Why Should I Become a Member of a Church?
Would You Like to Sign Up for Membership?:
A few days ago, I was shopping at a local grocery store with my family. After we picked up the groceries we needed for the week and were checking them out at the cash register, a cashier kindly asked me, “Are you a member at our grocery store? If not, would you like to sign up for exclusive deals?” And I answered her, “No thanks. I think I will pass this time.”
The concept of membership is a very familiar one in our modern age now. Many businesses, in fact, promote membership in their program in order to attract customers. Ranging from grocery stores, fitness centers, theaters, airlines, and exclusive social clubs, many people live with various opportunities to become a member of something.
At the same time, people are not always required to become a member to use services from various businesses. As I mentioned already, I passed on an opportunity to become a member at a grocery store. Still, that does not prevent me from using the store for my future shopping. In fact, people can still use services from airlines, theaters, and fitness centers without becoming members. Most of the time, if not all the time, membership often comes as a choice to people.
In this light, many people might be confused when someone tells them a church membership is a necessity for Christians. After all, why is it necessary for someone to become a member of a church? One can still enter the church without becoming a member. One can still sit in worship and enjoy church events without becoming a member. At many churches, one can also participate in communion without becoming a member. Is it absolutely necessary for a person to become a member of a church that he or she attends regularly?
The Scripture answers the question, “Yes. It is absolutely necessary for a believing man and woman to become a church member.” And it provides three compelling reasons for the necessary nature of church membership.
I. Reason#1: Church Membership as a Biblical Design
First, a believer must become a member of a local church because church membership is a non-negotiable biblical design of Christian life. For example, consider how Luke describes the growth of the early church in the book of Acts. Testifying about the exponential growth of the early church believers on the day of Pentecost, Luke writes in Acts 2:41, “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” In other words, Luke testifies in this verse that more and more people were joined to the existing early church membership as members.
Paul also teaches us about the importance of membership in his letter to the Corinthians believers. For example, while teaching the importance of unity among believers in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, Paul clearly indicates that believers ought to be a member of a visible church. In fact, Paul writes in verse 27 that believers “Are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Accordingly, the Scripture first and foremost teaches us that church membership is an absolute necessity for believers as it is divinely established biblical design.
II. Reason#2: Church Membership for Fellowship
The Bible also teaches us that a believer must become a member of a church for an intentional fellowship within the church. Again, Acts 2:42-47 shares a beautiful testimony about believers’ life within the early church as Luke writes,
“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.”
Accordingly, we can notice two important insights from these passages. First, we again learn that the believers in the early church lived together as members of a community. In other words, believers were deeply committed to the early church and, as such, lived life together as members of the early church.
Second, we learn that the believers’ communal life was marked with intentional fellowship and genuine love for one another. These passages reveal to us that the believers within the early church have intentionally devoted themselves to fellowship among the saints as they focused together on the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and to prayer. They had everything in common, and they loved each other as they voluntarily sold their possession to help each other’s needs (c.f. Acts 4:32-37).
Therefore, the Scripture teaches us that believers should not live their Christian lives as lone survivors. We need each other to correct our errors (Gal 6:1). We need each other to sharpen one another (Prov.27:17). We need each other to comfort one another (2 Cor. 1:4). We need fellow Christians to walk and grow together in faith (Rom 1:12). McGrow and Speck says well in Is Church Membership Biblical? as they write:
No one can live well alone. People made in the image of the triune God need fellowship. God needs no one. The communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is a fellowship that accepts no supplement and requires no complement. Yet man is needy. He needs God. The God whom he needs and reflects is a being in communion. Part of man’s renewal in God’s image (2 Cor. 5:17) consists in his communion with God and with God’s church. The Christian is created for Christian fellowship with God and with those who are in fellowship with God (Loc. 152-153).
And saints can cultivate such a genuine and sincere fellowship of comfort, challenge, and walk with each other when they sense a kindred relationship with one another. And this relationship can only be formed when fellow brothers and sisters are members of the same local church.
III. Reason#3: Church Membership for Accountability
Lastly, the Scripture teaches that church membership is an absolute necessity for believers because believers need accountability. And while accountability can certainly be established between fellow believers, the Scripture teaches us that all believers must be held accountable by the officers within a local church. In fact, the biblical charge that has been given to the elders of the church is to, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you (1 Peter 5:2).”
Membership in a church, then, is an effective way for elders to ensure the spiritual care of believers within their local congregation. First, membership helps the elders to grasp the number of congregants needing their care administratively. In this way, elders can plan out visitations and other duties according to the need of the members. Second, membership holds the elders accountable for caring for members within the church. As many elders vow to, “Perform faithfully all the duties of the office”, church members have the right to expect proper care from the congregation's elders. Third, membership holds members accountable to the elders. As believers vow to submit themselves to the government and discipline of the church in their membership vow, elders can helpfully and lawfully hold members accountable for their spiritual welfare.
However, non-members of a church can easily miss all these privileges and accountability that come from the elders of a local congregation. This may be acceptable for those who desire privacy within the local congregation. However, Brian Croft warns in his book Biblical Church Revitalization:
What is too common among churches that need revitalization is that the meaning of membership is gradually lost as the backbone in the life of the church… In fact a common mark of dying, divided churches is a feeling of entitlement to privacy that prevents being involved in each other’s lives where we can transparently engage one another as God designed (80).
While Croft’s words primarily address churches, the same truth is equally applicable to believers. Just as a church’s failure to recognize the importance of membership can bring division and decline within churches, the same failure can also bring spiritual division and decline within believers. As such, believers must necessarily become a member of a church to receive proper care and accountability from shepherds within churches.
Joining a Church:
Many people often neglect the importance of church membership. Especially as our world is becoming more consumeristic and nomadic (that is, as people can more easily move from one place to another), church membership appears more as an option than a necessity to people. For example, it is hard for college students who move back and forth from home to school to feel like they should become members of a local congregation they are "temporarily" attending during their school years. It is hard for young men and women to feel like they should become a member of a local congregation when many other churches are around them as "options." It is hard for families to feel like they should become a member of a local congregation when they are attending a mega-church with thousands of people in it.
The pandemic that swept the United States of America also greatly influenced people’s views on church membership. Now that many churches are offering options for “distance” worship, many people are content with watching services in the comfort of their homes rather than within the body of Christ.
Nonetheless, the Scripture teaches us that a believer must become a member of a local congregation. It teaches us that membership within a church is a biblical design for believers' spiritual welfare. As such, I hope this article helped you consider joining a church you are attending if you have not decided to become a member.
Seob Kim is an ordained minister of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church. He is the pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Grove City, PA.
 MCGRAW, RYAN M.; SPECK, RYAN. Is Church Membership Biblical?. Reformation Heritage Books. Kindle Edition.
 Brian Croft, Biblical Church Revitalization: Solutions for Dying & Divided Churches, Revised edition (Christian Focus, 2016).