For some, church membership is as natural as church attendance and the idea of participating in one without the other would not seem sensible. But, for others, membership is archaic at best and at worst, simply unbiblical. We recognize that there are many questions regarding the issue of church membership and hope that this helps inform you in your decision.
At Clovis Christian Church, we value our church members and the idea of membership in general. We are pleased that you have an interest in the subject.The following are what we feel to be the most relevant and pressing questions pertaining to membership and our response to each. If your questions are not adequately addressed, please let us know. We welcome any further dialogue with you that would be helpful or informative.
1. Membership in the Body of Christ
If a person has done the following, he/she has been saved:
• Recognized that he/she is a sinner and has turned from such sin (repented).
• Believed that Jesus Christ is God and that His death on the cross is the only method through which men can be saved.
• Accepted God’s gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ as both Lord and Savior.
Having been saved, he/she has become a member of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians12:13). Being united to Christ and the other members of His body in this way, a person is then qualified to become a member of a local expression of that body. Becoming a member of a church is to formally commit oneself to an identifiable, local body of believers who have joined together for specific, divinely ordained purposes.
Some of the purposes include:
• Receiving instruction from God’s Word. (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2)
• Serving and building each other up through the proper use of spiritual gifts. (Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31; 1 Peter 4:10-11)
• Proclaiming the gospel to those who are lost. (Matthew 28:18-20)
• Submitting one’s self to the care and authority of biblically qualified elders whom God has placed in that assembly. (Hebrews 13:17)
We require, among other things, that members of CCC be members of the body of Christ (believers). We do not believe that a person’s choice concerning membership at CCC is an indication of his/her faith in Jesus Christ or inclusion/exclusion from His worldwide body of believers.
Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25
At CCC, membership is not a requirement for corporate worship. We encourage the meeting together of members and non-members alike in both large and small group settings. Church membership does, however, become necessary if we hope to ensure the following:
• That people are understanding of and in agreement with each other’s beliefs and have a common vision.
• That church business is done in a manner that represents the will and good of people who are committed to one another.
• That people have recognized a common group of spiritual leaders and have chosen methods for identifying and establishing future leaders.
• That people willingly agree to interact with their fellow Christian brothers and sisters in a way that is glorifying to God and biblical.
• That ministry is purposeful, identifiable and in accordance with the early New Testament church model.
Scripture does not contain an explicit command to formally join a local church and certainly some of the requirements and responsibilities of churches and church leaders can be accomplished without church membership. But, there are some scriptural instructions that would be difficult, if not impossible, to accomplish outside of an identifiable church membership. Because of this, we see a strong biblical foundation for membership.
Consider the following:
1.The Church Is to Discipline Its Members
Consider the implication of Matthew 18:15-17 where “the church” (ekklesia) appears to be the final court of appeal in matters of church authority. Jesus describes a scenario in which a believer is unable to reconcile a difference with another believer even after involving a third and fourth party (witnesses). If, at that point, the offender still refuses to listen, Jesus’ instruction is to bring the matter before “the church.” If the offender refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be treated as an unbeliever (gentile or tax collector).
If there is no identifiable membership, it would be difficult to determine who would take up such a sensitive and weighty matter; a matter involving exhortation, discipline and ultimately judgment. Should just anyone who happened to be available and claiming to be a Christian be understood as “the church” here? This could potentially include people who are new to the fellowship and/or don’t even share the same beliefs. This type of discipline and judgment would not be practical or fair to either the accused or the assembly of believers of which he/she is a part. Surely, “the church” must be a definable group here.
2. Excommunication Exists
Church membership is implied by the simple fact that excommunication even exists. Paul implies this in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 where he deals with the necessity of putting someone “out of” the church. There are two implications here: First, that there is an “in the church” group and an “outside the church” group. In other words, being in the church is definable. Second,
that a person can be removed from being “in the church.” Such a formal removal would not be possible if there were no definable membership.
3. Submission to Spiritual Leaders Is Commanded
The biblical requirement for Christians to be submitted to church leaders (Hebrews 13:17; 1Thessalonians 5:12-13), seems only workable with a definable membership. How would spiritual leadership and the submission to leadership work if there is no membership defining who has made the commitment to be spiritually led and who has been chosen to lead? Are Christians commanded here to submit to all spiritual leaders in all churches or the church that they have chosen to become a part of? Further, if the church body is not clearly defined, who is it that affirms the leadership and who are they leading? If we downplay the importance of membership, it is difficult to see how we could take these commands to submit and to lead seriously and practically.
4. Shepherds Are Required to Care for Their Flock
The love and care of a church elder or pastor certainly can extend to all peoples, but the Bible indicates a specific responsibility and care for those persons whom God has placed within their charge and called them to oversee.
Notice in the following text, the specific purpose for the God-appointed elder:
So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders.
Notice in the following text, the specific people for whom the God-appointed elder cares:
Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.
1 Peter 5:2-3
Certainly these texts together indicate that God has appointed specific leaders (elders/pastors) to specifically care (protect and feed) for specific peoples; “Those in your charge” as another version puts it. This implies that the elders knew, or should be able to know, for whom they were responsible. This again, would be difficult without something that defines a Christian as a member.
For all these reasons, we feel that there is a strong biblical foundation for church membership.
If a church were to diminish the importance of membership, we feel that it would also have to diminish the importance of specific roles and responsibilities that are clearly established in the New Testament.
At CCC we value membership, we feel that it is a necessity and, most importantly, we believe that it is biblical. We hope that you agree and are ready to join our fellowship.
Read through the following statements and thoughtfully answer each one. If your answer is “yes” to all, then you’re ready for membership. We have membership covenants that can be signed and kept on file in the church office.
1. I have been saved or would like to be saved through repentance of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for the forgiveness of sin.
2. I have been or would like to be baptized.
3. I am in agreement with Clovis Christian Church’s statement of faith and vision.
4. I am committed to continued spiritual growth as a believer.
5. I am committed to use my spiritual gifting and talents to serve the members of Clovis Christian Church.
6. I am committed to share Christ with others as God presents the opportunity.
If you have additional questions concerning church membership or the Christian faith, please contact Pastor Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.