God wants every Christian to belong in membership to a local church. It is impossible to obey the New Testament commands without meaningful church membership. Unfortunately, we live in a society that abuses the word commitment. Many have a hard time committing to a marriage, a job, and even our country! This view of commitment has even spilled over into the church. We have seen the last several decades of how church consumerism has produced generations of church shoppers and hoppers. Many professing Christians are not committed in biblical ways to their local churches.
In his book, I Am A Church Member, Dr. Thom Rainer writes that many see a commitment to a local church no different from how they would see a contract at the local fitness gym. Many gyms offer a low-risk, no commitment plan. The only expectations to be a member at this kind of gym are to pay your dues, and follow the rules. There is no accountability or even expectations. Sadly, this is how many Christians treat their membership in their local churches. Many think they are just called to “pay their dues and follow the rules.” May this attitude never be named amongst us. If so, I pray that God’s people would repent from such unbiblical thinking of church membership.
Dr. Rainer writes, “God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks. He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.”1
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.”2
What are some biblical commitments that the Bible speaks of for church members? None of these commitments can be made apart from a proper understanding of the gospel. The gospel, therefore, is the foundation for each commitment. If Jesus was so committed to the church, then His people should follow His example. Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” – Ephesians 5:25-27
1. A church member makes a commitment to be faithful in attendance.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-26
In order for us to be a church, we must have people who faithfully prioritize corporate worship. When we gather to worship we proclaim to the world what is most important to us. This does not mean that families can’t take vacations or escape on a weekend getaway. It does mean, however, that priorities are in order and no other activity supersedes worship with God’s people. You cannot be a committed church member if you neglect faithfully worshipping God with God’s people. When we gather we proclaim by our presence that Jesus is King. Attendance is also crucial at church business meetings. We must be faithful in caring for what happens in our church and celebrate the blessings God has given us.
2. A church member makes a commitment to obey and study the Word of God.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” – Acts 2:42
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17:11
The word of God must be preached to God’s people. However, that is not where it ends. God’s people must make a commitment to obey and study the Word that was preached. It is every church member’s responsibility to take the Word of God seriously, not only in corporate worship, but also in private study. Being a church member means that you will commit yourself to receiving the preached Word of God, and obeying it’s commands. We cannot be a church unless we have a high commitment to the Bible. We cannot be a church that God will bless unless we have members who take this commitment seriously. It is through this commitment that we make that ensure that the gospel is preserved and not perverted by false teachers. A church member knows the Bible and understands what is sound doctrine.
3. A church member makes a commitment to love other members.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” – Romans 12:10-13
A church member does not belong to an organization. A church member belongs to other church members. The church is organic in nature. This is why the Apostle Paul describes the church as the Body of Christ. We belong to one another, and therefore, have a responsibility toward one another. We must lovingly care for one another in sacrificial ways. If we can’t “do good” to one another, how could we “do good” to those who do not belong to us? Church members must be observant, caring, and action-oriented when it comes to loving others in the church.
4. A church member makes a commitment to love others outside the church.
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:5-6
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
Church members do not belong to an exclusive club or fraternity. We must always be wise towards those who do not know Christ. We have a responsibility to share the gospel with every man, woman, and child living in our community and beyond. We must use our time, resources, and energies well so that everyone can hear about the Lord Jesus Christ. Church members commit themselves to the proclamation of the gospel. A church member must commit to the very thing that Jesus instructed the church to do — make disciples. A church member should be one who is being discipled, and one who is discipling others.
5. A church member makes a commitment to pray for their pastor and leaders in their local church.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.” Hebrews 13:17-18
God has given pastors to churches to equip God’s people to do the work of ministry. Pastors bear much responsibility for the oversight and care of the church. However, church members also have a responsibility toward their pastors. This passage commands church members to allow their leaders to serve them “with joy and not with groaning.” Church members have the responsibility to daily pray for their pastors as they serve the church and the Lord. The enemy is on the attack, and our pastors need all the help they can get.
6. A church member makes a commitment to be accountable to one another.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” – Galatians 6:1
Church members are called to submit to one another in accountable relationships. We must be willing to walk with one another through the good times and bad. Paul commanded the Galatians to restore those members who were caught up in sin. Church members understand that the gospel compels them to live vulnerable for the sake of Christ. Unconfessed and public sin will bring ruin to the sinner, the church, and the name of Christ. We must be accountable to each other, and allow for others to speak into our lives. There is no such thing as a privatized faith in a gospel-centered church. These relationships are not for condemnation, but for encouragement, strength, and perseverance. The Bible says that Christians must be responsible for one another.
7. A church member makes a commitment to the financial responsibilities of one local church.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7
Church members know that they must share in the financial responsibilities of their church. They must sacrificially and willingly give as God has blessed them. A commitment is made to do so for the sake of the gospel and the salvation of peoples both far and near. Every year, at the church’s annual business meeting, the church members approve an annual church budget. A vote of affirmation for this budget is also a vote to give toward it as God has blessed each church member. These monies joined together pay the church’s operating expenses, ministry, missions, and proclamation of the Word both far and near. A church member commits to give for the glory of God through his local church.
Conclusion: We must have a church that is committed to living out biblical principles of commitment expressed through church membership. As a member you are indicating that you have made a decision of commitment. I ask that you will soak in the truths of this article and pray and consider what kind of member you are. If you are not a member, I pray that you will see the biblical need for a commitment to a local church through church membership.
Watch this short video from 9 Marks on what membership in a local church is all about.
(1) Rainer, Dr. Thom, I Am A Church Member, Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2013, Print, page 6
(2) Dever, Mark, 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004, Print