Placing Membership

“Are you interested in being a member of this congregation?”

Church membership. I have been involved in many conversations dealing with the idea of “placing membership” within a local congregation. If I were to write down every opinion I have heard on this subject matter, it would probably take at least two bulletins to explain their beliefs, so I want to talk about the main one that concerns me. Many people erroneously believe that placing membership with a local congregation is not necessary and will sometimes argue that it is completely unscriptural. Much of this is due to their misunderstanding of how to establish bible authority. To be brief, one must have a command, example, or necessary inference (conclusion) to properly establish authority.

We must be careful not to consider the local church as some sort of social club. I hope nobody has the idea that we must keep out certain people and that the only people going to Heaven are those who attend here specifically. The purpose of coming together has much to do with convenience. I personally know many good brethren in other areas, but it would be very difficult for me to drive to some of those locations due to distance. Because of this and some other reasons, we come together as a matter of knowing who is part of our fellowship that we have in Christ.

Acts 2:47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

1 Corinthians 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

I try to look at it in two senses as the Bible describes it in this way. We are members of the Lord’s body (universal church) and then we find a local group of Christians to meet with (local church).

1 Corinthians 11:18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.

1 Corinthians 14:23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

James 2:2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

God clearly wants Christians to assemble regularly. As we have for example the church at Corinth, it is not wrong to infer that “church membership” is a necessity when there is a local church within the area that is meeting. The NT is full of local churches with Christians who assembled and with that fact in mind, we should recognize the need for us to be accountable to that reality. In my last Sunday morning lesson regarding “Being Sheep”, I gave you a little bit of insight of my convictions regarding those who “church hop”. Church hopping is not something we ever read about in the Bible. It is no secret why people practice it. They do so because of their unwillingness to be submissive to the leadership of the local church. This attitude is sinful, and I will bring out why it is sinful in this article.

Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.

Titus 1:5 For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

Hebrews 13:17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

The local flock is to have shepherds. Shepherds know who their sheep are, and the sheep know who their shepherds are. This is impossible for the church hopper and it is clearly impossible for the ones who refuses to be recognized as a member of a local church. The flock has a responsibility to submit to the shepherds. With the Bible utilizing these kinds of descriptions of being a flock and having shepherds shows a relationship. The flock needs to listen, submit, and obey their leaders. How can one do these things if they refuse to be a member of a local church? It is easy. They cannot do this! Here is what I have been told on numerous occasions, “There is no example of anyone trying to place membership with a local church.” This is a lazy and poor argument.

Acts 9:26-28 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.

Paul was trying to identify with the church there in Jerusalem. It took Barnabas going to them to get that sorted out because of Paul’s reputation. This also shows that a congregation has the right to make sure that whoever is among them is someone who will help and not hurt them. Identifying with a local church is the process of making it known that you want to be a member and take on the responsibilities that come with it. You want to participate and have fellowship in what the local church does. This is a smoother process when you have good, godly leadership in place. Is placing membership with a local church biblical? Absolutely. Does it serve a purpose? Absolutely. We cannot fulfill our duties without doing so.

by Lee Elkins