Romans 12:5 teaches, "we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." In other words, every believer in Christ is a member of the universal church. In addition, each believer is to be involved with a local community of believers to build up one another in the faith (Hebrews 10:25).
In the earliest church, no formal membership existed. Believers typically worshiped in the house church closest to where they lived. Today, many communities include numerous local churches from which people can choose to attend. While there is no biblical command to join a particular local church, many churches include a formal membership process through which a person can commit to involvement in that church and to adherence to its particular statement of faith.
Church membership can be important for a variety of reasons. First, in many churches, members have rights to vote on decisions made in the church. For example, most churches involve the official members of the congregation in choices related to buying or selling property or the selection of its senior pastor.
Second, church membership notes one's allegiance to a set of beliefs. For example, a United Methodist Church member agrees to a different set of beliefs than a Southern Baptist Church member.
Third, church membership can increase the level of commitment a person has to a particular local church. Once a member, a person may be more likely to invite friends, serve in church ministries, and support church activities than a non-member.
Fourth, church membership can open opportunities to share Christ with new people. For example, during the membership process a person can be asked about their personal testimony or whether he or she has been baptized. Those who have not become a believer can do so during this time of discussion.
Fifth, church membership can stand as a testimony to one's local community. Church membership often includes a commitment to live by your local church's core convictions. This would exclude a lifestyle and actions contrary to these beliefs.
Sixth, church membership can be used as a basis for removal of members living in contradiction to their membership commitment. In other words, a church member who lives in consistent practices contrary to his or her membership commitment can have their membership revoked. This is not designed as a bad thing, but rather in order to cause the person to want to repent and be restored to his or her church family.
Again, church membership is not a biblical command but rather a way to manage today's local churches. Used well, church membership can offer many benefits for individuals and local churches to assist in spiritual growth.
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