Is Church Membership Biblical?
Brothers and sisters,
Greetings to you all. This is the week for the micro-conference in Saint John, Moncton, Charlottetown, or Halifax on Creating a Culture of Evangelism. See below for more details. At National Conference, Fellowship International introduced “10 Essential Elements of Catalyzing Movements.” Our Church Planting Director, Brad Somers, and others were helpful in the drafting of this and I believe it is a very helpful document for all of us.
I sometimes get into conversations that sound like this: “I feel like I am part of this church, but I don’t really need to join it to follow Jesus.” Someone told me that membership in the church wasn’t a “gospel issue” (and therefore unnecessary), and another couple even told me that membership was at best extra-biblical and at worse a terrible human invention.
So what would you say in response? Since there isn’t a “Thus says the Lord, ‘You must join the church …’” verse, does that mean that church membership is just a potentially nice but terribly unnecessary thing we inflict on each other?
Mitch Chase writes that there are at least ten reasons why church membership is biblical. He argues that, while it is absolutely counter-cultural, it is good and necessary for both our own hearts and for the corporate body of believers. I copy the first point here and encourage you to click on the link and read the other nine.
First, the New Testament letters were written to organized churches.
People were to gather and hear the words of the apostles who exhorted and taught them. What evidence is there of organized saints? Think about the opening of Paul’s letters.
Paul wrote Philippians to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” (Phil. 1:1). This is a group in the Philippian church. He also mentioned “the overseers and deacons” at Philippi (1:1). These were church officers. This pair of terms means there was church government! The presence of church government suggests both leadership and an organized body of believers.
Paul wrote letters to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1), the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:2), and the church in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1). If you were not part of the churches in these places, you wouldn’t be reading those letters. Paul wrote his letters to recognized bodies of believers who assembled together and belonged to one another.
Hope you have a great week. May God bless you and keep you.