Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 3)

Read entire series here.

Proponents of a formal man-made church membership system often point out that the idea of a Christian not being a member of a church is foreign to the New Testament. They are correct. But where they err is when they then charge "non-members" with sin or failure to obey their pastors simply because they haven't become "formal" members (according to their church's understanding of membership) of their church. If the very idea of non-membership doesn't have biblical warrant, then why do these people invent the category of "non-member" and apply it to people that the bible doesn't even apply it to?

Now for something very important to my entire series on church membership. The reason that there is no biblical category for non-member? It's because every Christian is already a member of the church. A look at every passage in the New Testament dealing with the idea of members (see part 1) uses the word in a tense that shows that we are all already members. The idea of a Christian becoming a member of the church is just as foreign to the bible as being a non-member.

Part 2 . . . . . . . . Part 4


  1. "The idea of a Christian becoming a member of the church is just as foreign to the bible as being a non-member." (Steve)

    Agreed. It seems to be a given that a Christian is part of the church...also that non-membership is not mentioned at all (pay at the doors I guess - lol).

    I really like you biblical reviews and the way you look into these categories - some of this tsuff broders on genuis in it's honesty - some might say 'prophetic' if it spills over to actual change in church policy. I think it is very well done and I always look forward to reading your writings.

  2. Very interesting thoughts!

    I grew up in a Bible Church that had influences from the Plymouth Brethren movements. I think their position on church membership was very similar to yours. The closest thing they had to being "in" or "out" was whether you were on the phone list and they joked about that.

    From a Catholic perspective, there are several facets to "church membership" and most don't really translate well to most protestant languages. For example, the most basic form of membership in the Church is baptism. So all baptised Christians are members of the Church and have a real connection to the Catholic Church. Then there are the other sacraments, which further unify one to the Body of Christ. Then there is the idea of "full communion", that is being in communion with a valid bishop who is in communion with Peter's successor. And further, one should be registered at a local Catholic parish and this is to ensure that one has access to pastoral care.