Here we address the idea of joining (or becoming a member) any particular group, fellowship, local church, or denomination.
First of all it should be pointed out that the Holy Scriptures are mute on the subject of membership in an organization. That is why there are differing
opinions on what the right course of action is for believers to take concerning their affiliations. Perhaps this is also the reason why our ideas on the
subject of church membership should fall under what I call the category of “peripheral doctrine” according to Romans 14. As important as it may be to
some, it is nonetheless, secondary and thus less important than are the doctrines that are fundamental to our Christian faith. For this reason let us heed
the admonition of the apostle Paul from this same passage to “…let each be fully convinced in his own mind…” (verse 5) Let us guard against allowing this
(or any other peripheral issue) divide us from our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
Our first inclination should always be to follow the lead of the Word of God. If it is clear on any given subject, we are responsible to do exactly as it says.
However, if it is silent on a subject as it is on this one, we must develop our doctrinal position based on the wisdom the Holy Spirit gives with the counsel
of the entire Word of God. Let us do that here.
One of the primary concerns in the heart of God is unity within His church. Unity within the local fellowship can be fostered by membership since it
enhances the sense of belonging to the members and often develops a sense of mutual responsibility towards one another. Membership also tends to
crystallize our commitment to that family of believers. So, for these reasons it would appear to be good and not something to be categorically rejected.
But let us pull the camera back to a wider angle to look at the entire Body of Christ to see if membership in the local church actually fosters unity at the
universal level. It could be said that to compartmentalize the larger entity in any way tends to weaken it. I am convinced the local fellowship is God’s idea,
and is therefore not a weakening factor to the church. It is a strengthening factor to the overall well being of the Body. But to excessively emphasize the
local entity certainly builds walls that divide and thus weaken God’s church. For this reason we might question whether local church membership
promotes the overall good of the Body of Christ.
Membership in and of itself is neither good nor bad. But if it evokes thoughts of such things as exclusivism or separatism, then it becomes an enemy to
the unity of the Body of Christ and thus something to be shunned. Whether such things arise from membership depends upon the motives and teachings
of the leaders, as well as the hearts of the saints in that local church. If membership can be done without jeopardizing the unity of the faith, then let it be
done; otherwise, avoid it.
It is better to steer clear of things that have the possibility of undermining the unity of the Body. I believe it is wisdom to do so in this case. This is why I
personally do not promote church membership. The sense of belonging and mutual responsibility in the saints is needed in the local fellowship; however,
these can be developed in ways other than membership, more specifically in developing a true covenantal relationship environment in your church.
Let us not judge others for promoting membership, for they are family to us. Let love and unity prevail! Let Jesus be glorified in us!
|WHAT ABOUT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?