And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
-Acts 2:47 NASB
Before coming to Grace Church, I almost never have heard of anyone talk about church membership and its importance. The only time I’ve heard membership referenced was before my baptism at my home church. During the baptism class I asked what the difference was between being baptized with my parents’ Chinese congregation as opposed to with the English congregation I usually attended services at. The different ultimately lied in which church I would be a member of. And ever since then, until now, I’ve never heard a single word said about membership since.
Circumstances, along with my convictions, changed when I began attending Grace Church, where Pastors John and Austin frequently exhorted the church body to strongly consider membership. I couldn’t understand why it was so necessary; after all, it’s just another label… right?
But as I continued throughout the year, I came to understand that church membership was much more than simply a title. The Biblical model presented every single believer in the New Testament as associated with a local church body. It was simply ridiculous for a 1st century Christian to not be part of the local body of believers. You would never ever hear a 1st century Christian say that he “free-roamed” or “church-hopped”. New Testament believers of the early church engaged themselves in their local churches and offered their spiritual gifts to serve those believers whom they practiced their “one-anothers” with.
In To Be or Not to Be a Church Member?, That Is the Question!, Mack produces a convincing argument for why we, as followers of Christ, need to associate ourselves with a local church and become members. He paints a clear picture of why we cannot simply be “lone wolf Christians” and why it is imperative for us as believers to associate ourselves with a local church body through membership. Mack presents ten reasons, with just a few listed here:
- Following the “One-Anothering” commands of Scripture
- Biblical responsibility to elders
- Clarification in differentiating from unbelievers
- Public proclamation of one’s faith
- Accountability to elders and other believers
From these reasons alone, it’s easy to see why the Christ-follower simply cannot attend a para-church ministry or even attend a single church regularly without becoming a member (Biblical responsibility to elders would be lacking). And ultimately the biggest question to ask yourself is the reverse question: “Why not become a church member?” Christ loved His church enough to lay down His life for it (Eph. 5:25-27). Christian, you cannot love Christ without loving His bride as well! If there is something holding you back from joining a local church body, your salvation itself may be at stake. There is simply no good reason why not to join a church. And yet so many benefits!
Reading this book also gave me clear insight into one of the great responsibilities of church elders. Indeed, church membership is pointless for a church that lacks strong eldership. Biblical passages that Mack uses to argue for church membership have turned the tables on me as I continue looking to pursue church eldership in the future. As church members have obligations to follow me as I follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1), so also have I an obligation to lead my church members in strong Biblical example. I must care for my flock and watch over their souls, because of an account I will have to give for the stewardship that will have been granted to me (Jas. 3:1). And as a church elder, I must exercise church discipline as mandated in Scripture (Matt. 18:15-17). Otherwise, what good am I as a church elder?
But to my readers, I implore you to follow the Biblical example set before you and to join the local church! Do not delay in your ability and opportunity to publicly declare your commitment to the faith and to practice Scriptural commands through your association with your church body. There is a clear answer to the question contained in this title: YES!