Join the Family!

What is church membership?

In Jonathan Leeman’s book, “Church Membership,” Leeman defines church membership as “a formal relationship between a church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.”

In other words, joining a church is a mutual agreement. The church affirms your citizenship in the kingdom of God and you submit yourself to the care and accountability of the church.

Church membership is so much more than what we’ve made it! Our Christian walk was never meant to be lived in isolation.

Church is family. Church is service. Church is mission. So when you join a church, you’re joining a family that will love and care for you as well as give you opportunity to love and care for others. You’re submitting to genuine Christian accountability that will help encourage and strengthen your walk with Christ. You’re joining a mission that will equip you to be a soldier in the fight for reaching the lost world with the Gospel of Jesus.

At Fellowship, we believe that salvation and baptism by immersion are necessary pre-requisites for church membership.

Why church membership?

1. In joining a church you make visible your commitment to Christ and his people.

Membership is one way to raise the flag of faith. You state before God and others that you are part of this local body of believers. It’s easy to talk in glowing terms about the invisible church-the body of all believers near and far, living and dead-but it’s in the visible church that God expects you to live out your faith.

Sometimes I think that we wouldn’t all be clamoring for community if we had actually experienced it. Real fellowship is hard work, because most people are a lot like us-selfish, petty, and proud. But that’s the body God calls us to.

How many of Paul’s letters were written to individuals? Only a handful, and these were mostly to pastors. The majority of his letters were written to a local body of believers. We see the same thing in Revelation. Jesus spoke to individual congregations in places like Smyrna, Sardis, and Laodicea. The New Testament knows no Christians floating around in “just me and Jesus” land. Believers belong to churches.

2. Making a commitment makes a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture.

Many high school football teams require more of their members than our churches. Where this is true, the church is a sad reflection of its culture. Ours is a consumer culture were everything is tailored to meet our needs and satisfy our preferences. When those needs aren’t met, we can always move on to the next product, or job, or spouse.

Joining a church in such an environment makes a counter-cultural statement. It says “I am committed to this group of people and they are committed to me. I am here to give, more than get.”

Even if you will only be in town for a few years, it’s still not a bad idea to join a church. It lets your previous church know that you are being cared for, and it lets your present know that you want to be cared for here.

But it’s not just about being cared for, it’s about making a decision and sticking with it-something this generation, with its oppressive number of choices, finds difficult. We prefer to date the church-have her around for special events, take her out when life feels lonely, and keep her around for a rainy day. Membership is one way to stop dating churches, and marrying one.

3. We can be overly independent.

In the West, it’s one of the best and worst thing about us. We are free spirits and critical thinkers. We get an idea and run with it. But whose running with us? And are any of us running in the same direction? Membership states in a formal way, “I am part of something bigger than myself. I am not just one of three hundred individuals. I am part of a body.”

4. Church membership keeps us accountable.

When we join a church we are offering ourselves to one another to be encouraged, rebuked, corrected, and served. We are placing ourselves under leaders and submitting to their authority (Heb. 13:7). We are saying, “I am here to stay. I want to help you grow in godliness. Will you help me to do the same?”

Mark Dever, in his book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, writes, Church membership is our opportunity to grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the pastors and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We allow fellow believers to have great expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the responsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve and encourage as well.

5. Joining the church will help your pastor and elders be more faithful shepherds.

Hebrews 13:7 says “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” That’s your part as “laypeople”. Here’s our part as leaders: “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” At Fellowship, we take very seriously our responsibility before God to watch care for souls. This is hard enough to do as churches grow, but it’s even harder when we don’t know who is really a part of this flock.

To give just one example, we try to be diligent in following up with people who haven’t been at our church for a while. This is a challenge. But if you never become a member, we can’t tell if you are really gone, because we might not be sure if you were ever here! It’s nearly impossible for the pastors to shepherd the flock when they don’t know who really considers them their shepherds.

6. Joining the church gives you an opportunity to make promises.

When someone becomes a member of Fellowship Church, he makes promises to pray, give, serve, attend worship, accept the spiritual guidance of the church, obey its teachings, and seek the things that make for unity, purity, and peace. We ought not to make these promises lightly. They are solemn vows. And we must hold each other to them. If you don’t join the church, you miss an opportunity to publicly make these promises, inviting the pastors and the rest of the body to hold you to these promises-which would be missing out on great spiritual benefit, for you, your leaders, and the whole church.

Membership matters more than most people think. If you really want to be a counter-cultural revolutionary, join your local church.

What do church members commit to?

1. Commit to Pray

The Bible encourages believers to pray for each other. In James 5:16, it says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Praying for one another fosters a sense of unity and solidarity within the church. It shows that members care for each other’s well-being and spiritual growth. Members of Fellowship commit to pray for one another.

2. Commit to Participate

Faithful church attendance is commanded in Hebrews 10, but participation is more than just attendance. According to 1 Corinthians 12, participation as a church member should resemble the interconnectedness of the human body. Just as various body parts have unique functions yet work together for the overall well-being of the body, so should church members utilize their individual gifts and talents for the collective benefit of the church community and mission. Each member should recognize their role, whether it’s teaching, serving, showing compassion, or any other gift, and actively contribute to the church’s mission in harmony with others. Every member is indispensable, and together, they form a unified body, reflecting the love and grace of Christ and living out the great commission he gave to make disciples. Members of Fellowship commit to meaningful participation.

3. Commit to Abide

Abiding in Christ means allowing His Word to fill our minds, direct our wills, and transform our affections. In other words, our relationship to Christ is intimately connected to what we do with our Bibles! Then, of course, as Christ’s Word dwells in us and the Spirit fills us, we will begin to pray in a way consistent with the will of God and discover the truth of our Lord’s often misapplied promise, “You will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Members of Fellowship commit to abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit, allowing Him to sanctify and mature us into faithful followers.

4. Commit to Give

2 Corinthians 9:7 states, “Each person should give as they have decided in their heart, not reluctantly or out of compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Giving should never be a result of coercion; it should always flow from a heart filled with gratitude for what God has done in our lives. The Bible teaches that the tithe belongs to God and is defined as a tenth of our first fruits. We believe that cheerful giving begins with returning to God what He has designated as His own. Tithing should not be a mere religious obligation we fulfill, but rather a faithful response from a convinced heart that God’s way is the best way. However, cheerful giving goes beyond the tithe; it is grounded in generosity. Thus, it is not about fulfilling a religious requirement, but about expressing our gratitude and worship by letting go of something that has become an idol for many. Members of Fellowship commit to generosity and cheerful giving.

5. Commit to Serve

Giving encompasses more than just monetary contributions. We firmly believe that every Christian has a divine calling to serve within the church. The Bible unequivocally instructs that all members of Christ’s body possess a unique role to fulfill. Each individual has been endowed with diverse talents, spiritual gifts, life experiences, and passions. God has intricately woven these elements into your life to enable you to serve Him and His church. At Fellowship, our members commit to discern their specific place within the church and faithfully contribute their service to the body of believers.

6. Commit to Accept Accountability

A heart that’s truly been changed by God desires to walk in holiness and righteousness, but even the apostle Paul wrestled with sin. Jesus talked about the need to deal ruthlessly with sin in our lives. Matthew 18:8-9 says, “If your hand or your foot causes you to fall away, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to fall away, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hellfire.” That’s some extreme advice from Jesus! The point is that we should hate sin so much that we are willing to do whatever’s necessary to rid ourselves from it. That’s where real accountability comes in. We need one another to help keep us on the road to faithful obedience. We have an enemy that’s out to kill, steal, and destroy. The world hates righteousness. And, we have a flesh that wants to sin. If we really understand what’s against us and agree with Jesus that sin is deadly, we’ll welcome any help we can get. Accountability isn’t always pleasant, but it’s needed. Members of Fellowship commit to give and receive accountability with love and grace.

7. Commit to Seek Unity

1 Corinthians 1:10 underscores the vital importance of unity within the church. The apostle Paul urges believers to be of the same mind and judgment, emphasizing the need for harmony and agreement among members. Unity in the church is essential because it fosters a cohesive and loving community that can effectively carry out its mission to spread the gospel and demonstrate Christ’s love to the world. When we are united in purpose and focus on our common faith rather than divisions or personal differences, the church becomes a powerful force for good, drawing others to Christ through its example of love, grace, and shared purpose. Members of Fellowship commit to lay aside personal preference and vindication for the sake of Gospel-centered unity.