What are some of the necessary elements of church membership?
To answer this question, we first need to define what the church is.
- The universal Church (capital C) consists of every person who has ever put faith in Jesus through history and around the world. We are united with Christ and members of His body whether we live in America or India.
- The local church (lowercase c) is a group of believers who gather together in a specific place in order to worship God and carry out His ministry to each other and to the rest of the world.
So again, what are some the the necessary requirements of being a member?
Union with Christ – the most basic requirement for membership in both the Church and the church is that a person call on Jesus in faith and repentance and be saved. A person cannot be a member of Christ’s body without being united to Christ through faith.
Gathering – In the case of the local church, a necessary element of being a member is that one gathers with the other believers. We must not confuse the local church with the universal Church. We must recognize that a true brother or sister in the Lord who lives in Australia is most certainly united to Christ just as we are. However, we must also recognize that he or she is not united to us in the same way that we are united together as a local body of believers, because he or she is unable to be here with us and should rather be doing ministry in where they are. Which brings us to our next point:
Participation – The church is fundamentally an active organization. We are partly defined by the fact that we do things. We worship, we fellowship and encourage one another, we pray, we observe the ordinances of communion and baptism, we share the gospel, we study God’s Word together, and we serve each other and the world around us. Together we are the expression of the ministry of Jesus to each other and the world around us. Therefore, in order to be a member of a local church, a person must participate in these things with a group of believers.
Commitment – In order to be a faithful member of the church, a person must commit to a body of believers that is local to him or her. A study of the New Testament church shows that this is necessary. How else are we to effectively carry out ministry, or learn, or deeply fellowship with encouragement and accountability, or be faithful to all the commands of the New Testament which call us to do things for “one another”? A person must be committed to the local church in order to be a biblically faithful member of the local church.
Now, a quick note to clarify: there are instances in which people are physically unable to gather and participate in physical ministry with the local church. This does not mean they cannot be members. Physical inability to gather and participate is not the same as refusal to gather, and is not the same as the geographic impossibility for some to gather.
Those who are physically unable to gather can sustain and undergird the ministry of the local body to which they are committed with prayer, and this is a great need! However, those who live too far away to gather should commit to a body that is local to them in order to gather and participate in ministry there as the Lord Jesus calls. And those who refuse to gather and participate should repent and submit to the call of Jesus to be a part of His church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship of believers, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts…” Acts 2:42,46
What it takes to be a church member:
- Devote yourself to Christ and His teaching.
- Devote yourself to the fellowship of a localbody of believers where you can
- gather for fellowship, prayer, Bible study, and communion & baptism;
- participate in ministry and service with the rest of the body.