My friend was obviously being facetious. Yet his point was obvious. Church membership is a priority for every believer, and being a church member has implications for how someone should function in the local church.
What are we talking about when we talk about church membership? We are talking about a formal identification with a local body of believers and a submission to the leadership of that church body. Jonathan Leeman succinctly defined church membership this way: “Church membership is a formal relationship between a local church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.” [Church Discipline]
And when one joins that church, he will use his gifts to further the goals, ministry, and effectiveness of that church. At GBC, we identify the commitment to the church in these general areas:
- A commitment to participate in the body through worship and service (an exercise of one’s spiritual gifts).
- A commitment to grow in Christ.
- A commitment to participate in the body through giving and sharing.
- A commitment to submit to leadership and seek counsel and prayer of leaders and others.
- A commitment to be a spiritual blessing to others in the body.
At GBC we have not always emphasized the priority of church membership, but as we have examined the Scriptures and considered how best to shepherd Christ’s flock, it is increasingly obvious how important church membership is. Church membership is important because it clearly defines for the leaders who is part of the flock and for whom they are responsible to provide spiritual care, and for whom they will give an account to the Lord (Heb. 13:17).
A couple of practical implications of membership is that when one does not join a church, it is to his own spiritual detriment. It is a detriment not to join because it indicates a lack of submission to those who have been called by the Lord to care for him spiritually and it is further a detriment because if he does not join, then the church cannot practice spiritual discipline on him. And if church discipline isn’t possible for me to experience, then I am not afforded all the spiritual care that God has designed for me to have in the church body.
And not joining a church is also a detriment to the church body, because if one does not join the church, then he will be limited in his ability to exercise his gifts in the church body, and if the use of his gifts and service is restricted, then the overall care of that church body is hindered.
So church membership is important. If you are a member of GBC, give thanks for God’s provision of a church body to care for you; and if you are not a member and GBC is your “church home,” then now is likely the time to complete your commitment to the church. [The membership application can be downloaded here.]