I believe membership in our church is no small matter.
Church members, just as a body, are reflections and extensions of who the church is. Therefore no church should take membership lightly, rather it should be a slow but steady process to equip the saints for the work of ministry among the community God has placed us.
A helpful parallel comes into view when thinking about the importance of church membership, marriage.
In a marriage ceremony a man and a woman both enter the ceremony as separate entities and leave as two people in “union.” They do this “publicly” before God and the Church so that the Church can hold them accountable for their promises made. A similar principle applies to the importance of church membership. “Just as a couple profess their love before God and the church so too a person stands before God and the church to profess faith in Christ and commitment to His Body.” (J.V. Fesko) But, just as there is more to a marriage than public vows to one another, so too church membership is more than a mere public profession of faith and commitment to the community.
When a person joins a Christian church that person is not only telling the world that they are a Christian, but they are telling the church leadership they are willing to submit to their spiritual oversight and guidance. To come back to the marriage parallel, the man who attends a church but never joins is like a man living with a woman and never committing to her through marriage. People who do this think they are leaving themselves free of “responsibility” by never completely committing to someone else. This is sinful. It is a cop-out. Should we think any differently about church membership? The person who attends church and never joins is doing a similarly tragic thing. They may think they’re keeping themselves free from responsibility but what they don’t see is that they’re cutting themselves off from the very things God has intended to communicate His grace toward them – the local church.
Don’t hear me saying what I’m not.
Most people take time to find a spouse, for others a spouse comes quickly. Most people take time to find a church they can give their lives to, but for some it doesn’t take much time at all. Just as the end goal of a relationship should be marriage, not shallow recreation, so too the end goal of church visiting is membership. In this sense it is the destination that matters more than the journey.