Since becoming a pastor I have found that certain questions crop up more than others. These questions are not always more important, but rather more indicative of our culture malaise. One common conversation concerns “formal” church membership. Over the previous 18 months, I’ve talked with many people concerning membership at Oakland, what it is, why we do it, what privileges and responsibilities come with it. Sometimes these questions arise in New Members Classes, but other times they happen over coffee or bbq.
Honestly, most of these conversations begin with someone’s concerns or hang-ups or past hurts regarding Church Membership. I hear things like, “My dad and granddad were both members of a church for a long, long time, and they served faithfully for years, until they eventually got burned out. I’m afraid if I become a member, I’ll be taken advantage of or taken for granted, and church will become more work than worship.” Others plainly state, “I don’t need to be part of a church to be a Christian,” or “Church just isn’t for me.” Some people are hurt when I suggest they join the church, saying, “I thought I was already part of the church, why do I need to need some slip of pater to make me part of the church.”
Like all things, our answers to these questions and concerns must come from the Scripture. So does the Scripture endorse or at least encourage some sort of “formal” membership in a specific church community rather than just general membership in The Church Universal? Does the Bible command us to participate in the life of a congregation?
I recently read an awesome article by a pastor in Texas, to whom I listen regularly. It answers so many of these questions and challenges both members and pastors to take membership more biblically and seriously. Check it out.
Is Church Membership Biblical? by Matt Chandler