Considering Church Membership?
Even a casual reading of Scripture reveals that the commitment of believers to one another is anything but casual. In both descriptive and prescriptive language, the Bible attests to the formal and profound relationship that exists among those who have been reconciled to God and each other.
The Scriptures call us to love one another, outdo one another in showing honor, live in harmony with one another, instruct, greet, comfort, serve, bear the burdens of, forgive, encourage, always seek to do good to, exhort, stir up to love and good works, confess your sins to, pray for and show hospitality to one another.
But how can this be pursued without a deep and real commitment to the good of others?
Believers may pursue these obligations to each other through many avenues, but the primary way in which we are to fulfill them is within the fold of this beautiful reality called the local church.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul draws on the imagery of a body as a metaphor for the local church. Far from commending self-sufficiency and independence, the apostle upholds a radically countercultural vision of interdependence marked by love, service, humility, sacrifice and sympathy.
And, as participants in the body are called “members,” so this participation in the local church body is called membership.
Membership is not about privilege or prestige. It is not some elevated level of access with secret insider benefits. It is not a legal document or means of control.
Membership recognizes and responds to the call of discipleship in the context of gospel-centered community. It is an affirmation and agreement to contribute to the good of the body rather than just consume from it. It is an obligation to sacrificially seek the good of others in the body of Christ by taking the general call toward service and incarnating it within a particular people.
It's a covenant.
When the Bible speaks of these formal relationships, it uses the concept of a covenant. Some of these are between people (1 Sam.18:3, 20:16; 2 Sam. 5:3) while others are between God and man (Gen. 6:18, 9;16, 15:18; Luke 22:20;Heb. 8:6-7). In some covenants, one party binds him or herself to fulfill the obligations of both sides. In others, the parties are reciprocally bound to adhere to the obligations.
Though types of covenants vary, the concept itself saturates the biblical text. What better way to evidence the formal relationship into which we have been called than through covenantal promise?
Covenants also include some sort of visible representation. All cultures have symbols to signify comprehension and consent. At times those agreements include cutting animals in two and walking between the pieces (Gen. 15), placing a hand under a thigh (2 Sam. 24), removing and exchanging a sandal (Ruth 4) or instituting and enjoying a ceremonial dinner (Matt. 26:17-29). While the symbol may change, the abiding call to covenant is clear.
Christians commit themselves to each other in the context of the local church in countless cultural ways. At Denair MBC, the current process for membership involves a new-member class and meeting with our pastor. Far from mere formality, these expressions are important representations of the formal commitment.
Wrapping it up.
God calls His people into covenant, not only to Himself but also to each other. He calls us to a life of sacrifice, generosity, service and radical commitment to the good of the body. And this happy obligation is most readily pursued within the context of a His local church.
So, if you are considering joining our local church, what is holding you back? If you have more questions, just let us know - we would me more than happy to dig deeper with you as you consider this next step of church membership.