Church membership is not man’s idea; it is assumed throughout the Bible. The way that Scripture talks about church leadership, “one another” commands, care, and correction all assume that every believer is a member of a local church, while the metaphors used to describe the church make the importance of membership clear.
Hebrews 13:17 states that Christians are to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” Without membership, to whom are the elders accountable for shepherding before God? We believe that membership defines the scope of authority and accountability for local church leaders.
In addition, this verse helps us answer the question: To which leaders should believers submit? Instead of submitting to anyone with the title “elder” from any church, membership provides direction on the specific elders a believer should submit to and why.
There are dozens of commands in the New Testament for how believers are to love, serve, and relate to one another. These “one another” instructions can only be fully lived out as part of a church. For example, Hebrews 10:24-25 states that we should “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” Without membership, to whom are we called to meet with and encourage on a daily basis?
1 Timothy 5:9-10 provides instruction regarding care for widows. Without membership, how does the widows’ enrollment make sense?
Also, Acts 20:28 says to church elders, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” Membership places you under the spiritual care and protection of godly leaders who are keeping watch over a specific local body.
Lastly, 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 describes sexual immorality occurring within a local gathering and the removal of the offender. Without membership, how are we to practice church discipline?
Also, Matthew 18:15-17 states when a brother sins against you and does not listen after multiple witnesses address his fault, you are to involve the church. Without membership, who constitutes “the church?” Who decides when someone is to be treated as an outsider (“a Gentile and a tax collector” v. 17) and lovingly called back to repentance? We believe that membership provides a clear process and path for care, correction, and restoration when a member is active in habitual sin.
Throughout the Scriptures, we see the Church referenced as the family of God, the body of Christ, and the flock of God. (Ephesians 2:20-22; 1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 5:2)
To not join a church is to, in effect, say: