What Does the Bible Say About Church Membership?

A group of Christians meeting in a church foyer to discuss church membership

By Jenny Marcelene

One in four adults who regularly attend church often mix attending online with in-person attendance. 

Twenty-three percent of churchgoers bounce from church to church—and Millienials (ages 25–40) rank highest in this church-jumping habit.

While this may seem like a modern take on church membership, this could reveal a misunderstanding of God’s design for the church and the potential outcome when church membership isn’t rightly valued.

Our views on church membership—whether we realize it or not—impact our role in magnifying God’s name to the world. 

Our lives reflect our understanding of our role and responsibility to a local church. 

If we scan the Bible, we won’t find any mention of church membership. 

But woven throughout the pages of Scripture is a pattern of rooting ourselves in biblical community with a local body of believers to magnify God.

The church is a melting pot of people coming together from all backgrounds, economic statuses, ages, and ethnicities with the common denominator of Christ. 

When Christians with no reason to invest in each other’s lives beyond Jesus intentionally care for each other and people outside the church—even in small ways—this magnifies the gospel.

The local church exists to glorify the Lord in everything, and church membership is how believers labor together to accomplish this. 

But to understand the value and challenges of being a church member, we must first understand its nature.

A Christian man and woman greeting people at a church and handing out information about church membership

Roots Of Church Membership

In our modern culture, we sometimes view church membership as optional1—like whether or not to continue a Costco membership or to add vision coverage to our insurance policy.

But church membership isn’t something we can opt into or out of as followers of Jesus. 

When we became believers, God “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves” (Col 1:13 HCSB).  

When we place our faith in the Lord, we become citizens of God’s kingdom (Phil 3:20), where Jesus is King (Rv 17:14). 

And Jesus will one day return to usher in His kingdom for all eternity, but He has already started to bring His kingdom here on earth. 

We—the Church—are a part of this kingdom.

Jesus instructed His followers to make disciples of all nations because “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18 HCSB).  

Christians have the honor of proclaiming the gospel and watching God’s kingdom grow because we’re “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20). 

Since we’re already citizens of this heavenly kingdom, our responsibility is to proclaim our King near and far (Eph 2:17) as His royal representatives here on Earth.

A group of Christian women gathering and greeting each other with hugs and smiles

Unpacking Church Membership

While all believers are a part of the universal Church of Jesus, our local church becomes an essential tool for deepening our faith and spurring us toward the ways of the Lord. 

When Paul or Jesus wrote a letter to a fellowship regarding sin (1 Cor 5:9–13; Rv 2:12–29), they addressed the letter to the entire church because every member ought to point each other toward repentance and godly living.

When we bounce around from fellowship to fellowship, people can’t follow the rhythm of our spiritual lives, and we miss out on the responsibility (and joy!) of serving our brothers and sisters. 

We can’t carry others’ burdens or share in their joys if we’re not regularly attending a specific church. Our faces aren’t familiar, and we miss out on the storyline of our local church. 

The early church in the book of Acts was characterized by unity (Acts 4:32) and generosity in meeting the needs of other Christians (Acts 2:45; 11:29). 

The believers’ love for God overflowed in how they prioritized the rhythm of their lives alongside fellow church members:

  • Boldly proclaiming Jesus (Acts 4:33; 10:35; 11:22; 15:17; 16:6–10)
  • Using individual gifts to serve fellow church members and magnify God (Acts 6:2–3, 11:22) 
  • Discipling one another in the Lord (Acts 11:25; 16:3)
  • Sending out qualified individuals to take the gospel to new places (Acts 13:2–3; 14:21)
A group of Christian men and women gathering to pray around one Christian woman

The greatest biblical command is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37–38 HCSB). 

God designed biblical community to recalibrate our lives to Scripture by the grace of God alone so that we can love God wholly.

However, following Jesus together with church members can present its own difficulties. 

Looking back to the early church in Acts, we can see how they navigated a cascade of challenges:

  • Caring for the overlooked (Acts 6:1)
  • An increasing ministry load (Acts 2:47; 5:14; 6:1; 10:45; 11:21)
  • Lying and criticism (Acts 5:9, 11:1–18)
  • A discrepancy in ministry direction (Acts 15:39)
  • Correcting false or mistaken teaching (Acts 15:2)

And this is merely an overview of the challenges the church faced. 

If we think our church has problems, so did the first churches.

In the midst of difficulties, God uses church relationships to showcase His worthiness to the world, push us beyond our comfort zones, cultivate holiness, and learn how to navigate conflicts in godly ways. 

A group of Christian men and women excited about church membership

Committing Ourselves To A Local Church

At the heart of biblical community is the glory of God—all God is, made known and ceaselessly exalted.2

As we align our hearts with the greatness of God together, we grow in holiness and join in the building of God’s kingdom.

To step away from the local church is to lose the very means God intends to keep us reflecting His glory to those who don’t know Him. 

Isolation makes us vulnerable to the attack of the enemy. There’s a reason a shepherd goes after one lost sheep (Mt 18:12)—she’s in grave danger.

When we surround ourselves with others who are committed to pursuing Christ above all else, our faith is sharpened, and we fulfill our God-given purpose of reflecting the Lord in all we do and glorifying His name together. 

God created each one of us to serve the church collectively for His glory (Rom 12:4–6). 

As we give of our time, energy, and resources as faithful church members, we deepen our faith, combat the lies of the evil one, and showcase God’s greatness. 

Jenny Marcelene

Jenny Marcelene is a freelance writer and editor. She has a passion for God’s greatness to be made known around the globe. With a background in biblical languages, Jenny relishes plunging into the depths of the Bible and sharing these jewels from Scripture through writing. You can connect with her online by visiting her website or on Instagram.

1Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, Jonathan Leeman.

2 Credit to my husband for coining this simple, but precise definition of God’s glory.

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