Practical Reasons for
1. Membership helps define the parameters and the accountability of pastors/ elders for their shepherding oversight.
• Hebrews 13:7 - "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
• 1 Peter 5:2 - "shepherd the flock of God that is among you…"
• James 5:14 - "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…"
Questions to Consider: Does the Bible expect pastors to shepherd the soul of every Christian? Should we hold leaders accountable for every believer that lives in their town or area? Will God hold pastors accountable for people who refuse to commit to the life of their local flock among them? Local church membership provides leaders practical and realistic boundaries for their ministries.
2. Membership helps believers follow the “one another” commands of Scripture.
• Galatians 6:2 - "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
• 1 Thessalonians 4:18 - "Therefore encourage one another with these words."
• 1 Corinthians 11:33 - "So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat [at the Lord’s Supper], wait for one another."
Questions to Consider: When Paul was writing to the church in Galatia, whose burdens did he expect they would bear? When we wrote to the church in Thessalonica, who did he expect them to encourage? When the Corinthians gather to receive communion, for whom do they wait? While there is a universal aspect to many (if not all) of the “one another” commands in Scripture, the most practical way for the believers to live them out is in the defined context of local church membership.
3. Membership helps churches know who’s in and who’s out.
• 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 - "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you."
Question to consider: How can someone be formally removed from a church family if they have not first formally belonged to a church family? The only way biblical church discipline can exist is in the context of a recognized group of committed covenant members.
4. Membership helps believers demonstrate the commitment and submission Scripture requires in a safe, relational context.
• Hebrews 13:17 - "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."
• 1 Peter 3:8 - "Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind."
Questions to consider: When the Bible calls you to “obey your leaders”, what better defines and expresses who your leaders are than a covenant commitment to a specific flock of believers led by a specific group of faithful leaders? When the leaders of a local church call for you to join a church membership to express that commitment, what better showcases unity, brotherly love, and humility than submitting to that call? Church membership under biblical leadership brings the “advantage” of experiencing a deeper fellowship and unity than can be known on your own.
5. Membership helps the church body reflect the orderly nature of God.
• 1 Corinthians 14:33 - "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace."
• Philippians 4:3 - "Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."
Question to consider: If our God is the Shepherd who knows His sheep by name and wants things in his church done in peace and order, how can we best reflect His character in the way that we structure and organize our local church? A meaningful, authentic list of members committed to the life of the church body gives the world a glimpse at the God who rules all things and leads His people well.