foundation truth

lesson 13 - Church membership

Every true believer in Christ must consider the question of church membership. Many times church membership is looked upon negatively for various reasons. Here is what the Scriptures have to say about this subject.

WERE THERE RECORDS OF MEMBERSHIP IN THE EARLY CHURCH?

The Gospels and the Book of Acts give evidence of early church membership. The disciples of Jesus and the early believers were numbered and accounted for.

  • Jesus chose 12 Apostles, named and numbered. Luke 6:12-16
  • Jesus later chose 70 other disciples. Luke 10:1-2
  • Over 500 brethren saw Jesus in His ascension. I Corinthians 15:3-6
  • Before Pentecost, 120 disciples gathered in the Upper Room. Acts 1:15. “The number of names was about 120.”
  • On the day of Pentecost and afterward, multitudes were brought to Christ and His Church.
  • “There were added unto them [the 120 diciples] about 3000 souls.” Acts 2:41, 47
  • About 5000 believed when Peter and John healed the lame man. Acts 4:4.
  • The number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem. Acts 6:7
  • There are at least 10,000 believers accounted for in these Scriptures.

HOW DOES ONE BECOME A MEMBER OF CHRIST’S CHURCH?

There are two aspects to church membership in the book of Acts.

  • Spiritual membership.

One cannot join Christ’s church like joining a club. Acts 5:13. In the Early Church, the members were added (Greek
“prostitherni”: to put to, to add, or to place beside) to the Lord. Acts 5:14, 11:24

One must be joined in spirit, by the Holy Spirit, to the Lord to be added to the church, universal and spiritual. This is of first and primary importance! I Corinthians 6:17

  • Practical membership.

There must also be a visible and practical expression of church membership as seen in Acts. This was practiced by the early Christians in belonging to “the church local.” Acts 2:41, 47.

  • “Added to the Lord” – Acts 5:14; 11:24
  • “Added to them” – Acts 2:41
  • “Added to the Church” – Acts 2:47

One can have church membership in any local church or denomination, but it is important to be added to the Lord first. Otherwise, church membership is of no spiritual value. However, a practical expression of membership is evidenced by one’s being added to the local church Acts 2:27.

Acts 2:37-38 lays down the standard and evidence for New Testament Church membership. These have never changed. These evidences are tangible and visible.

IS IT SCRIPTURAL TO HAVE SOME KIND OF CHURCH ROLL OR RECORDS?

Yes! Both the Old Testament and New Testament refer to books where the names of God’s people were recorded. It would be impossible to take care of God’s people if no one knew where they lived, or if they
belonged to some other local church.

  • Old Testament.
    • The Israelites had their names in the Books of Genealogy. They were numbered before the Lord. Numbers 1-2
    • The Levites were also numbered before the Lord before they could minister in the priestly offices. Numbers 3
    • Everyone numbered in Israel had to be redeemed with silver. Exodus 30:11-16
    • The remnant from Babylon had to be registered in order to minister in the priesthood. Ezra 2:62-63; Nehemiah 7
  • New Testament.
    • The Church of the Firstborn have their names written in heaven. Hebrews 12:22-24
    • The redeemed of all ages have their names written in the Book of Life. Philippians 4:3; Revelation 13:8, 20:12-15, 21:27

God keeps records! God keeps the names and numbers of the saints in His roll! Since God Himself does this, there is no problem with us doing likewise! God knows who is in His book and who is not.

NOTE: Legal requirements stipulate that proper records of membership be kept in relation to church funds, holding of property, taxes, etc. There cannot be an invisible, mystical method of record-keeping!

WHY DO MANY PEOPLE REJECT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?

Various reasons may be mentioned:

  • Are afraid of being hurt
  • Are afraid of Legalism
  • Do not believe it is Scriptural
  • Are not submissive in spirit
  • Desire to be self-governing, self-directing, lawless
  • Do not want to support the church financially with tithes and offerings
  • Do not desire to come under correction, discipline, or protection
  • Do not want to be committed to anything local or visible

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ADVANTAGES OF PRACTICAL CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?

  • Security – The family of God brings protection from “wolves”
  • Fellowship – a sense of belonging; company
  • Spiritual nourishment of the Word
  • Discipline – correction if necessary
  • Ministry of life – healing and health by members of the Body
  • Communion table – resurrection life
  • Love – care and concern in a practical way by the oversight of spiritual leaders

We cannot expect to receive the blessings and benefits of the Lord’s Church when we are not willing to be committed to the responsibilities of membership! Membership may be transferred to other local
churches if one move.

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About the Author: Dr. Dale Yerton

Dr. Yerton serves as an overseer of a network of churches across the world. What began as a network of six church groups representing 500 churches in Mexico has grown into an international ministry. 

He and Evelyn, his wife over fifty years, live in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. They have two daughters: Lora–married to the Rev. Vince Farrell, pastors of Journey Church in Hopkinsville, Kentucky–and Kari—also of Hopkinsville–and are the proud grandparents of Emma and Bennett Farrell.

Dale Yerton