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About every two weeks, I sit down at the breakfast bar in my kitchen and take out my bill clip. My cards and receipts sprawl across the counter and I begin the process of trashing what is irrelevant and neatly placing the cards and items I need back in the clip.

Only a few items make the cut to survive every time. My drivers license. My ATM card. My medical insurance member card. 

Church membership is something that has been around since the foundation of the church and is not only biblical but helpful. Consider these verses:

  • Acts 2:37-47: a count of those who have decided to follow Jesus Christ and mention of the leaders tracking the growth
  • Acts 6:1-6: elections and a vote take place in order to address a charge
  • Romans 16:1-16: an obvious awareness of who was a local church member
  • 1 Timothy 5:3-16: instruction on allocating church resources to widows that were members first

It’s no surprise that different denominations and tribes in Christendom do the details of membership differently, but there are at least three primary questions that church membership helps answer.

Who are the leaders of the church responsible for?

It seems very clear in scripture that church leaders are accountable to God in how they love, care, and shepherd the people of the church. But who exactly does that mean? Am I as a pastor accountable for the guest visiting our church from NYC? Will I give an account for the electrician hired by our landlord to work on the church building? What about the volunteer that gets a job offer in Dallas and relocates?

Church membership helps clarify the scope of my shepherding responsibility.

This certainly doesn’t exclude any of the commands around me loving my neighbor, but it does help fence in which sheep are a part of the flock God wants me to watch over.


Who is the believer supposed to submit to?

The author of Hebrews explains, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” 

There are two young men pedaling around my neighborhood on bicycles with name tags that read “elder”…am I to submit to their teaching and instruction? Who should I as a churchgoer obey? Membership helps address this.

We all know that finding a church is largely about where we feel connected relationally. But it’s also about where we feel comfortable listening, receive, and obeying the leaders. If the church you call home is preaching the gospel and pursuing lives that reflect the gospel message, then give yourself to that local church fully in membership. 

To be clear, you should always ask questions and discuss concerns with your leaders. But membership answers the question of who any believer is submitting to and how they are living out this command. Follow God’s plan for your life in being a part of a local body of believers that submits to the qualified leadership as they prayerfully and humbly follow Jesus’ call for your church.

How will the church plan and allocate their finances and resources?

Imagine you receive simultaneous text messages from your spouse and an old buddy from college. They both need a ride home from work right now at this moment. Neither can wait. What do you do? You’d probably go grab your husband/wife and suggest some alternatives for your old friend.

Like you and your family, a local church has limited resources. Paramount to the church moving forward and making a difference then is the deciding process of who receives those resources. Whether it’s benevolence, counseling needs, or training, almost all decisions at Doxa are made by first asking the question, “what is the nature of this person’s relationship with Doxa?”. Members get first crack at everything we offer as a church. 

Some people may feel uneasy on this point, but they themselves apply this same principle to their own families and calendars. Again, this idea is never an excuse to disobey God’s commands to love others, or ignore the leading of the Holy Spirit, but it certainly helps frame the constant need to prioritize what we have and what we are able to do.

Membership also helps the leaders of the church plan the budgetary needs of the year because most churches ask members to pledge their financial support. You’d never be able to budget for your family if you had absolutely no idea what kind of money would go in your bank account, and the church is no different.

"Formally belonging to the local body isn’t a nice bonus for hyper-committed Christians, it’s normative and a must for any believer..."


Closing thoughts...

Hopefully this gives a brief but helpful look at church membership. There are many practical reasons for membership but the greatest is simply that God asks us to belong to a local church body in a specific way. It’s impossible to work out all of the “one anothers” given us in scripture apart from membership. Formally belonging to the local body isn’t a nice bonus for hyper-committed Christians, it’s normative and a must for any believer that wants to experience full maturation and growth in their journey with Jesus.

Now, back to my bill clip. My insurance membership card doesn’t change who I am. It doesn’t make me more important than anyone else. But it does establish the nature of relationship I have with that particular organization, and what the expectations are in both directions. Church membership is a healthy part of the believer’s life, and you should take the opportunity to belong to your local church in membership too.