Great post from Erik Raymond:
As a church we have recently transitioned to a more formalized membership. One of the questions that comes up is “why?” Why should I become a member of a church? Below are five reasons I like to provide. There are more, but this is a good start.
1) It Reflects the Gospel: Church membership is essentially the outward demonstration of the spiritual reality of being united to Christ and his body. Being a part of Christ’s body means that we identify with other disciples, learn the Scripture, submit to God’s authority structure, and serve others. Church membership openly demonstrates the reality of the Body of Christ.
2) It Follows the New Testament Pattern: While it is true that the term “membership” is not explicitly used in the NT it is certainly inferred. Remember that most of our NT books were written to people who have chosen to self-identify with a group of people in a local community. The ministerial structure established in 1 Timothy and Titus presuppose pastors and members who are in community together. Consider that needs and numbers were kept track of (Acts 1.15, 2.41, 4.4), shepherds knew who they were accountable for (Heb. 13.17), widow-roles were kept (1 Tim. 5.9); and formal discipline among members was practiced (1 Cor. 5.12-13).
3) It shows that you are not ashamed to identify with Christ or his people. This world is hard and it is tempting to retreat into a shell of personal discouragement. Church membership reminds you of the fact that you are not alone, the value of Christ, and the priority of faithfulness to him.
4) It undermines independent, non-committal Christianity. Accountability to one another, submission to biblical authority, and practice of the “one-anothers” are all elements of a church united upon Christ and his gospel (Heb. 10.19-25; Matthew 18.15-20).
5) It is a context for using your spiritual gifts. The local church is the community of believers who are aiming to live faithful to Christ. It is in this context that we serve one another according to God’s gifting. God uses this service, in and through the local church, to build up the body of Christ into maturity (Eph. 4.11-15; 1 Cor. 12-14).