At the beginning of the year, it seems to be a most appropriate time to discuss a very important subject to the American Church: what it means to be a church member. First of all, let us answer the foremost question—does the Bible even teach the concept of church membership? To answer this question in a word, “Yes”. If, however, you are looking for a proof text that states “Thou shalt be the member of a local church”, you will assuredly not find one. God gave us His Word for us to use our minds as a means of loving Him (rf. Matt. 22:37), not to be “spoon-fed” every bit of information He wants us to have and use, as so many within the Church now have come to expect.
The Apostle Paul explicitly teaches that true believers in Christ are each connected to one another spiritually just as parts of the human body are essential to one another for the whole body to function properly (rf. I Cor. 12:12, 20). So bound together are these parts that they cannot do without one another (rf. I Cor. 12:25). As Paul puts it, we are “members” one with another in this body. Since he equates the body with the Church, Paul states emphatically that to be a member of one is to be a member of the other (rf. I Cor. 12:27). The transitive property of mathematics is definitely in order here (i.e. if a = b, and b = c, then a = c). Thus, church membership is clearly taught by the Apostle Paul as something expected for those who are serious about their faith in Jesus.
Now, it is one thing to be a member of the Church and its local representation. It is quite another to be an active, engaged member of that local body. Using the very same analogy, the Apostle Paul does not allow for non-functioning members of the body (apart from those who are sick, infirm, home-bound, etc.). Indeed, if parts of the body refuse to engage in the operations of the whole, the total being is made sick and cannot accomplish what could be done if it were, indeed, healthy and up to full capacity (rf. I Cor. 12:26). Thus, it is assumed that every church member will be active in the life of the local church so that God’s will and plan for that particular fellowship will be fulfilled to the glory and praise of the Lord. To do otherwise shortcircuits both the growth of the whole body and the spiritual life of the individual, actually bringing into question the reality of one’s own salvation experience (rf. Heb. 10:25).
For those who say that church attendance is not important, the above arguments should be sufficient to prove otherwise. However, there are always those who still claim that they have no need for the fellowship of other believers, that they can worship God anywhere and without the assistance of “organized religion”. The thing that these folks overlook in the Scriptures is this—though Jesus offers us salvation on an individual basis, His redemption was accomplished on a corporate plane. He came “to save His people from their sins” (rf. Matt. 1:21) and to “lay down His life for the sheep” (rf. Jn. 10:11), both examples of the plural nature of His atoning work.
Regardless of how we may feel, as true Christians, we are connected to each other in Christ. He expects us to fellowship with each other and to worship Him in corporate fashion as is reflected by the early Church in the book of Acts (ex: Acts 2:41-47). To do otherwise is a sin and a cop-out on our responsibility to each other. It should be our joy, our priority, and a blessing to which we look forward each week to gather together for mutual encouragement and to lift up our Savior and King in praise, prayer, and song.
Let us, then, renew our commitment to the Lord this first Sunday of the New Year to be in His House with His people to begin regular attendance with our fellow believers in Christ. Not only will we be blessed as a result, but we will prove to be blessings as the Lord finds greater use of us within the work of His kingdom through His Church.