Should you join a church?

The short answer is “Yes!”

Take time to check out the latest 9Marks ejournal. The theme this month is church membership. Is it biblical? What does membership mean? What are the costs of meaningless membership?

Is Church Membership Biblical by Matt Chandler

Joining a Church the Ancient Way by Michael Haykin

Church Membership and Contextualization by Ed Roberts

Meaningless Membership by Al Jackson

Twelve Reasons Why Membership Matters by Jonathan Leeman

Check out the entire issue HERE.

(HT: Todd Pruitt)

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

3 thoughts on “Should you join a church?

  1. Some interesting thoughts. I have to say, I think it takes a fair amount of exegetical gymnastics to conclude that formal church membership, is a scriptural imperative. The truth is, we can’t possibly know what constituted church membership in the very early church.

    The necessity for community, love and committed relationships with one another is non negotiable.

    It seems that whatever the model, the main challenge is encouraging one another to engage in community in a meaningful way. Membership sometimes seems to be a very useful tool for encouraging that.

    Equally though, there are many churches, according to the authors, with a lot of people ‘on the books’ who are evidently not engaged in church life and community at all. One article describes the long and sensitive process of removing from the church roles those who are not really members in any meaningful sense and the pitfalls this can entail (he suggests beginning with the deceased, who he reckons are the simplest to remove!!). From that perspective, not having a list seems like a very good idea!!

    As the leader of a church with no formal membership list, it was useful to look at the material and challenge my own assumptions and thinking. It certainly raises the question again about whether some way of formally stating our commitment to one another would be helpful. And whether we can do that in a way that doesn’t leave us with insiders and outsiders or in years to come with a membership list full of people we haven’t seen for ages….

    • You make some good points Catherine. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.
      Not withstanding all the difficulties that there are with making local church membership biblically authentic, I don’t think one has to employ exegetical slight-of-hand to prove that it was a given in the NT. What ever it looked like. In fact, the reverse is true. Denying it contradicts certain texts. There must have been records kept of who was a part of the local church. Apart from the obvious humanitarian needs that needed to be monitored, the question of accountability on the part of the leadership to God for those in their charge (who am I responsible to God for?), and submission to that ‘elected?’ (by whom?) oversight by the church, cannot be easily understood, let alone practised, without membership definition. Church discipline, for instance (a major ecclesiological category), cannot function without it. Sadly, the trendiness of “community” seems to have become an end in itself rather than the means to holiness and service. Community is not primarily created by focussing on itself, but is the by-product, or evidence, of regeneration and continued submission to the word of God.

      • I think the point is, we don’t know what church looked like. We know that there were communities of Christians, called churches, that were identifiable enough to send letters to. We know that there was a way of identifying who was part of the community, to the extent that it was possible to ‘expel the immoral brother’. But we really don’t know how they did that or how formal it was.

        We can surmise that there were records of believers. But we don’t know that there were. As a westerner, with easy access to cheap paper and excel spreadsheets, having a list seems like the obvious way to arrange things. In a society where writing materials may well have been at a premium they might not have done. There is reference made at one point to a list of widows. That might imply that there were other lists of people, but again we can’t know for sure.

        I think it is fair to assume that God was as intentional about what was omitted from scripture as He was about what was included. I can see great wisdom in leaving out the details of how local church life was administered. It gives us freedom to organise ourselves in whatever way workds best for the communication of the gospel in whatever our context. In studying scripture it is as important, sometimes, to listen to the silences as to the words.

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