The following article has been adapted from Westmount Bible Chapel's Members One of Another (2022).
From the inception of the Church, believers were baptized and immediately added to a local expression of the Body of Christ (Acts 2:41), where they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers (Acts 2:42). Holding their possessions loosely (Acts 4:32), they were selling their belongings and distributing the proceeds generously to provide for the material needs of the saints (Acts 2:44-45). And day by day, while they were devoting themselves to the local body (Acts 2:46), the Lord kept multiplying His Church (Acts 2:47). That simple, ordinary life of devotion to the body of Christ became the very means by which the Gospel went forth to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
Through baptism by the Holy Spirit into the one Body of Christ, we become members of the Church Universal (1 Cor. 12:12-13). From the inception of the Church, believers have organized themselves into distinct, local assemblies. Church membership, then, is a wise and helpful administrative tool whereby believers who have been baptized are enrolled in a local expression of the Body of Christ.
The importance of identifying with a local church is twofold:
First, church membership expresses a formal commitment, between a believer and a local body, to mutual accountability and edification. When we become members of a local church, we demonstrate commitment to providing for the material needs of the saints maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, building up the body of Christ, especially by serving others through the use of our spiritual gifts, and submitting to the leadership of our elders (Acts 2:42-47; Eph. 4:1-3, 11-12; Heb. 10:24-25; 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:10).
In return, we benefit from the regular teaching of God's Word, the fellowship of the saints, participation in the Lord's Table, accountability to other believers and spiritual care under godly leadership (Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 10:24-25; 13:17).
Second, church membership clarifies the local body and the leaders to whom we are accountable, and likewise helps our elders to shepherd the flock more effectively by identifying the sheep for whom they are accountable (Heb. 13:17).
The primary way that we demonstrate commitment to a local church is through faithful, regular attendance. Only when we come together can we fulfill our mutual obligation to one another. This is why God’s Word warns us against neglecting the local body and exhorts us to prioritize meeting together – for the sake of mutual accountability and edification (Heb. 10:24-25).
Serving in a local church offers a unique opportunity for us to invest our gifts and talents in an endeavour that yields eternal rewards (Matt. 18:14-30; 1 Cor. 15:58; Gal. 6:9-10). The Holy Spirit has endowed us with spiritual gifts and expects us to exercise those gifts for the edification of the saints and the glory of God (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 4:11-12).
Jesus taught that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). And the rest of the New Testament likewise exhorts us to contribute generously to the material needs of the saints (Rom. 13:12), remembering the example of our Lord Jesus Christ – though He was rich, He became poor so that we, through His poverty, might become spiritually rich toward God (2 Cor. 8:9). So, we sacrificially give out of overwhelming thankfulness and worship to God.
Although tithing (offering 10% of one's income) became the main provision for supporting the Levitical Priesthood and the poor under the Old Testament economy (Deut. 14:22-29; 26:12-15), the New Testament never mandates a specific amount or frequency for Christian giving. Rather, we are to cheerfully, generously, and regularly contribute according to our means, as determined privately in our own heart, not begrudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
Christian conduct in the local church is to be governed by Scripture’s call to holiness, Christlikeness, and unity. We are to be holy, because God is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16). We are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14) — that is, the new self, as characterized by kindness and compassion, meekness and humility, patiently bearing with one another and forgiving one another in love (Col. 3:12-14). And we are to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel (Phil. 1:27), which means that we are to grow in Christlikeness, to reach maturity, characterized by the unity of the faith within the body of Christ, as we preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3, 13). This not only honours our Lord Jesus, who died for the purity and holiness of the Church (Eph. 5:25-27; Tit. 2:14), but our unity serves as a witness to a watching world concerning the truth of the Gospel (John 17:21, 23), and our good works adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour (Tit. 2:10), calling the world to give glory to God (Matt. 5:16).
With that perspective, church membership takes on eternal significance. We can take part in God’s grand plan of redemption by simply devoting ourselves to the teaching of God's Word, fellowshipping with the body of Christ, participating in the Lord's Table, contributing to the material needs of the saints, serving the body of Christ through the use of our spiritual gifts, and supporting the advance of the Gospel through prayer, financial aid, and personal evangelism. No cunning, nothing extraordinary — that simple, ordinary life of devotion to the body of Christ remains the very means by which the Lord multiplies His Church, by which Gospel goes forth to the ends of the earth!