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Why Join a Church?by Duane Mabee on September 18, 2019
“Why should I join a church? Is church membership Biblical?” I have been asked those questions a number of times. Answering them isn’t as easy as we would like. Let’s start off by admitting that there isn’t a Bible verse we can point to that says, “Thou shalt become a church member” at least not in exactly the way we view “membership”. For us, “membership” has a lot to do with our legal system.
However, that doesn’t mean that membership is anti-biblical. New Testament churches and synagogues likely had a formalized method for identifying who was a member of their congregation. If that were not the case, some statements in the New Testament don’t make any sense. The Jews frequently threatened to put someone out of the synagogue. Paul instructed the church to put certain people out of the church. What does that mean if there isn’t any formal connection between that person and the church or synagogue? But, that’s not an airtight argument for formal membership. Let’s look at some other clues.
The word “church” in the New Testament almost always means “local church”, and when people are said to “join” the church, as in Acts 5:13, the word “join” literally means to be “glued or cemented together”. That indicates a much stronger bond than just “I choose to attend here for now”.
Scripture also uses four metaphors to describe the church. A “flock,” a “temple,” a “body,” and a “household”. All of these metaphors indicate a unified whole where is it clear who the members are and difficult to separate them from one another, (Donald S. Whitney, 1996).
There are also some good Biblical reasons for joining a church. You prove that you are not ashamed to be identified with Christ and His people. “How believable is our testimony of the goodness and greatness of Christ if we don’t want to identify openly with Christ’s family?” You stop being an independent Christian. Independence is an American concept, not a Biblical one. The Bible is clear that we are to be interdependent, and subject ourselves to proper authority. You demonstrate your willingness to serve and to serve with the local church. John MacArthur says, “Not joining the church is saying, ‘I don’t want to serve the only institution Christ ever built.” When you join a church, you give a living demonstration of the spiritual reality of the Body of Christ. By joining a church, you encourage the church and its leadership by publicly declaring, “This church is worth being a part of and I recommend it to others.” When you join a church, you place yourself under the protection and guidance of its spiritual leaders.
So, there may not be one verse the says, you must become a formal member, but there is a lot of Biblical support for doing so. What does your view of church membership say about you and about Christ’s church?