II. Why Should I Become a Member?
Let me give you four reasons why. First of all, I should become a member of a local church because Scripture commands it. It is true that joining a church will not save you any more than contributing financially or fulfilling religious duties such as baptism, confirmation, or whatever. However, you need to understand that you don’t become a member in order to be saved, but you become a member because you have been saved if you are a professing Christian.
One of the reasons why some people think it’s perfectly OK not to join a church or refuse to join a church is because they don’t understand the nature of what church is. If a person professes to be a Christian and truly believes that a church is the regenerate body of Christ, then how can a person say he/she loves Jesus and not be part of His body? It’s like saying it’s OK to chop off one of the hands and say it doesn’t need to be part of the body. Such reasoning is ludicrous and illogical. How can you say you love Jesus and don’t want to be part of the group that Jesus died to give himself for? Isn’t that what Scripture teaches?
Please turn your Bible with me to Ephesians 5. I would like to draw your attention to verse 25, 26 (for our sanctification by Christ), 27, 29 (for spiritual nurture and care just as Christ also does the church), and 30. The ultimate question that every professing Christian needs to answer is this: do we live the Christian life alone? As Scripture clearly teaches we cannot divorce Jesus from His bride, the church. The two are inseparable. He is the head and the church is his body. To say you love Jesus and refuse to join his church means that you are already outside of His body, which means that one wonders whether you are a Christian!
It doesn’t matter what a person says he believes; like James, show me your faith by your visible evidence. And one of the clearest and visible evidences of one’s salvation is your love for His church in which you are now part of. Thus, the primary reason why I should join a church is because the Bible teaches it.
Secondly, membership clarifies the difference between Christians and non-Christians. It helps to know who should be treated as believers and who should be treated as nonbelievers. For instance, you realize all the “one another” passages in the NT are reference to the context of a local church? For example, turn your Bible with me to Romans. Notice in 12:16, “be of the same mind toward one another,” in 13:8 “love one another,” 14:19 “building up of one another,” in 15:7 “accept one another,” and in 15:14 “admonish one another.” Paul is not giving these commands to the world of unbelievers here. He is addressing all the churches in Rome. He wants the members in these churches to fulfill these “one another” commands to each other.
So what does this mean? It means that all the “one another” passages are for the members of the local churches. This clearly implies the priority and privileges for being a member of local church. This does not mean that a church or Christians cannot show compassion or be of help to those that are outside of the church. But it does clearly imply that the priority and privileges are given foremost to the members of a local church. For example, if there is someone in our community who is in need of help that is not a member of our church and at the same time a member of this church who is in need of same need, based on the biblical principle a member of this congregation gets the foremost priority and privilege. Scripture seems to imply that it is better to offend the non-believers than to offend your fellow members of the Christ’s church. So membership helps to clarify who should be treated as a family and who are simply visitors. Again, do understand that privilege and priority is given foremost to church family members than simply visitors. Now if you are not a member of Sovereign GraceBibleChurch, this does not mean that you should stop visiting. In fact, continue to visit us often so that you can get to know us and for us to get to know you. However, it is our prayer that ultimately you can make the transition from being a visitor to part of a member to this wonderful congregation.
Third reason why I should become a member is because membership provides loving accountability. Let me give you an example. When I was a young believer I used to attend a church that had about 15,000 people come through on any given Sunday. But this church did not practice formal membership. Years and years later, I finally realized that one of the reasons why so many people are attracted to non-membership church or “mega-churches” is because people can simply come and go as they please without any sense of accountability to each other and to the leadership and they can simply hide under the blanket of a large numbers. I must say, that is not an example of operating the church biblically. Membership is essential to an orderly administration of the church. Since church is called the body of Christ, and like a human body God has designed it in an orderly fashion. It has a closely-knit structure and not just a loose collection of individuals.
If you would to read the Gospels, Jesus generally had an audience of crowds, and sometimes large crowds. But often, Jesus distinguished the difference between the mere crowds with the core disciples. And frankly, we need to be concerned about being a disciple-making, disciple-training, and disciple-sending church than simply wanting to have crowds on Sunday. I’m interested in producing genuine disciples than mere churchgoers. With that in mind, would you please turn your Bible with me to Hebrews 13:17?
Let me ask you a simple question: who’s your pastor? Who’s your spiritual leader? If you are not a member of a local church, how are you going to obey Hebrews 13:17? If you are not a member of a local church, it is impossible to obey this biblical command to “obey your leaders” when you are not submitted to the spiritual leadership of a local church. To press the issue further, if you are not obeying Hebrews 13:17 when it is a crystal clear command, then you are living in disobedience and God is not glorified in your life.
Here’s the fourth and final reason why I should become a member: it provides the privileges of partnership. Describing the church, the apostle Paul said in Ephesians 3:6 that we as a church are “fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers.” The noun “fellow-partakers” is not used anywhere else except here in Ephesians 3:6. The words mean equal partners, equal sharer, and equal partakers. What this implies is that church membership is not only a commitment on the member’s part to the church, but it is a commitment on the church’s part to the member as well. Both the church as a body and her leaders are committed to care for the member. One writer suggests that the believer’s relationship to the local church is similar to that of a marriage; and he likens professing Christians who refuse church membership to a man and woman who merely live-together without ever committing to a formal marriage ceremony. Erik Lane writes:
They have only thought of themselves and not of the society of which they are a part. Marriage is a public affair, because, however private a matter individuals may think it to be, other members of the community have a right to know who belongs to whom and who is whose wife or husband. A society in which everyone behaved as this couple would be sheer chaos. Moreover, their selfishness in fact rebounds on their own head, because, by refusing registration, they preclude themselves from certain benefits the state grants to married folk.
This evening we have heard the importance of our commitment to a local church for the glory of God. I’ve preached this subject because it is so dear to my heart. Church of Jesus Christ is dear to my heart because I love my Savior, but more importantly, he loves his church more. In fact he loves his church more than I can ever love his church. However, by God’s grace I can demonstrate my love for him by loving those whom he purchased with his own blood, namely his church. And I can demonstrate my love for His church by joining myself to a local church and becoming a fellow member.
If you are listening to this message either by via internet or watching this message through television and you are a professing Christian without an active participation at a local church as a member, you need to obey God’s command by joining yourself to a local church. If you don’t know what to look for in a church, I’d like to recommend you read a book entitled The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, because not all churches are healthy, let alone churches.
Wayne A. Mack and David Swavely, Life in the Father’s House (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1996), 27. Erik Lane, Members of One Another (London: Evangelical Press, 1968), 66.