This is the 2nd post on why I think you should give serious consideration to joining a church. When ideas or words aren’t mentioned in the bible, sometimes there’s a reason they’re not mentioned. But other times, just because something is not mentioned specifically, or verbatim, does not mean that its not a good idea. In fact, it might be something quite biblical. Such I think is the case with church membership; the concept is quite biblical.
While there is nowhere in the bible that says, “You need to join a church,” I think there is a reason for it. It is assumed that the individual believer already has or is commanded to have such a “membership-type” relationship with a local church.
Here are some passages describing this relationship:
- The elders are commanded to watch over the individual as a shepherd, willingly, not selfishly out for gain or power (I Peter).
- The individual and family if applicable is to “respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work (I Thess 5:12-13)”
- Hebrews 13:7 has to say about this relationship: “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.”
Whether these people “joined a church” by going through a membership class or not is irrelevant. They were instructed to have this type of relationship with the elders of a local church. And the elders, were to have this type of relationship with them.
So you really can’t play the “its not in the bible card.” It’s not healthy to fail to be in submission to elders. If you are going to wander away from the truth, the faith, or live in sin, harm your spouse, who is going to come after you? Yourself? To think you’re incapable of this is rooted in pride, not to mention ludicrosity.
Now I know there are some elders who are yahoos. And I know there are elders that probably aren’t even believers; we have them in our denomination too, unfortunately. And you may have been burned by some church leaders and are justifiably slow to pull the trigger. And I hate this for you.
But if they are acting legalistically or unbiblically, you don’t have to follow that command. And they will be judged harshly for doing so. That’s quite sobering, and something our lead pastor reminds the elders. But the failure of one party, doesn’t preclude the responsibility and blessing for the other party to be faithful. Same thing with government (Rom 13) and marriage (Eph 5). We submit as to the Lord.
In conclusion, does the bible promote church membership? It promotes these type of lovingly, respectful, submissive relationships where leaders serve the needs of the sheep. That’s what people affirm when they join a PCA church, and a number of other different Reformed churches.
“Do you promise to submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church, and to study its purity and peace?”