We live in a culture where our commitment is often soft and changes depending on how we feel. In this kind of commitment-light culture, church membership is important. It matters for a couple of reasons…
In becoming a member of a church, you make visible your commitment to Christ AND His people. Membership is one way to raise the flag of faith. You state before God and others that you are part of this local body of believers. Membership states in a formal way, “I am part of something bigger than myself. I am part of a body.”
Making a commitment to your church makes a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture. Many leagues and clubs today require more of their members than most churches. Our culture is a consumer-culture where everything is tailored to meet our needs and satisfy our preferences. When those needs aren’t met, we can always move on to the next product, or job, or spouse. Joining a church in this environment makes a counter-cultural statement. It says “I am committed to this group of people, and they are committed to me. I am here to give, more than to get.”
Church membership keeps us accountable. When we join a church, we are offering ourselves to one another to be encouraged, rebuked, corrected, and served. We are placing ourselves under leaders and submitting to their authority. Mark Dever, in his book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, writes, “Church membership is our opportunity to grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the elders and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We allow fellow believers to have great expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the responsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve and encourage as well.”
Joining the church will help the elders be more faithful shepherds. The Scriptures say that elders are to “keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” (Heb. 13:7) This is hard to do in a church when there’s a lot of turnover, but it’s even harder when the elders don’t know who is really a part of the flock. It’s hard for the elders to shepherd the flock when they don’t know who really considers them their shepherds.
Joining the church gives you an opportunity to make promises. When someone becomes a member of Foothills Fellowship, he/she makes promises to pray, give, serve, attend worship, accept the spiritual guidance of the church leaders, obey their teachings, and seek the things that make for unity, purity, and peace. We ought not to make these promises lightly. If you don’t join the church, you miss an opportunity to publicly make these promises, inviting the elders and the rest of the body to hold you to these promises–which would be missing out on great spiritual benefit, for you, your leaders, and the whole church.