Church Membership

Here are several of our documents for church membership:

Church Membership? Why would a church practice something like church membership in the 21st Century? The reason why we have church membership is because it is biblical. For some that might sound like a profound statement. We live in a day that does not place a value on church membership and for many they heard statements like “church membership is not biblical” or you never find church membership mentioned in the Bible. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Granted the term church membership is not found in the Bible. But neither is the word Trinity. That does not make them any less biblical. Church membership is clearly assumed and implied in several texts. We will list a few instances that show its biblical basis and/ or necessity.

  • Church Discipline. In Matthew 18:15-17 Jesus outlines how to handle those who have sinned against us. The final step is to tell it to the church and if there still is no repentance the person is to be treated as an unbeliever. There has to be some way of identifying who the church is? Certainly this would not just be whoever shows up that particular day. Paul spoke about church discipline also in 1 Corinthians 5. He tells the church in Corinth that when they assemble that they are to remove this person from their midst. It seems ridiculous that you would remove someone that was not a part of our body. Again, the New Testament church had identifiable members. In 2 Corinthians Paul instructs the church to forgive an individual that has repented (likely the same man from 1 Corinthians 5). He speaks about the punishment inflicted by the majority. Who was this majority? It was the majority that took some sort of vote or action to remove the man from the church. Again, there is a clear indication that there was a church membership that was identifiable in the New Testament and needful for the purposes of church discipline.
  • New Testament Terminology. There are several instances in the terminology of the New Testament that show membership was something practiced. In 1 Corinthians 5 when Paul is speaking about the man that needed church discipline he talks about those inside and outside the church. This is not simply talking about those that are believers and those that are not believers. Paul is writing to a local church in Corinth. He is telling them that they have the right to judge on matters inside the (local) church, but those outside God judges. How can the church judge on those matters inside the church if there is no way to identify who belongs to the local church? There are numerous passages in the New Testament using the phrase “one another”. Many if not most of these passages are again written to the local church. They are written to encourage and remind the local church about their responsibilities to ‘one another” within the local church context. What does one another mean but a bond and unity that tie together? Yes all Christians throughout the world are in Him. But again the one another passages are written to those within a local church context.
  • Word for Church. The term for church in the New Testament comes from the Greek word ekklesia. The term ekklesia was in common usage for several hundred years before the Christian era and was used to refer to an assembly of persons constituted by well-defined membership. From this definition you will notice that before the New Testament used the word church it was understood to be an assembly of persons by well-defined membership. We recognize a lot of times the assembly aspect of the word, but forget that the New Testament understood that assembly also meant well-defined membership. In addition it would seem to me that an assembly would naturally have some form of membership, it seems to be inherent within the word itself. In closing as you read through the New Testament you find terminology such as family and body to describe the local church. Clearly a family and a body have members that are clearly identifiable.
  • Distinguishable People. Throughout the Bible God has chosen to reflect and display His glory through a people that was clearly distinguished and separate from the world. The same is true in the New Testament. There are several passages that indicate a specific and distinguishable group of people in the local church.
For “The Way” we call our membership process a covenant. This helps us to show the importance of the commitment to the local church. Membership in the local church is not like membership in a local organization that you pay yearly dues to and get a card to carry around. We don’t believe in card-carrying members, but in members who have covenanted with one another for the purpose of displaying God’s glory and building one another up. Granted some churches may function in a “card carrying” way, but that is not the biblical concept and it greatly diminishes the display of God’s glory. Our covenant that we ask for members to make is a dual covenant. They are making a covenant with the church, but the church is also making a covenant with them. Some of the expectations for both members and from the church can be found here. With a membership that is clearly defined with clear expectations you have the opportunity to clearly communicate what the local church believes and the direction that the church is heading in the future. Far too many times people visit a church, like it on their first visit and join. Only to find out later that particular church does not believe the same things as they do. In an effort to clearly communicate who we are and what we believe we have put several of our membership documents online so that people can view, read and go over at their convenience. These documents are listed at the top of this page.