Church Membership

Text: 1 Corinthians 12:27

The term “church membership” is not used in the New Testament, but the concept is certainly taught (1 Corinthians 12:14-30). In this lesson, we will consider the topic of church membership by asking three questions. (1) What is church membership? (2) How do we become members? (3) What are members to do?

What is Church Membership?

  • Two ways in which the church is talked about in the NT (universal and local) – all Christians are members of the universal church (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Acts 2:47); all Christians should be members of a local church (1 Corinthians 12:27; Acts 9:26)
  • Local church membership is being a member of a local body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:20)
  • More than just attending – assemblies are open; everyone, even non-Christians, are welcome (1 Corinthians 14:23-24)
  • More than just a listing in a directory – every church directory includes many non-members (family, former members, others); purpose is simply a contact list
  • Church membership is about being part of the function and purpose of the body – we all have different ways in which we can contribute (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18-19, 27-30); all contributions are important (1 Corinthians 12:15-17, 21-24)

How Do We Become Members of a Local Church?

  • First, we have to be members of the universal body of Christ (Acts 9:17-18; 22:16) – local churches are “of Christ” (Romans 16:16); we become “of Christ” by being baptized in His name (1 Corinthians 1:12-13; Acts 2:38, 41, 47)
  • Second, we should indicate a desire to “join…the disciples” (Acts 9:26, KJV)
  • Third, we need to be accepted by the church (Acts 9:26) – the brethren in Jerusalem were not wrong for initially refusing to accept Saul; we cannot welcome just anyone into fellowship (Ephesians 5:11; 2 John 10-11); accept those that we know (Acts 9:26), those that can be vouched for by one of the members (Acts 9:27), and those who come with “letters of commendation” (2 Corinthians 3:2)
  • Question about whether a “formal” declaration of intent is necessary for membership – commonly done where one’s membership is not declared, but understood; not completely without Scriptural precedent, at least by implication (1 Peter 5:2-3); membership is about being part of a body and working together (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:16); but a lack of a formal declaration does potentially lead to confusion as to who makes up the flock (1 Peter 5:2; Acts 20:28)

What Are Members to Do?

  • Attend (Hebrews 10:24-25) – when the church assembles, we should plan to be here
  • Contribute (1 Corinthians 16:2; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7) – only way the church raises funds
  • Participate (Ephesians 4:16) – many things we can do to participate in the work
  • Submit (Hebrews 13:17) – ideally, these will be elders (1 Peter 5:2); in the absence of elders, the men of the congregation should lead (1 Timothy 2:12)
  • Give input (Acts 6:1-6) – the elders or men of the church will make decisions, but all can give input
  • Evangelize (Acts 8:4) – responsibility of each one of us to do what we can
  • Edify (Hebrews 3:12-13; 10:24-25) – the church is a self-edifying body (Ephesians 4:16); we each play a part
  • Care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25) – “Be devoted to one another…” (Romans 12:10-13)
  • Be held accountable (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20)


  • Local church membership is important
  • We need to work together as one body in the Lord’s cause

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