The Meaning of Membership

By Joshua Earman

Why become a member of the local church? A few implications to consider:

Membership is how you officially become part of a Christ-centered community.
When you become a member, you are entering into a new community formed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We enter a family of faith where we commit ourselves to love one another. Together we live out the mission the Lord has entrusted to us.

As a member you make a public promise, or a “covenant” in biblical language, to live according to the Word and to support the work of the congregation. While every believer is part of the church organically by faith (the spiritual Body of Christ), someone becomes part of the organizational church only by a public promise. Public promises, or covenants, are the basis for all societal structures according to the Bible. Marriage, employment, citizenship and church membership are all relationships of accountability.

Membership in a church is not like membership in a social club. Most members in other organizations are consumers. The organization exists to serve them. The church of Christ is a completely different kind of community. Membership leads to ministry and service. We are no longer consumers, but rather providers of God’s love and care to others.

Membership is how you know which Christians on planet Earth are your responsibility to serve.
I have friends in other churches and they are important to me. But which of the thousands of Christians in our area am I to serve? When I become a member of a church, I am committed to serve this specific group of believers and to set a Christ-like affection on them: to pray for them, to share my resources with them, to seek to encourage them to walk with Jesus in every possible way.

Membership helps Christian leaders lead.
Membership lets Christian leaders know which Christians on planet Earth they will “give an account” for (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2). A shepherd knows the sheep in his flock and creates ways to care for them, protect them, and help them grow. Pastors and elders are accountable to Jesus to watch over the souls of those in the church. They must protect them from threats. Sheep who roam the hills alone put themselves at risk. But our Great Shepherd provides leaders to watch over his people and to lead this Christ-centered community to live by faith.

How has your church membership made the kingdom of God more evident to you? If you are not a member of the church, what keeps you from making a public commitment to God’s people?