God has designed that we be joined not only to Him, but to His church, as well. The New Testament metaphors that depict the church are richly instructive in carrying the weight of this emphasis. God has called and placed all the redeemed into His church, which He has defined as:
- a holy and royal priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices to God
- a chosen race belonging to God
- a separate nation whose King is the eternal God
- a temple indwelt by the Spirit of God
- a set of branches connected to Jesus Christ as the vine
- a flock led by the Good Shepherd
- a household or family sharing the common life of the eternal Father
- a body of which the Lord Jesus is Head
- the pillar and support of the truth
The “church” in Scripture is not a building, a denomination, or an activity-it is a group of people-specifically, a group of people who are in Christ.
The meaning of the word “church” as described above is true of both the universal (invisible) church and the local (visible) church. The universal church is the group of people throughout the world who believe in Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:25-27). The local church (visible) is the group of people who meet together in a particular location for worship (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 1:2).
The local church is a local, visible, temporal manifestation of the universal church. The local church is an assembly of professing believers in Christ who are organized to carry out God’s purpose for His Church.
The purpose of any and every local church should be to bring honor and glory to God (Ephesians 3:21) by building itself up to spiritual maturity and Christ likeness (Ephesians 4:13-16) and by advancing the gospel to the entire world (Matthew 28:19; Acts 1:8; 2:42).
To neglect-or to refuse-to join a church as a member reflects a misunderstanding of the believer’s responsibility to the body of Christ. It also cuts one off from the many blessings and opportunities that flow from this commitment.
What Does it Mean to Become a Member of a Church?
When an individual is saved, he automatically and immediately becomes a member of the invisible and universal body of Christ. He becomes part of God’s family.
Joining a local body of Christ is a visible expression of the spiritual relationship that one has as a member of the invisible body of Christ.
Definition of Church Membership
To become a member of a church is to formally commit oneself to an identifiable, local body of believers who have joined together for specific, divinely ordained purposes.
What are the “divinely ordained purposes” that we join with other church members to do? When we join a church, we officially join with our local brothers and sisters to…
- Hear Preaching from God’s Word (1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 4:2)
- Practice spiritual gifts to serve and edify one another. (1 Peter 4:10-11; Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-31).
- Participate in the ordinances. (Acts 2:38-42; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
- Proclaim the gospel to those who are lost. (Matthew 28:18-20).
Why should I join a church?
Although Scripture does not contain an explicit command to formally join a local church, the biblical foundation for church membership permeates the New Testament. No explicit command is needed for it is assumed that Christians would be committed to their local body.
The Example of the Early Church: I should join a church because that’s what Christians did in the Bible.
- In the early church the number of people in the congregation was known.
- The epistles of the New Testament were addressed to churches.
- Various lists and formal records were kept.
- In the book of Acts, much of the terminology fits only with the concept of formal church membership.
The Existence of Church Government: I should join a church because I need shepherds who will care for me and lead me.
- Shepherd God’s people (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2)
- Labor diligently among them (1 Thessalonians 5:12)
- Have charge over them (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17)
- Keep watch over their souls (Hebrews 13-17)
The Exercise of Church Discipline: I should join a church because I need other brothers and sisters who will hold me accountable.
In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus outlines the four-step way the church is to seek the restoration of a believer who has fallen into sin.
- First, when a brother sins, he is to be confronted privately by a single individual (Matthew 18:15).
- If he refuses to repent, that individual is to take one or two other believers along to confront him again (Matthew 18:16).
- If the sinning brother refuses to listen to the two or three, they are then to tell it to the church (Matthew 18:17).
- If there is no repentance, the final step is to put the person out of the assembly (Matthew 18:17; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-13).
The Exhortation to Mutual Edification: I should join a church because Christians are designed to grow spiritually strong together. (Hebrews 10:23-25; Acts 2:42; 1 Thessalonians 5:11-12; Romans 15:14)
The Exercise of Spiritual Gifts: I should join a church because I need a place to use my spiritual gifts and to benefit from the spiritual gifts of others. (1 Corinthians 12:4; 12:7)
The Evangelization of the World: I should join a church because I need the support, gifts, and leaders of the church to help me fulfill the great commission. (Matthew 28:19)
Living out a commitment to a local church involves many responsibilities: exemplifying a godly lifestyle in the community, exercising one’s spiritual gifts in diligent service, contributing financially to the work of the ministry, giving and receiving admonishment with meekness and in love, and faithfully participating in corporate worship. Much is expected, but much is at stake. For only when every believer is faithful to this kind of commitment is the church able to live up to her calling as Christ’s representative here on earth. To put it simply, membership matters. May God bless you as you continue to explore membership.
Dear Prospective Member,
We are so glad that you have taken this step toward joining our official church membership. Please carefully fill out these questions. We look forward to serving the Lord along side you as partners in this local church.
Grace to You,
The Elders of Grace Bible ChurchApplication for Church Membership (PDF) GBC Constitution
House Rules for God’s Family
Be at peace with each other (Mk 9:50)
Love one another (Jn 13:34)
Be joined to one another (Ro 12:5)
Be devoted to one another (Ro 12:10)
Honor one another (Ro 12:10)
Rejoice with one another (Ro 12:15)
Weep with one another (Ro 12:15)
Live in harmony with one another (Ro 12:16)
Accept one another (Ro 15:7)
Counsel one another (Ro 15:14)
Greet one another (Ro 16:16)
Agree with each other (1 Co 1:10)
Wait for one another (1 Co 1:10)
Care for one another (1 Cor 12:25)
Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
Carry one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2)
Be kind to one another (Eph 4:32)
Forgive one another (Eph 4:32)
Submit to one another (Eph 5:21)
Bear with one another (Col 3:13)
Teach, admonish each other (Col 3:16)
Encourage one another (1 Th 5:11)
Build up one another (1 Th 5:11)
Spur one another on (Heb 10:24)
Offer hospitality to one another (1 Pe 4:9)
Minister gifts to one another (1 Pe 4:10)
Be humble toward one another (1 Pe 5:5)
Confess your sins to one another (Jas 5:16)
Pray for one another (Jas 5:16)
Fellowship with one another (1 Jn 1:7)