Membership: Is it really important?
The New Testament (N.T.) is pretty clear that every local church had people who were members. Unlike our current culture that distinguishes between members and non-members (just try shopping at Costco as a non-member for a current example of this), the N.T. church did not have anything like that. The Church of the first century consisted of members and non-Christian observers who were checking out what this new faith was all about. It was pretty simple and clear: if you were a follower of Christ, you were a member of a local Church.
Some Christians currently question whether they need to have an official church home in which they participate as members. They point out that the N.T. nowhere teaches that you should take up membership in a local church and that most steps of membership and expectations of members are in fact just to meet the requirements of our current society laws. That is a good point, but it misses the larger N.T. message. For instance, the illustrative imagery of the N.T. repeatedly urges Christians to work together like a body or a family in their local church. This body or family of believers clearly had some concept of church membership since there were numerical records: records of widows, selection of church leaders, church discipline and accountability. Indeed the N.T. also tells us that those who filled their roles well as members in a local church could be considered for leadership roles like being a Deacon or an Elder. They clearly had all of the components of membership that some people currently view as 'legalistic' present in the N.T. church.
At Summerland Baptist Church, we believe that membership in the church is important and is in fact a natural step of faith and obedience. When we voluntarily align ourselves with a family of faith and willingly commit to loving God and loving people in a specific community, we put ourselves exactly where Jesus wants us to be. We live out our community relationships by following him together as a family of faith, encouraging one another, holding one another accountable, caring for each other and doing our best to love God and love people. To do this well, and to follow Jesus fully, we need to be where Jesus wants us to be. We need to be an active member of his body expressed through membership in a local church.
In our cultural context, membership is worked out a little differently than in the N.T., but the differences in culture don’t negate the larger truth - the Bible assumes every follower of Christ will be an active member of a local church. That is why we encourage you to actively attend, support, serve, pray for and officially join your local church. We believe it is what Jesus desires for us.
i 1 Corinthians 14: 24-25 ii Acts 2: 37-47 iii 1 Timothy 5: 3-16 iv Acts 6:1-6 v1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 6:1 vi Hebrews 13:17
vii 1 Timothy 3:1-10 viii Matthew 16:18