Covenant Church Membership is biblical and important.
The bible doesn’t speak directly to church membership. I cannot take you to a verse that says you shall join the church by statement of faith or movement of letter and be voted in by the congregation. Further, church organization is not clearly instructed in the scriptures; therefore, we have some freedoms in how to organize the church. Scripture is clear that there should be order and organization. Further, it presents biblical principles which support church membership.
To begin I think it may be necessary to define the church and church membership.
Merriam- Webster Membership is State of belonging to or being a part of the group or an organization: the state of being a member.
It is clear that being a member means to belong and that we are a part a group or organization.
We often equate our membership to the church in a like fashion to our other memberships. Attend the meeting. Pay your dues. It’s a social thing. Also, it’s a cultural thing. But as we explore a few passages together, I want to point out that membership is a word that does not fully grasp who we are as a church. Membership may also deplete the importance of who we are. I believe we are called to be a covenant community of faith.
1. Christians are clearly commanded to submit to and honor specific CHURCH LEADERS. (Hebrews 13:17)
What kind of leader are they to submit to? Obviously, the passage points to a church leader who is accountable to keep watch over their souls. In this verse, Christians are clearly commanded to submit to and honor an elder or elder body of a specific church.
There is a connection here in this scripture that suggests a belonging. Let’s look at the next half…
2. Leaders are clearly commanded to care for a specific GROUP OF PEOPLE. (Hebrews 13:17, Ezekiel 34:1-6)
Here we see leaders as being responsible to care for Christians.
Again we must ask the questions:
• Are leaders accountable for all Christians in this area?
• Will they give an account for everything the small groups teach at other churches, or how they spend their money, or conduct their international missions?
The questions are silly. Of course not! I am the leader of this church, this body. I am accountable for the people here.
I’ve been studying what it means to be a shepherd. As I read Ezekiel 34 it becomes clear from a non-example, or what not to do, what a good shepherd looks like.
READ Ezekiel 34:1-6
• Take care of their flock,
• Strengthens the weak and the sick,
• Search for the lost,
• Rule or lead lovingly and gently,
• Gather and protect the sheep,
• Give their best to the sheep.
This raises more questions:
• Who are the sheep? Obviously people.
• How can I care for the weak and sick when many times I don’t know who is weak and sick?
• How I do I search for the lost if I’m unsure who is in the flock?
• How can I gather and protect when I am unsure who is part of the flock?
• How can I give my best to those I don’t who are my sheep?
Here’s the truth: The local church, a congregation, is often referred to as a flock, and church leaders, Pastors, are shepherds. As a pastor, I am accountable to the people in my church and they are accountable to me. We have no control in what happens down the street in other flocks, but scripture is clear that there is a level of accountability in this church that far surpasses mere membership. As a church we are a covenant community of faith! This church membership brings covenant relationship and accountability. The truth is most Americans want to avoid that accountability.
3. Christians are clearly held accountable to a biblical standard as a covenant COMMUNITY OF FAITH. (1 Corinthians 5:1-12)
OK some context here: The church at Corinth had overlooked a man’s sin of have a relationship with his father’s wife. But at the same time they were trying to celebrate the good that was going on. Paul confronts the church regarding this individual’s behavior and the effect it can have on their whole congregation.
We see in this passage that Christians are clearly held accountable to a biblical standard as a covenant community of faith.
How can a Church discipline if covenant community doesn’t exist. You can’t remove if there isn’t some type of organization for someone to belong.
4. Christians are clearly individuals who are called to exist and work as ONE BODY. (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:27-28)
When we are looking for a church to join, don’t we pray as we “church shop” for the best church for our family? In these passages we are told that members of churches are one part of a whole body. Therefore by yourself you are useless; there is no evidence in the New Testament of God calling any “Lone Rangers.” However, together we are able to function for the purposes that God has for us. Christians are clearly individuals who are called to exist and work as one body.
Not only is it biblical it is beneficial!
Often people bring their own idea of membership to the church. It can be based on a past church experience or their experience from the Moose Club. Moreover, people come with different understandings of commitment. That’s why we have “attenders” and “members.”
Potential members need to understand the commitment they are making. You are a part of us, our vision, our ministries, our family, our reputation. Membership has been taken too lightly for too long. There is clear accountability in the scriptures to live, learn, serve, and grow as a body of believers.
5. Christians are clearly instructed to BELONG TO and be a PART OF local body of believers.
Back to our definition…. Merriam- Webster Membership is State of belonging to or being a part of the group or an organization: the state of being a member.
Church membership is biblical as we are locally identified as an organization, called to submission and accountability, and to exist as one body.