by John MacArthur
Church membership is not optional. Admittedly, there is no verse in the Bible that specifically commands us to sign on the dotted line and join a church. But the clear teaching of Scripture is that we are to be members in the local fellowship of believers, in every sense of the word.
The apostle Paul had that unified fellowship in mind when he wrote Ephesians 2:19: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” In essence, we’re now part of a family—God’s family.
And unity within God’s heavenly household requires loyalty, both to Him and to His people. The consumerist attitude that’s taken hold in the church today isn’t interested in loyalty. It leads people to see fellowship as a means to selfish ends—they will meet with other believers, but only when it suits their needs and pleases their interests.
When you come to church the question shouldn’t be, What can I get out of my church? but, How can God use me to serve others here? Will there be other believers in the congregation who need you, whether it’s for help, support, or encouragement?
The obvious answer is yes. There is no shortage of spiritual, physical, and emotional needs in your church. You won’t have to look hard to find a multitude of ways you can be useful to your congregation. It’s the same attitude you’d hope to cultivate within your own family—what are the needs around you and how can you be useful in meeting those needs? Bring that loyal, Christlike attitude with you to church—you’re not there to be served, but to serve.
By God’s grace and His perfect design, He has equipped each of us with a variety of spiritual gifts for use in the church (Ephesians 4:11-12). The Lord has fitted each of us with specific talents and abilities that tie into His purposes for our lives.
Every believer has a role within the Body of Christ, and that body cannot function unless everyone is working together (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Hands can’t suddenly become ears; eyes can’t replace feet. And you’ll never find a stray finger or tongue that functions better on its own than it does with the rest of the body. The Lord didn’t save us to be solo acts—we’re meant to work in concert and harmony together as one great choir.
How is that possible apart from involvement in the local church? You may have other believers scattered throughout your life, whether at home, at work, or elsewhere. But God’s design is for you to be an active, useful member of your local church body, working side by side with other useful, self-sacrificing believers to accomplish His will in your lives and in your community. That starts with being a loyal member of your local church.
#1 Posted by
Anderson Esteban | Thursday, January 24, 2013at
It is a blessing to be an official member of the local church, I can comment that some people don't care about becoming loyal members of the church likewise pastors don't have a membership list within their agenda, some pastors don't even know that a biblical sound local church should have an official membership list even some other preachers only go to Sunday service give the sermon take the offerings, say hello to some folks and go home, no accountability no one to whom give account.
After spending 10 years in a non-membership church now two years back I am a loyal member in a biblical local church, serving with my gifts to the brothers that need it, serving to the elders as well.
I would like to encourage my brothers to realize that they are already part of the body of Christ universally but also the Body needs your service in love.
thanks Johny Mac, you've been such a blessing to my life..
#2 Posted by
David Rodgers | Friday, January 25, 2013at
What if being being "loyal to a church", is being "disloyal to GOD"? (Because that particular Church, is only interested in promoting themselves, and faking servitude & holiness). How then, is membership (loyalty to the Church), serving our LORD, GOD?
This reply is no way, pointed at John MacArthur or the church he ministers (I wish we ministered to a Church in Australia).
#3 Posted by
Laurel Henschel | Sunday, January 27, 2013at
I have been a Lutheran since I was 5 years old, I'm 68 now. I attended a Lutheran grade school. I do belong to a local church and I do support it. I have a severely retarded son and I am also disabled. I haven't been able to attend my church for quite awhile so the churches on VCY are the ones I listen to. On Sunday from 8 AM to noon, I watch these Bible-preaching churches. I have learned so much from GTY. I listen to the daily radio programs as well. John MacArthur is so blessed by God and such a blessing to me. I copy the sermons so I can read them again. I thought I had a good understanding of the Scriptures but listening to John made me realize how woefully inadequate my knowledge was. My faith has deepened and been strengthened immeasureably.
Back to my local church. Lutherans are very Bible-oriented but somehow not the same. I was active in the church for many years. What I discovered is that seeing church members in action was not Christ-centered. Politics, backbiting, factions, snobbery were all present. Occassionally legalism reared it's ugly head. Since I have been unable to participate, I don't get distracted by these things.
I have to admit that I don't miss dealing with committees and church politics.
It sounds like I am not supportive of the local church. But I am. I think that this country has lost it's way because it stopped going to church and listening to God's Word. The caveat is that not all churches are Bible preaching and teaching churches. Not all churches have a strong pastor as GTY does.
I hope that anyone who doesn't have this type of church will keep on looking until they find one. Attending a local church is important for many reasons but especially for children. Our children and grandchildren are exposed to sin everywhere in this world. A world that thinks all of this evil is normal. Going to a strong church is a shield for them
And keep listening to GTY.
#4 Posted by
Keith Krohn | Sunday, January 27, 2013at
My wife and I thoroughly enjoy John MacArthur’s teachings because he does not ever compromise the truth. We know that we can trust Dr. MacArthur’s insights as a Pastor-Teacher because:
a. John is always careful to compare scripture with scripture. Like John says, “Scripture confirms scripture.” It doesn’t clash with itself and contradict itself.
b. He considers the original language and the historical and cultural context of the Word in light of its meaning.
c. He has been teaching the Word faithfully at Grace Community Church since 1969. That’s as long as I’ve been alive!
I agree with this article wholeheartedly; however, I have some negative things to discuss.
My wife and I have been seeking a home church since 2009. To piggy-back on John’s points in this article and our experiences; my wife and I have looked into several local churches within a reasonable driving distance, and we have discovered the following:
1. It is impossible to find a “level of intimacy that is required for stimulating fellow believers ‘to love and good deeds.’” The churches we have researched are either blatantly worldly and appear so at first glance, or, once you enter the door and actually attend a service, turn out to be mere social clubs where spiritual accountability, love of the truth, hatred of sin, and a passion for Christ and His glory in one’s life is absent.
2. Finding a pastor with the godly maturity where they can actually be your protection and you are nurtured under the leadership there does not happen. We are not seeking perfection, but receiving such godly protection and support has been hard to find. There is either no genuine care and only a legalistic rule, or, the Pastor themselves are so weak and lacking in a “sound mind” and basic organizational skills that they are too busy trying to keep their own head above water and are not available to lift you or your spouse up should you need help.
3. How am I to be held accountable to godly standards when the pastor himself hasn’t settled his beliefs about feminism, allows his wife to pollute his children with worldly values, and generally preached sermons that were shallow, sugary, and had nothing to do with truly glorifying the Lord?
Continued next post...
#5 Posted by
Keith Krohn | Sunday, January 27, 2013at
Continued from my last post...
4. How are we to commemorate the Lord’s death when the Pastor feels that monthly commemoration of the Lord’s Supper somehow takes away its meaning, somehow believing that NOT having communion for over a year-and-a-half is any better?
5. How can we contribute our spiritual gifts to the body when the Pastor is so chronically and historically unorganized that you have to literally corner them with constant requests and reminders to offer your godly gifts and natural talents? How do you insert yourself as a cog in the machine when your passion to serve Christ in the body is met with a forgetful, anemic follow-up and excuse after excuse as to why your involvement and creative ideas have yet to be implemented?
6. Finally, John writes, “We frequently hear from conscientious, faithful believers struggling to find solid, Bible-teaching churches in their areas. My hope is this series will help you know what to look for in a local church, and how you can be most useful within your congregation.”
Again, John is right on target and he understands the plight of so many of us who are nourished by his godly teaching, but we already know what to look for, and we want to be useful in our congregations, but the churches a lot of us have found so far do not even come near these high standards. They are seeker-friendly, lukewarm, lethargic, or rigid, legalistic, and cold toward the plight of certain groups of sinners such as former homosexuals, or drug addicts, (ie. Those in need of a Physician).
We have, at several points in recent years, seriously considered moving to California and joining Grace Community Church so that we do not have to only be involved with a genuine church body through the internet and every other digital or electronic means John says to avoid. But, at this point, it is the best we’ve got!
If I have to hold communion in my home with my wife, because we believe it is so crucial to remember Christ’s broken body and shed blood for our sins, and to examine ourselves in light of that every month, I will do that.
We do our best with what we’ve got, and we have tried to find a local church body that is what it should be according to the Word and Dr. MacArthur’s article here, but, it doesn’t exist within driving distance of our home. Please keep us in prayer.
#6 Posted by
Stuart & Carol Scott | Sunday, January 27, 2013at
• As born again Christians, we are members of the the body of Christ, members of the church of Christ. If you loyally attend, serve and financially support a local church, isn't that good enough?
#7 Posted by
Jerry Mallonee | Monday, January 28, 2013at
When considering membership to any local church, the integrity, philosophy of ministry and doctrinal position of said church must be taken into consideration. I would understand that MacArthur has in mind a "healthy" local church.
If, however, such a church was a "healthy" church but has turned sour, a member of such a church can still honor God by remaining obedient to Scripture. How will they see error unless reproved? How will they move unless exhorted?
#8 Posted by
Jerry Mallonee | Monday, January 28, 2013at
My only issue with membership (as implied here) is that the "sign on the dotted line" mentality can lead us to relieve ourselves of responsibility as leaders. Though it is up to the local church whether or not to have an official membership list, it is up to the leaders to know their people- for shepherds to know their sheep. If we knew our people and were active in their lives, would a membership list be really necessary? Would not a leader intimate with his congregation know their strengths, their weaknesses, their talents?
And at what age do our children "sign on the dotted line" acknowledging themselves as members of a particular family? And does not a discerning father know either by word or deed the spiritual state of his own children?
I have no problem with "signing on the dotted line" to show adherence to a particular doctrinal position, especially when teaching may be involved (for this would promote like-mindedness or, in Finney's case, expose a fraud), but to do so as a mark of church loyalty, that's another issue. My obedience to God and my love for his saints is one thing; signing a paper to show this is another.
#9 Posted by
Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin) | Monday, January 28, 2013at
You've posted similar comments in several threads from this series--I'll try to answer them all here for simplicity's sake.
Signing on the dotted line to become a member is only an outward expression of a believer's desire to be identified with, submit to, and held accountable by his or her local church body. Apart from those attitudes, the act of signing is worthless.
The paperwork itself isn't sanctifying. It's simply the way we enter into a covenant with our local church today. By agreeing to become a church member, you've given your word and publicly declared your loyalty to the congregation.
I'll admit I've been surprised by the amount of push-back we've seen to church membership throughout this series. It seems like many people don't feel the need to actually join their church--that they can consistently participate in the worship services and fellowship, submit to their church leaders, support their pastors, meet the needs of the church through their giving, be actively involved in body life, and provide service and leadership wherever they're able without ever officially becoming a church member.
My question is, if you're faithfully doing all that already, what's so hard about officially committing to keep doing it?
#10 Posted by
Cameron Buettel | Friday, February 1, 2013at
I had the benefit of being present during the first part of Dr. Austin Duncan's interview with Dr. MacArthur and it provided tremendously helpful insights on the importance of church membership. It is one of those things that I have developed strong convictions about but found it difficult to contend for this view from Scripture. Dr. MacArthur's explanation on how church membership is implied throughout the book of Acts was both compelling and illuminating.