Ministry & Leadership

Yes, Local Church Membership Is Essential3 min read

June 10, 2013 2 min read


Yes, Local Church Membership Is Essential3 min read

Reading Time: 2 minutes
MembershipMattersI’m a Christian, and I usually go to church. Sometimes I go to Church A and sometimes I go to Church B. The Bible doesn’t say I have to place membership anywhere.”

Maybe you’ve heard this before.

Maybe you’ve even said this before.

Let’s think for a moment. Does the Bible really not teach church membership?

Here’s the cold hard truth: the Bible does teach you need to be a part of a local church.

1. How can elders oversee the “flock” if they don’t know who the sheep are? Elders are shepherds, and they are charged with the heavy responsibility of “watching over our souls as ones who will give an account” (Heb. 13:17). Obviously, they need to know to whom they are accountable! It is wrong for Christians not to submit to the oversight of an eldership (cf. 1 Thess. 5:12).

2. How can a local church “withdraw” from an impenitent member if there are no members? People who are openly practicing sin need to be recognized and confronted (cf. Rom. 16:17), otherwise they will destroy the church (cf. 1 Cor. 5:6). How can you remove someone if there is nothing to remove them from (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1ff)?

3. How can a local church combine its resources without formal participation? How can churches make big financial plans if attendance is flakey? Isn’t it reckless to make big plans if resources are not stable?

4. How can we “stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together” (Heb. 10:24-25) if we don’t know who “one another” are?

5. How can division within a local church be condemned (1 Cor. 11:18) if there is not an organized group of people to divide? How can you mark someone as divisive and openly sinful (Rom. 16:17) if they were not previously recognized as being members in good standing?

6. How can we be aware of the spiritual well being of those “inside” if we don’t know how to distinguish those who are “inside” from those who are “outside” (i.e. 1 Cor. 5:13)?

When I hear someone say they don’t want to identify with a local congregation, I can’t help but wonder, “Why?” Why don’t they want to submit to the oversight of spiritual shepherds? Why don’t they want to build close relationships with other Christians? Why don’t they want the responsibilities that come along with church membership? Why don’t they want to encourage one another? Why don’t they want to build up the church?

Simply put, refusing to identify with a church is selfish and wrong.

  • You’re cheating yourself by not placing your soul under the spiritual guidance of shepherds.
  • You’re cheating others by not building up the family of God.
  • You’re cheating the community by diminishing the potential impact of the local church to teach the Gospel.
  • Above all, you’re cheating God by not submitting to His design for local congregations.

Don’t ignore the undeniable truth that the Lord wants His followers to identify with local congregations. Do you think you know better than Him?

Why are some specific reasons why people refuse to identify with a congregation? Are there legitimate reasons to leave a local church?

Ben Giselbach is the pulpit minister at the Edgewood church of Christ in Columbus, GA. He and his wife Hannah have two children, Ezra & Colleyanna. Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and has returned to pursue his MDiv. He has written three books in his You Are A Theologian Series: Thinking Right about the Bible, Thinking Right about God, and Thinking Right about Salvation.
  1. Michael Y

    I agree that you need to be a part of a local congregation, but the term "place membership" is inaccurate. We become members of the Lord's church when we are baptized. We may identify with a local congregation, but there is nothing in the Bible about being "members" or placing "membership" of a local congregation.

    • Ben

      This post is about local congregations of the Lord's Church. Yes, we automatically added to the Lord's Church when we become Christians (cf. Acts 2:47). But we have the responsibility to identify with a local congregation of the Lord's Church. Call it whatever you want, it doesn't really matter what term you use. I'm referring to it as "placing membership [at a local congregation]." Mere semantics. But it is wrong to go about one's Christian walk without eventually identifying with a local congregation of Christians.

  2. Hiram kemp

    The term "identify with a local congregation isn't there either" .However in Acts 9:26 Paul went to join himself with the disciples in that area.So regardless of The terminology this article is clear and God holds Christian responsible for being apart of a local congregation. Great article

  3. […] 4. Make it a ‘clean cut.’ If you’re going to leave, then leave. Don’t fade away, slowly dropping your commitments and relationships. If you are part of that church family, then be part of the church family. If you are leaving, then leave completely. Place yourself under another faithful, godly eldership as soon as possible so they can watch over your soul. (Read: Yes, Local Church Membership Is Essential) […]

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