One question I hear often is, “Why should I join a church — can’t I just attend?” I believe there are at least four Biblical reasons for Christians today to have formal church membership in a local congregation.
First, we are to imitate Christ. Ephesians 5:25 says, “…Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.” A local congregation is the visible manifestation of the universal church. When we devote ourselves to a local congregation, we are showing our devotion to the body of Jesus Christ.
Second, we are not to be conformed to the world. Romans 12:2 tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” We live in a time in which society avoids commitments to anything. This attitude has affected believers, so that we are tempted to hop from congregation to congregation without making any substantial commitment to one group. Membership sets us apart from culture, allowing us to dedicate ourselves to one another in Christian love, beliefs and values.
Third, as Christians we are to do all things in order. 1 Corinthians 14:40 says, “But all things should be done decently and in order.” Without church membership, who makes the decisions that involve the direction of the church body and the resources with which it has been entrusted? Would it be just any believer who happens to be meeting with them at the time? How do we define a local congregation without church membership? Church membership provides needed order and structure.
Fourth, we need accountability to grow as believers. Hebrews 3:13 reads, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” We can’t be accountable to a group of believers if we haven’t agreed to be held accountable by them. Church membership is intended to make ourselves accountable to the local church body we join.