Church membership is important. The Bible never suggests in the least that believers are independent from one another. Rather, again and again the Bible teaches that each of God’s people are individually members of one another, just as our bodies are made up of various limbs and organs: “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another” (Rom. 12:4–5).
There is a sense in which the Bible speaks of the “church” in its universal, invisible sense that it stretches across time and through every tribe, language, people, and nation (e.g., Eph. 1:22; Col. 1:18; Rev. 5:9–10). But there it is also the sense of the word “church” that refers to individual, local, visible congregations—many of which were so local that they met in single houses (e.g., Rom. 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Cor. 1:1; Col. 4:15; Phile. 2).
These congregations have a clear sense of who is a member, and who is not. This aspect of church membership is painfully clear in the passages that talk about excommunicating unrepentant sinners from membership in the church (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:1–13; 1 John 2:19), and in the passages about welcoming repentant sinners back into the membership of the church (e.g., 2 Cor. 2:4–10). It is impossible to remove someone from membership if that person has never been a member, and restoration to membership is meaningless apart from a formal membership process. Moreover, several Biblical commands are impossible apart from local church membership (e.g., Gal. 6:10; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:5).
The Bible never at any point suggests that a Christian may be a member of the universal, invisible church without also being a member of a local, visible church. Some have observed that the Bible never explicitly instructs us how we should become members of local, visible churches; however, the Bible also never explicitly instructs us how a man and a woman get married. Of course, the Bible clearly understands that there is a difference between the married and unmarried. The same thing is true for members and non-members of a church.
At Harvest, we strongly encourage church membership so that (1) the church can be blessed with the gifts that Jesus has entrusted to each individual in our midst, and (2) each individual can receive the shepherding that Jesus commands for his sheep. For as long as you are here, we hope that you will be blessed by, and a blessing to, the other members of Harvest.
If you are interested in learning more about membership at Harvest or watching videos of our Inquirer’s class, click here.