"Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."
John 1:12 (NIV)
If I’m already a Christian, why become a church member?
Great question! Biblically, becoming a member of God’s family occurs by grace through faith in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior (John 1:12; Rom 10:9). Thus, whomever has received Christ is part of the universal and eternal family of God.
In the New Testament, the call to “belief” in Jesus is often followed by the command to be “baptized” as a public declaration of that new identity and affiliation. Jesus himself commands this in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20). That’s because the communal nature of God as Trinity, is demonstrated in the loving creation of humanity followed by His pursuit to redeem and restore us back as a part of His family. We’re adopted and incorporated through Christ and by the Spirit into God the Father’s family.
In Acts, the Church is birthed by the Holy Spirit and with it, the impact of the gospel on relationships is revolutionary. Socio-economic classes are flattened, grace and truth define conversations, submission to servant leadership is called for, church discipline is needed, social justice is embodied, spiritual gifts are identified for service and the 59 “one anothers" all assume something: Every follower of Jesus is committed to life in a local church family.
It is implicit, if not explicit, throughout the NT that to be a follower of Jesus involved being a part of the local people of God, the Church, our spiritual family.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:42–47 (NIV)
Why? Because the Church is the agent of God’s mission in the world: to reflect the new humanity, the foretaste of heaven, His serving community, bringing glory to God as broken people, finding restoration with Him, one another and creation. A significant and overlooked obstacle from becoming THAT kind of community comes from a misunderstanding of church membership.
The challenge is that we are followers of Jesus in a particular time and culture that is very different in some ways to the first century.
- We live in a culture that affirms spirituality but never condones claiming the truth—thus we escape the demands required of that truth.
- We live in a culture that seeks connection but only at arms distance—where we can manage our appearance and profiles.
- We love the idea of community and family, but usually when it’s self-serving or meets our needs.
- When it’s challenging, doesn’t meet our expectations, infringes on our personal preferences or calls us to sacrifice, we can justify “moving on.”
Why is this? We have grown up in the American, consumeristic and individualistic culture. The importance of membership to a local church can be seen as an option at best or a social club at worst, where we pay to “get in” and receive it’s “perks.” And yet Paul says that we’re connected to one another. Therefore the question for us is, will we be active or passive about it?
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)
Church membership isn’t required to attend, participate and grow at EvFree, but “active” church membership, properly understood, can be a symbolic way of “putting your stake in the ground” and saying this is “my family”—the local church family God has called us to love, grow and serve alongside. It’s about committing to life following Jesus with intentional relationships that lead to our individual and corporate transformation.
Our hope is that you would see the biblical and practical benefits of church membership. And after reading this, prayerfully consider it a joy in making the commitment to this church family so that, together we would become all that God has called us to be in our community—“being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.”
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: 'See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.'” 1 Peter 2:4–6 (NIV)