel and desire to live with Jesus as their Lord, Savior, and Treasure.

4) Membership is what makes the church a covenant community. 

Covenant isn’t a word we use every day. However, many will be familiar with hearing marriage referred to as a covenant. Becoming a church member isn’t quite the same as getting married, but just like marriage, membership is a relationship sealed by promises. In membership, we make promises before the Lord and to each other to walk with Jesus, help others walk with Jesus, to be faithful to Scripture, to pursue the mission of the church, and to accept correction if we stray in our walk with the Lord. Church membership is a promise that unites us, enables us to provide each other with accountability and support, and enables us to better pursue God’s mission by using our gifts together. 

Why should I become a church member?

1) Becoming a member is an important way to be faithful to Scripture. 

As outlined above, the word “membership” may not be used in the Bible, but it is clearly assumed that believers are gathered into local churches and covenant together to walk with the Lord and operate as Christ’s body. 

2) Becoming a member let’s church leadership and other members know they can count on you. 

Promises take a relationship to a deeper level. Becoming a member is making a promise to participate in and support the ministry of the church as well as your brothers and sisters in Christ. Membership is a way to formally declare that you are counting on this body as your spiritual family and that they can count on you. 

3) Becoming a member helps the church care for you more intentionally.

Becoming a member enables church leaders to know their flock so that they can more intentionally encourage, support, and challenge you as you walk with the Lord. 

4) Becoming a member opens the door to leadership roles.

Churches want to be sure everyone who represents them in a leadership or teaching role understands and embraces their vision and values. While some volunteer opportunities may be available to anyone who wants to get involved, there are certain roles in a church that require the accountability of membership. 

5) Becoming a member allows your voice to impact the future. 

Becoming a member gives you a voice at the family meeting. In order to speak to big family issues, it is important to know that you are committed to the family and embrace the vision and values. In some churches, membership enables you to vote at congregational meetings where members have a voice in matters such as who will lead the church as elders and deacons, and in the annual budget.

A Final Word about Membership

Membership in the church is not like membership in a club. 

When you hear the word “membership,” you might think of a country club or (like me) the wholesale store known as Sam’s Club. However, membership in the church is very different. Church members are not consumers, but contributors. 

I am a card-carrying member of the Sam’s Club. My membership or relationship with Sam’s Club works like this: I give them money, and they give me stuff. I don’t volunteer to sweep the floor or stock the shelves on Saturdays. I give money, and I expect goods and services. 

Unfortunately, many Christians attempt to bring this mentality into church membership. They think that if they put money in the offering plate, then the church is there to give them goods and services while they sit back and consume. Church membership is actually the opposite of this. Church membership is a commitment to the mission of the church to make disciples of Jesus. It is a commitment to participate, give, and serve. It is a commitment to serve God and others, not ourselves.

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