ANSWERING THE ‘WHAT’ OF CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
In considering the images of body, family and kingdom that are given to us in Scripture, it becomes clear that to be a member of the church is a high calling with high stakes. But upon further study of the Scriptures, the ‘what’ of church membership elevates this privilege even higher. Essentially, when you pull all of the various images and instruction together it is clear, church membership is for Christians.
In his book, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible, Mark Dever writes:
The responsibilities and duties of members of a Christian church are simply the responsibilities and duties of Christians. Church members, like Christians, are to be baptized and regularly to attend the Lord’s Supper. They are to hear God’s Word and to obey it. They are regularly to fellowship together for mutual edification. They are to love God, one another, and those outside their fellowship; and they are to evidence the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5: 22– 23). They are to worship God in all the activities of their home, work, community, and life.
This means that it is impossible for an unregenerate person to carry out the duties and privileges of church membership. To love one another (as the Scriptures define love) is impossible apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. To be united to Christ as Paul describes in Romans 6 is impossible apart from the life-giving work of the Spirit. To rightfully call God your Father is unthinkable apart from the work of Christ. Therefore, it is inconsistent for churches to affirm the claim of some to be citizens of Christ’s kingdom if in fact they are not born again. This is why their must be the emphasis upon regenerate church membership — the recognized members of the church must be those who have experienced new birth.
Essentially, to be a member of the church is to be a Christian. Practically, that is worked out within a church when a person steps forward and says, “I am a Christian. This is my church.” The congregation, being led by the elders respond by affirming their confession, welcoming them into the local church and as they actively seek to glorify God and seek the good of one another.