Submitting to one another – church membership

Shaking Hands
I was probably put on the members roll of my childhood church after I was baptised, but the only other church I became a member was the one I went to during university. I’m speaking as a baptist though, as I understand that Anglicans hold a less official view of congregational membership, and I was probably considered a member of those Anglican churches I’ve been a part of.

Why consider membership? I’ve not really thought about membership of churches where I thought I’d only be around for a year or so. Usually I think of membership in terms of getting involved in ministry and serving.

Recently we were speaking with a couple who are also new to the town and church, but who are working for a mission organisation, working with refugees, and they asked us about our thoughts / plans regarding membership. One of the major reasons they’re keen to become members is to submit themselves to church in case they ever need discipline. I don’t know about you, but that’s not a view that I’ve really come across before, but it’s humble, and a really good point! No one like church discipline, receiving it, or carrying it out, but it’s biblically mandated, and making ourselves accountable to our church family is important. It brings a certain focus too – are there things we do / think that we’d be embarrassed or ashamed for our church to know about? Moreover, are we prepared to allow them to have a say about it? In this age of individualistic, consumerist attitudes, community accountability seems foreign, but are we willing to allow ourselves to be part of a community who is accountable to eachother, who submits to one another in love?

Do you think membership is important?

What are your considerations when thinking about church membership?

 

7 responses to “Submitting to one another – church membership”

  1. Al Hildred says:

    Good point but after what happened to our family with church "discipline" I have huge problems regarding church discipline. I'm answerable to God. I'm willing to take onboard constructive critacism in brotherly love, but too many church leaders love the power & can abuse it way too easily.
    If God laid upon my heart to become a member then I would look at it. It's a personal thing, just like our faith, I believe.

    • AndrewFinden says:

      I understand where you're coming from, but I don't think that misuse (or more strongly, unbiblical forms) of church discipline mean that there is no place for it. I think there is a biblical mandate for submitting to one another, and to our leaders (they also submit to us). None of us are above falling into sin, and it's important, I think, that we be held accountable. The NT gives pretty clear guidelines and requirements (e.g. procedures and the number of witnesses required in cases of accusation).
      I suppose we might say that we ought to be willing to submit to humble, Godly, leadership whom we trust, who will not to be lovers of power and abuse. I'd be extremely wary of any church where the leadership was not also accountable.

      I certainly wouldn't say that membership (in the baptist sense of undersigned, voting rights etc.) is necessary, though.

      What do you mean about faith being 'personal'?

    • KatR says:

      I think the number of people who can both believe that they are given authority "by God" and can also remain humble and accountable is very, very small. Any leadership group has a heavy emphasis on church discipline should be a huge red flag.

      • AndrewFinden says:

        I think the number of people who can both believe that they are given authority "by God" and can also remain humble and accountable is very, very small.

        I would argue that it's a basic pre-requisite / qualification for pastoral ministry. Whatever authority a pastor has, which we are called to submit to, it is derivative from his own submission to Christ, and employed as servant in submitting to the people he leads.

        Any leadership group has a heavy emphasis on church discipline should be a huge red flag.

        That's a fair comment. I would also be very wary in such a situation. However, I'd also be wary of leadership which had no, or a very vague concept of church discipline and how that works in the life of the church.

  2. TGC also had a positive post, from a different perspective, about church discipline last week: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/04/1

  3. @ds_says says:

    Your last sentence hits the nail on the head. The idea of formally joining a church in membership flies right in the face of the Western individualism. Too often churches have to 'sell' membership along the lines of 'what rights you'll get' (i.e. you can vote at meetings), which seems to buy into individualism, whereas your friends' attitude seems more about being part of 'the body'.

What do you think?