It’s a question that most pastors hear from couples that have chosen to live together before getting married. When challenged with what God’s Word says about their cohabitation, they usually respond with: “Why do we need a piece of paper to say that we love each other?” Technically you don’t. The “piece of paper”, commonly referred to as a marriage license, represents something much greater. A commitment. A commitment before God, in the presence of witnesses that each spouse is entering a covenant relationship based on vows that have been agreed upon.
Many Christians condemn cohabitation between couples while at the same time condoning cohabitation with the church.
At the root of cohabitation is a selfish desire to have the benefits of marriage without the responsibilities that come with them. Each Sunday in our country, thousands of church-goers attend churches they’ve attended for years enjoying the benefits of ministry without the responsibility of ministering to anybody else in return. And the sad part is, their consumer mindset towards church is only allowing them to experience a fraction of what God wants them to experience in His church.
In an era during which commitment has become less important and cohabitation more common, our church strongly encourages membership for the following reasons…
6 REASONS TO COMMIT TO A LOCAL CHURCH
1. It’s biblical. Evidences of local church membership can be seen in the NT where a numerical count was taken of those that professed faith in Christ (Acts 2:37-47), where deacons were selected to address specific needs (Acts 6:1-6), where church discipline was practiced (1 Cor. 5:1-12), where the use of spiritual gifts by members for ministry is encouraged (1 Cor. 12) and where boundaries for benevolence were set (1 Tim. 5:3-13). We also see that letters were written to believers committed to local churches (Colossae, Ephesus, etc.) and elders were charged with shepherding the specific group entrusted to them (Acts 20:29-30; 1 Pet. 5:2). God promises to bless us when we prioritize what matters to Him (James 1:22-25). There’s enough evidence in His Word indicating church membership matters to Him.
2. It enables the church to conduct its business in an orderly fashion. In Hebrews 13:17, the author of Hebrews commands believers to “obey your leaders and submit to them” because they will “give an account” for your soul. If there is no biblical requirement for church membership, then how do believers know which leaders to submit to and how do leaders know which believers they are accountable for? Church membership helps you know which leaders you are accountable to and the leaders to know which sheep they are accountable for.
3. It’s a commitment to come under elder protection. The NT teaches that when we place ourselves under authority, we are submitting to God and coming under His protection (Rom. 13:1; Eph. 5: 22-24; Heb. 13:17). When you commit to a church, the elders in turn commit to care for you; pray for you and help you reach your full potential in Christ.
4. It unites the church behind one vision and set of doctrinal beliefs. We’ve all heard horror stories of church splits that sound like something out of a reality TV show or soap opera. Two common causes of church splits that I have observed over the years are division over doctrine and disagreement about vision or direction. Local churches with a healthy membership process are less likely to experience a painful split because the members have all agreed on the vision and doctrine of the church. (Prov. 29:18; Eph. 4:3-6)
5. It insures that those within the core of the church have actually made a profession of faith. Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 to be on the lookout for “wolves in sheep’s clothing” that would infiltrate the church lead others astray. Membership decreases the likelihood of this happening by requiring potential members to share their Christian testimony with church leaders before they gain influence in the body.
6. It represents a public commitment to be faithful. Similar to a wedding ceremony and vows, membership publicly affirms your desire to love, serve and persevere with the church just as you would a spouse. Research has shown that Christians who commit to membership serve more, grow more and stay in the church longer.
Is the Lord telling you it’s time to get serious and stop dating His church? Then perhaps you should study these Scriptures yourself and prayerfully consider church membership. You can learn more about membership at Vanguard by signing up our next Catalyst Membership Class.