CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

The universal Church—the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5) is composed of all true believers in Christ. Some belong from birth (Christening) because they are brought up within it. Some come into the Church at a later age by deliberate choice (believer’s baptism). Baptism is, therefore, the sign of personal faith in Jesus. So only those who have been baptised can be members.

However, there is nothing in the Bible about “membership” in a local church assembly. Anyone who worships with us is in some sense a member. As believers, we have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 20:12), which is the only “membership roll” spoken of in Scripture.

The New Testament churches apparently had no need of formal membership, relying instead on God to gather together believers in a local body. “And the Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved” (Acts 2:47). This verse indicates that salvation was a prerequisite for being “added” to the church. Churches today who require salvation before membership are simply following the biblical model (see also 2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

Although there is no scriptural mandate for church membership, there is certainly nothing to prohibit it.

Church membership is a way of officially identifying oneself with a local body of believers. Church membership is a statement that a Christian is in agreement with that local church and is willing to be identified as a representative of it. Church membership is also valuable for organizational purposes and a good way of determining who is allowed to vote on important church decisions and/or who is involved in official church positions and functions. Church membership is not required of Christians. It is simply a way of saying, “I am a Christian and I believe Tettenhall Wood / St. Columba’s United Reformed Church is a good church.”

Being a member means you have taken a significant step of commitment to the universal Church and identification with the local church family. It means that you know that the other church members are committed to you in Christian love. It means that you have put yourself under the pastoral leadership and care of the minister and elders: you know they are committed to serving you, to promoting your spiritual health, to helping you when times are hard. It means that you can take your part in the decisions which shape the church’s direction such as new leaders, new staff, budgets and other significant matters, through the church meeting.

The Promises
• Do you confess your faith in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, taking the Father to be your Father, the Son to be your Saviour and Lord, and Spirit to be your Helper and Guide?

• Do you promise, in dependence on God’s grace, to be faithful in private and public worship, to live in the fellowship of the Church and to share in its work; and to give and serve, as God enables you, for the advancement of his kingdom throughout the world?

• Do you promise, by that same grace, to follow Christ and to seek to do and to bear his will all the days of your life?

• And do you trust in his mercy alone to bring you into the fullness of the life of the world to come?

I would love to discuss membership with you and be able to welcome you into membership. You don’t need to decide straight away. But the invitation is from Christ, and if by joining, you are confessing your faith in Jesus Christ, sharing it with others, and helping the Church to be more effective in bringing the Good News of Christ to the world, why delay? Certainly pray about it, then I hope, your prayer will lead to decision and action.

Revd Tim Mullings

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2 thoughts on “CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

  1. I have a feeling that in both Congregationalist and Presbyterian ecclesiology Church membership means rather more than this. For the Congregationalist the gathered church is the Church, the covenanted community of Christians is the condition for any member of it being a Christian, in any meaningful sense.

    The idea of an individual Christian outside the body constituted by the congregational covenant would make no sense, I think, to a really committed and convinced Congregationalist (which is why some of them them, for example, refuse to recognise the possibility of celebrating the Lord’s Supper in any context other than the local congregation).

    The Presbyterian will recognise the presence of the Church only where it is properly ordered and recognised by the corporate body constituted by the Presbytery. Again I’m not sure that the idea of a Christian being a Christian outside this body would make sense to them.

  2. You are absolutely right in what you say Nick. What I’ve written here is enough though for those considering membership and its implications without the labels of Congregationalist or Presbyterian. Good to acknowledge the ecclesiological differences though.

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