Five years ago, just after I started this blog, I wrote a post called “Church members…” I was just beginning to examine the common modern practice of church membership, and was beginning to recognize that this practice often works to separate from brothers and sisters from one another. I’ve written several other posts about being a member of the church since this post. You can check the category “members” if you’re interested in reading more.
I’ve read several blogs recently concerning church membership and baptism. Most of the studies that I have read treat the subject from church history – especially baptist history. What happens when we study church membership from a biblical perspective? As I’ve studied various passages, a couple of questions come to mind:
1) How many churches are there? Certainly there are thousands of groups who call themselves a church. But, from God’s perspective, how many churches are there? I think there is only one.
2) How does someone become a member of that church? Scripturally, someone becomes a member of the church at the point of salvation – regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
If this is correct, and I’m open to listen to other suggestions, then when God commands us that “the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Cor 12:25), He is commanding us to care for all believers, not just those who happen to associate with the same local group as ourselves. When He commands us to love one another, serve one another, forgive one another, bear one another’s burdens, admonish one another, edify one another, and bear with one another, He is referring to our relationships to all members (i.e., all believers), not just those believers with whom we agree and meet regularly.
I understand that groups of believers associate together and call themselves a church. I understand that those believers then create membership requirements for their association. However, we must never blur the distinction between belonging to a local assocation of believers and being members of the church. Also, we must never assume that Scriptural mandates only apply to our local association.
When we ask the question, “Who is my neighbor (a member)?” is our answer as broad as God’s answer?