The Pastor\’s Pen

An Independent Baptist Preacher\’s Musings and Observations

Is Church Membership Important?

Posted by Pastor Szekely on August 7, 2006

Today, there are some who consider church membership to be unimportant. (Now I’m talking about Baptists at this point, but hopefully later on down the road I’ll have more to say on other beliefs and on their view and definition of what “the church” is and on membership, etc ~ If you’re not Baptist, though, by all means, please keep on reading!)…But as I’ve started, there are those Baptists who, by their speech and/or action, consider church membership to be unimportant…but what does the Bible say? Did the Apostle Paul, for example, think that church membership was unimportant?

In Acts 9:26 the Bible says, “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.” Notice the Bible uses the word “join”. This word literally means “to glue” or “to stick” together. Evidently, there was a local assembly that Paul recognized as being made up of disciples, and his desire was to join himself – or to “glue himself” – together with them. And as we read in verse 26, those disciples were afraid of “Saul of Tarsus“. They didn’t even want him in their membership until Saul was recommended by Barnabas (vs27).

It was important to Saul to be a member of a true, New Testament Church. He wanted to be solidly identified with that Body, not just casually come and go. He was lead by God to a group of people who had decided that they were going to be obedient to Christ and give allegiance to Christ, and Christ alone…is church membership that important to you?

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19 Responses to “Is Church Membership Important?”

  1. Knowing that Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “I will build my church” I can’t figure out why anybody would not want to belong to something that the Lord Jesus Christ started Himself. Although I do know why most people want to just “hang around” a church and never join it – AUTHORITY!! If Acts 2 shows us that baptism is the door to church membership and Paul wrote to us that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth, meaning that local churches are the only God ordained support system for the Word of God then people must understand that they cannot obey the great commission given to the church in Matthew 28 unless they submit, become a member and bring themselves under the authority of a local church. (I know, it’s a run-on sentence, don’t tell my mother) Anyway, it comes down to the question, “How serious are we about following the New Testament model of church doctrine?”

    • ANNETTE said

      Just as our actions show if we are a child of God, our actions should show if we’re really joined to a church. Writing a name down after baptism is pretty worthless in my opinion.

  2. Bro. Szekely said

    Bro. D,

    You hit the nail on the head…people have a real problem with authority…in the home, on the job, AND in churches!

    I believe that there’s no such thing today, or in the NT, as “Freelance Christianity”. The Lord Jesus gave the Great Commission unto His CHURCH = A group of born-again, baptized believers, called out for a particular purpose, i.e. – The Great Commission!!! I can’t just go down to the river and start baptizing…I just can’t go out and “start” a church…why? AUTHORITY! This must be passed along Scripturally – from the Savior – through His churches. Many cannot comprehend this, or they choose not to believe it…either way, “Let God be true, and every man a liar”!

    Something else beside the “authority issue” I’ve found in people who say they’re saved, yet they will not “join up with the disciples”…COMMITTMENT! God forbid if I have to commit to God’s work, plan, and program…you mean that I have to work and serve??? I just want to “soak up” the blessings!!!

    To answer your question: I don’t think today that many are truly serious about following the NT model of Church doctrine…but I do praise the Lord for the ones who do and who are!!!

    Maybe there are those who fail to see the importance of church membership…why join? Why even attend? We have “Christian” radio, “Christian” TV, “Christian” coffee-houses, “Christian athletic fellowships”, blah, blah, blah. Some would say that these “help & strengthen” the “Body of Christ” (many are way off on what that actually is!), but I see “para-church ministries” & organizations like these as “para-sites” on churches!

    Someone once said, “The wind doesn’t blow unless it’s through the doors of the local church”! We need to get back to the NT model as God’s work being accomplished by groups of born-again, baptized believers called out for a particular purpose…with the Lord Jesus Christ being it’s only Head!

    Bro. Szekely

  3. Mike said

    When I ask the pastors of those churches what is the value to the person for joining, they say it is so the person can work in church positions. That is the limit of understanding by the leadership of why people should formally align themselves.

    And the people understand. If they join, they’ll be hounded to work in the nursery, or to up their giving, or to be on some boring committee. They tell me that they are part of the “universal” church, and that formal membership in a local body (as opposed to just attending regularly as a “permanent visitor”) is unnecessary.

    These people are secularized Christians. They are part of a generation that lives together without marriage (we don’t call it “shacking up” anymore), and only get married when there’s a baby on the way, if then. They see marriage as a legal construct to be made and broken as circumstances dictate. Church membership is the same, an artificial holdover practice from a past generation.

    So there it is. They’re still treated to deacon visits and the ability to worship every week for years, without having to give anything back. No benefit. Only duty.

    (There are some that need to know they should move their membership when they move, that the scripture was talking about joining a LOCAL congregation. One man had been a deacon until his wife died, and he moved to be near his grandchildren. He sang in the new church’s choir for over a decade, but never joined, never served as deacon, never contributed his Gifts to the full extent of that failing church. Nonetheless, he received all the regular fellowship benefits of a long-term member.)

    So it comes down to identifying the benefits, and stressing the doctrine. Everything else is a symptom of the generally shallow attachments of our culture.

    Deacon Mike

  4. Bro. Szekely said

    G’day Mike, and thanks for your reply!

    You are so right when you say that Pastors need to stress the doctrine of church membership and identify its benefits…also we need to bring out that as a member, there is accountability and responsibility…member-to-Pastor, Pastor-to-member, member-to-member, member-to-the lost.

    It baffles me in our day that so many “attend” church, but they will not, or even refuse to join. I once approached a man about membership. He was coming to our services faithfully, he had a profession of faith in Christ, and he and I both knew he would have needed to be baptized for membership. That wasn’t the problem…this is why he never joined…he said, “Pastor, I just don’t want to commit.” You could have parked a car in my mouth it was opened so wide! “You don’t want to commit”, I exclaimed in disbelief…What came out of my mouth next was all I could think of in the state that I found myself in…I said, “Wow…so you don’t want to commit to God’s ordained institution…where Christ is the Head…I’m so glad that Jesus didn’t have your attitude on the way to Golgotha’s hill! Could you imagine the Lord Jesus Christ, with the weight of that cross on His shoulder and blood-stained, beaten back, as He trod the road to Calvary saying, “I’m done…I just don’t want to go all the way…I don’t want to commit to be your only acceptable sacrifice before the Father…”

    I really wasn’t trying to put anyone on a guilt-trip…I sincerely couldn’t understand that a (supposed) child of God, who has (supposedly) received the blessings of God’s Salvation, didn’t want to commit / submit unto “joining up with the disciples”!

    Sadly, this is the world in which we live. We won’t commit in marriage; we can’t commit to live within our means; and we think it too much of a sacrifice to us to commit to the work of God.

    If you are not a member of this church, there is a difference. We treat others with Christian love and we’re friendly, but you’re not “part of the church family”…there is a difference. I go to my church family for fellowship, for prayer, and they are my closest friends…why? Because we are “the Body of Christ, and members in particular” 1 Cor 12:27.

    A Body of Christ is a church – Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18,24; etc. And a church is a congregation of born-again, baptized believers, called out for a particular purpose (The Great Commission) *My definition…because “church” means a called-out assembly – local and visible ONLY. Every person that names the Name of Christ and claims that He dwells within needs to “join up with the disciples”…Scripture shows us that the Lord Jesus Christ started an institution that He wanted every believer and follower of Him to belong.

    What excuses can be given to not join the Lord’s institution that would “hold water” in light of the Scripture?

    Mike, to your comments I say “AMEN”…thanks again for your reply.

    • ANNETTE said

      I think a lot of people have been burned in churches and figure it will happen again, so they are afraid to “commit” as you say. Also, they maybe can’t find a church they feel is Biblical and are settling to attend the closest thing they can find for now, but don’t feel the need to be on a membership list. I don’t know, maybe they should start a home church instead of attending something they don’t trust.

  5. raginggenius said

    I am a member of a Baptist church and I think that having to sign any documents to be a member of a church is ridiculous. Will I have to put pen to paper to enter heaven?

  6. Steve said

    A question on church membership. Should a new pastor and his family join the church he just became pastor of?

    • G’day Steve…

      I believe a pastor HAS TO BE a member of the church he pastors. He has to be part of that body. This is why (I believe) a pastor cannot pastor, or call himself “pastor” of, two or more churches at the same time.

      I pray this helps ~ Lord bless!

  7. Steve Rance said

    What are your thoughts on a missionary who is a member of his sending church that is in another state but lives in a different state (area) and is attending a local church where he was once a member. Should he and his family be allowed to serve in that local church where he lives while he continues to raise support to get to the field or should he only be allowed to attend and not serve?

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