Several years ago before becoming pastor of this church, I was asked by the previous pastor if I could help develop a small pamphlet that would be used in the church welcome packets for the purpose of describing the value of being a member of the Lord’s church. We often get visitors that have no church affiliation or are looking for a new church and they continue to come without ever making a commitment to become a member. I know there are some churches that have no specific membership requirements, and if you show up enough times you are automatically considered a part of the church. Therefore, there is no necessity to make formal application for church membership.
Seeing the problem and desiring to move some of those people towards a commitment, I was asked to write this pamphlet. I got started on it and by the time I was through describing why a Christian needs the fellowship of the church, the pamphlet had grown too lengthy and was probably unserviceable for the welcome packet. As most of you know, I do not have much problem stretching a subject trying to cover every conceivable angle. In a short article like this, I cannot cover every aspect, but I would like to share two important reasons for membership. In the next article, I will continue the discussion with additional reasons.
I would start with Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:25: “…Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it.” This tells us the church is extraordinarily important to the Saviour. While the scriptures never say that our salvation is dependent upon our membership in the church, we cannot miss the significance of this statement. The church means something special to Christ and whatever is special to Him should be very special to His people. Many of the New Testament epistles were written specifically to churches. In fact over 95% of the time the word church is used in the New Testament, it has reference to the local assembly. Christ uses the church to achieve His purpose in the world.
One of the best arguments in favor of membership is the administration of church ordinances. These are baptism and the Lord’s Supper. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached a stirring message in the power of the Holy Spirit which resulted in the conversion of three thousand people. These people were immediately baptized and added to the church. From this scripture, Baptists have taught that baptism is our entrance into the visible church. Baptism is committed to the church and is administered under no other authority. It is clear that baptism is expected of every believer. It is not an optional command because it is our public identification with Christ. Since the church is the only authority for baptism and it is the entrance into the church, membership is automatic upon reception of the ordinance.
Likewise, the Lord’s Supper is committed to the church, and we believe the Supper is a special privilege reserved for those who are members of the local church. We certainly could not condone the reception of the Supper by those that have refused the command for baptism and have also disobeyed the apostolic precedent for church membership. This would be in direct conflict with Paul’s command that each participant examine himself so as not to partake unworthily. Paul also stated the church is to observe the Supper until Christ returns (1 Cor. 11:26). A Christian that ignores church membership is missing the great privilege of honoring Christ’s death as a sacrifice for our sins.
If you are a Christian and you are faithfully attending church, please carefully consider your obedience to Christ in the area of commitment to a good Bible believing church. Christ loves the church and so should you!
Pastor V. Mark Smith