1. Membership in a local church is assumed by the New Testament because without church membership, pastors and church leaders would not know for whom God holds them accountable to teach and mentor in the Christian faith: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Heb 13:17). The Apostle Peter commands pastors to “shepherd the flock of God that is among you” (1 Pet 5:2). But if a pastor does not know who belongs to the church and who does not, how can he keep watch over them? A good shepherd knows who his sheep are as Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). The Apostle Paul says to the elders at Ephesus, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God” (Acts 20:28). Church membership allows the leaders of the church and its members to care for and pray for one another as members of a common body.
2. Church membership gives you the opportunity to use your spiritual gifts to build up the local church. Ministry is not just for pastors, but is the work of the whole church as Paul says: “To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Eph 4:12). We are commanded to meet together on a regular basis for doing good works and encouraging each other: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:24-25).
3. Church discipline in the New Testament assumes church membership. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, the Apostle Paul commands the Corinthian Church to remove an unrepentant sinner from among them. That person had to be a member of the church in Corinth first before he could be removed. This also assumes the practice of church voting as Paul says later, “For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough” (2 Cor 2:6). But all are welcome to attend the gatherings of the local church since Paul also says, “But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you” (1 Cor 14:24-26).
4. The local church is also a family of people who love each other and care for one another (1 Tim 3:5). Family membership assumes that each member of the family knows each other by name and that they are part of a common group. Local church members know who is a member and who is not as implied by Paul’s statement, “If, therefore, the whole church comes together” (1 Cor 14:23). The “whole church” implies a specific number of people who are known to one another. Paul tells the Corinthians concerning the Lord’s supper, “When you come together to eat, wait for one another” (1 Cor 11:33). It would be impossible for the Corinthians to obey Paul’s command if they did not know who was a part of their local church. If you are not a member of a church, then you have less of an incentive to be invested in the church and give financially to the building of God’s kingdom. 1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.” You cannot love the brothers of Christ if you are never with them as part of a local church. If you have no desire to be with Christ’s brothers, then you are lost according to this verse.
5. Church membership shows your visible commitment to the gospel and Christ’s church. Being a member of a church demonstrates to the world your investment in the kingdom of God. Church membership keeps us accountable to one another as well as placing us under the protection and discipline of other Christians. As Christians, we are also commanded to be baptized in obedience to Christ’s command (Matt 28:19-20; Acts 2:41). If you are not a member of a local church or have not been baptized, you should speak with a pastor or any of the leaders of the church.