The Case for Church Membership
“Misfit Baptist Church” – Our Sunday class group was not as enthusiastic as I was for this possible name or descriptor for our church. Yet God has a way of bringing in people from all kinds of backgrounds and different walks of life, to be together under one main commonality: that we have declared Jesus Christ to be Lord of our lives, and through His sacrifice on the cross we are now members of His Household! (Ephesians 2:19) Elk River Baptist Church is our local expression of that greater reality, seeking to be as faithful to His Word on what that means.
Because of our differing backgrounds, ages, genders, and other demographics, we understand that it is often difficult to see eye-to-eye on a whole host of issues, but because of our common Lordship, and the belief that He has revealed Himself and His Will through His infallible and inspired Word, we must put aside MOST of our differences and unite! We unite because that is His desire, to “be one as we are one” (John 17:20-23) What does that “complete unity” that Jesus prayed for, look like? How are we to “love one another, just as I have loved you”? (John 13:34-35) It is expressed in committed, faithful love, and often called, “church membership”!
Yes, the word “membership” is not found in the Bible, but the concept is. The sheer number of “one-another”’s shows us that Christians were meant to live in community with each other, even as their commitment to Christ often caused splits and strife within their own biological families. (Matthew 10:34-39, 19:29). Romans 12:4 describes us as members with different functions, yet belonging to all the others, and goes on to explain that in detail. The New Testament describe those loving assemblies as “churches” and The Church collectively (Acts 20:28). (As the “Building”, the “Family of God” & the “Bride of Christ”, as well as other descriptors)
So with God’s intent for us to show the world Who He is, through our love for one another (John 13:35), how is this supposed to look, logistically? We’re called to be regularly meeting together and encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:25), and we realize, within that gathering, there are those who are still in transition, either deciding whether or not to “take up their cross and follow (Jesus)”, or whether or not to commit to THIS local expression of Christ’s Greater Church. “Does THIS church seek to Honor God’s Word and follow Him?” “Does THIS church truly love one another, and can I be included in that?”
If someone does decide to stay and grow spiritually, then the next natural step is to move into greater involvement, since real growth is found through service, not a sitting and soaking spectatorship! But since we are talking about the practical, everyday details of discipleship in a fallen world, and not just the beautiful ideal laid out by Jesus Himself, here are some helpful considerations as we seek to honor God’s desire for growth in community:
Every church (and its leadership) needs to know whether you are committed for the long-haul. The way we describe that is moving from “attender” to “member”. Though it’s the role of church leadership to discover your gifts and train you in the areas of increased effectiveness, based on actual needs, we also need to know your strengths, passions and burdens, and in doing so, perhaps discovering “God’s calling” for you. (Remember this is a process, as we step out in big and little acts of obedience to Him) So, go to your church leaders!
The local church is intended to be a “covenant community”. That means that even if you have differences on “minor issues”, members agreed to abide by a common set of convictions, found in our church by-laws, and posted on our webpage: elkriverbaptistchurch.org/what-we-believe , and we believe these to be among the “major issues”.
Church members recognize that as sinful and fallen as we are (Romans 3:23), we need each other in the process of sanctification, that is growing in purity and Christlikeness. God has ordained to use us as currently imperfect vessels to strive together in training up disciples and fulfilling His Commission. In order to do this, we come together under an equal and mutually-agreed-upon accountability. Matthew 18:15-17, and 1 Corinthians 5:2-5 describe the process in the breach of a covenant agreement: Joyful restoration into the family of God for those who repent, and church discipline, even a “casting out” for those who refuse to turn back. This accountability is essential for each member, for the sake of protecting the sanctity of the church as a whole. We are not looking for perfection in this life, but a striving to grow as followers of Jesus Christ.
The prerequisites for our church’s membership are fairly simple: 1. Testimony given as to the conversion to Christ in your life, 2. Obedience to the Lord’s command in biblical baptism, 3. Dedication to the Word of God and the People of God, 4. Willingness to agree to our covenant community distinctives, and 5. Willingness to keep each other accountable in it!
The non-committal, “no-contract plan” approach to church does not help in the long run, and “Individualist Christianity” is both a myth and damaging pursuit. You NEED a dedicated, Christian community! The greatest gains towards long-term, spiritual growth, are found in the investment you make in living life together with a church that truly seeks to glorify Jesus Christ. There is nothing like the joy that comes from worshipping together with one heart and purpose, for the glory of God! Join us in it, as we aspire to maximally grow together.