Mark #6 of a Healthy Church: a Biblical Understanding of Church Membership

When my husband and I left the church where we had been members for 18+ years, we didn't know where the Lord would direct us. We felt a little beaten up; leaving a church family we loved and that loved us was painful, even though we knew we were being obedient to the Lord. After years of serving in various ministries, we thought that we might like a place where we could just sit back, be fed and allow our bruised hearts time to heal.

Then I came to the sixth mark of a healthy church - a biblical understanding of church membership - and these words:
[Church] membership is not simply the record of a statement we once made or of an affection toward a familiar place. It must be the reflection of a living commitment or it is worthless. Worse than being worthless, it is dangerous. Uninvolved members confuse both real members and non-Christians about what it means to be a Christian. We "active" members do the voluntary "inactive" members no service when we allow them to remain members of the church. Membership is the church's corporate endorsement of a person's salvation. Yet how can a congregation honestly testify that someone invisible to it is faithfully running the race? (p. 163)
Did we really want to join a church that would allow us to be uninvolved?

If you've been looking for a church recently, you may well know finding these churches is easy. Too easy. Many churches have membership rolls that are more than double (in some cases, even triple!) the average Sunday attendance. Should we be surprised when people who have visited for a while, made an emotional decision during an altar call, and joined without any understanding of biblical church membership suddenly disappear from the church?

We did not want to join a church where attendance and commitment is optional. We had heard of churches that require prospective members to complete a new members class in order to understand what the church believes, the leadership structure, and the expectations of members. Finding a church that had such a class was important to us; what better way to understand a church, its leaders & congregation?

The month following our first visit at our new church home, the pastor began a new members class. We opted to attend, although we didn't know if we would join the church. These sessions were extremely beneficial and the Lord used them to generate some wonderful discussions in our home. We learned we are attending a church that values membership and the responsibilities that go along with it. Along with the materials, we were given a church membership application that, among other questions, asks where the applicant would like to serve. We are blessed to have found a church that encourages members to use their gifts (1 Peter 4:10) and serve wholeheartedly (Ephesians 6:7-8).



This summer, I'm blogging through Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Find out why here.

Comments

  1. Ah! Yes! This is what really impressed us about our new church. We had to attend ten (10!!!) video classes, then meet in person to become "members." We'd never gone to a church with membership before, so we were so nervous about what it meant. I was so impressed when they told us that they wanted us to join the family- and part of the requirements of being part of a family is that everyone pitches in. Company gets to sit and be served, but family gets in and takes care of business. I really liked that, and so many other things that were covered. It totally sealed the deal for us that we were in the right place! (So glad to have a minute to read your blog! I've missed you, friend!!)

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  2. Great points, Melissa. Another important point about church membership is discipline. How can you expect your church family to help you grow, and protect you as a part of it, if you will not publicly place yourself under the authority of the leaders? And since discipline is a mark of a healthy church, membership is all the more important.
    So glad to hear how your family has found this new church home!

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