By Dave Cotner
This past Sunday, we welcomed three more people into the membership of Prairie Flower Baptist Church. Ultimately, this is what it’s all about, namely, seeing people saved, baptized, and added to the church. Successfully adding new members to our roster proves that, at some level, we are staying true to our mission and vision “to be a strong church [numerically and spiritually] that makes disciples for the glory of God.” Indeed, this is the kind of stuff that really excites me as a pastor.
In fact, after this Sunday, we would have successfully brought into membership seven new people this year. That’s really exciting, especially considering that we’re not even a quarter of the way through the year! But some of you may wonder, what’s the point of church membership? Does membership really matter? Is church membership even biblical? In short, yes, church membership actually matters and is not only biblical, but practical and pastoral. Let me explain.
Church Membership Is Biblical. The Bible vividly explains the nature and purpose of the church by means of using body member imagery. For example, Romans 12:4–5 states, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Also, 1 Corinthians 12:12 states, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” Indeed, such language in these texts of Scripture are metaphorical and symbolize our spiritual union with Christ (and other believers in Christ), but if that’s the reality for us theologically and spiritually, shouldn’t that be a reality for us practically and physically (cf. Acts 2:41, 47)? Which leads to my second point . . .
Church Membership Is Practical. The church has business, legitimate business, which it must accomplish. For instance, we must be a missionally-minded church (cf. Matt. 28:19–20). Locally, we do this by preaching the Gospel right here at PFBC. But globally, how do we accomplish this? Answer: By sending and supporting foreign missionaries who can preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. But here’s the rub, we cannot send and support every single Gospel-centric, Bible-preaching missionary. We simply can’t do that. Why? Well, we have limited resources and funds and we must, as a local church that is properly stewarding our resources and funds, determine who we will send and who we will not send to the mission field. Question: When it comes to the business meeting to make the determination to support so-and-so, do you want the first-time visitor to vote on where our church funds are being designated? I would hope not! We need to know, as a church/organization, who has the right to vote/make decisions on such matters and who does not have that right. Bottom line: We need church membership for such practical purposes. But there’s a third reason for church membership . . .
Church Membership Is Pastoral. As a pastor, I am commanded in 1 Peter 5:2, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” This act of shepherding is an active, dynamic caring for your spiritual life. However, I can’t do that effectively without knowing if you are under my leadership/shepherding role. Another very clear Scripture text is Hebrews 13:17, which states, “Obey your leaders [i.e., pastors] 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.” So, who should you be obeying and submitting? Every pastor and church leader out there?! I think not. Also, in regards to pastors, who are they keeping a watch for and who are they giving an account for? Every random person that comes through the doors of their church building?! I think not. Church membership effectively tells you, as an individual, who to “obey . . . and submit” to, and it tells me, as a pastor, who I’m to “watch over” and who I will “give an account” for. Thus, I think it’s clear that church membership is vital for these pastoral reasons.
In the end, if you’re a regular attender, but you’ve never joined your local church, I would submit to you that you are like that kid in the neighborhood who always comes to the house for dinner. You’re always welcome. And you will practically be treated like a member of the family, but in the final analysis, you’re simply a friend of the family and not actual family. I would challenge you: Won’t you consider joining your faith family—your local community of grace? Why should you? Because membership actually matters.
Dave Cotner is lead pastor of Prairie Flower Baptist Church, Washington, Iowa. This article was originally posted on his blog, and is reposted here by permission.