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At The Salvation Army, we strongly believe that God’s will for believers is that they be committed to the local church. Although you will not find a specific Bible verse commanding church membership directly, the general principles laid throughout the New Testament make a strong case for church membership. Of course, aside from the responsibility of each member to be committed to a local church, there should also be a strong desire to live a life that is in conformity with God’s will that is motivated by a genuine love for Him. Here are some reasons for considering church membership:
- One of the responsibilities of the local church is to hold its members accountable in their spiritual walks. If you are serious about personal holiness then you will become a member at a church (Matt. 18:15-20).
- Most, if not all, of the commands in the New Testament are found in the context of the local church and are to find their application primarily in the local church (e.g. the “one another” commands).
- Scripture calls believers to submit to the authority of the leaders of the church (Heb. 13:17). This can realistically only be practiced in the context of a commitment to the local church.
- The instructions about spiritual giftedness imply church membership. In order for the body to function properly, each member must fulfill its part (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4). God has gifted each member for loving service in His church (1 Cor. 12:14).
- Commitment to the church is an obedience issue and obedience brings glory to God (Heb. 10:23-25).
- The early church practiced a form of membership in that they kept a record of those who were part of their local assemblies (Acts 2; Rom. 16:1).
- Christ Himself keeps a list of true believers (Rev. 20:12-15).
- Paul uses specific metaphors to describe the church, such as a body or a building (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9; Eph. 2:21; and 1 Cor. 12:12-27). The metaphors used to describe the church only make sense in the context of church membership.
- Christ was committed to building His church (Matt. 16:18). Church membership shows true commitment to that which Christ was committed.
Though we would not teach that failure to become a member is a sin, we recognize that the reasons that people give against membership are oftentimes sinful and self-centered. Many people do not want to commit to the local church because they do not want to be held accountable in their walk of faith. This is sad because people would gladly and proudly show their allegiance to other less important things like local sports teams and favorite pastimes. It is unfortunate that many Christians would be willing to sign up for membership to a gym or video store but not to church. This may be due to some bad past experience, but if a church strives to operate under biblical principles and for God’s glory, there is no reason why a believer should not commit to it.