What is “meaningful membership”?
“Meaningful membership” means four things:
- The members of a church should be Christians. In Acts, those who believed the gospel were added to the church (2:41, 47). Paul’s letters to churches are letters to Christians (Rom. 1:7, 1 Cor. 1:2). While no church will perfectly discern who is and isn’t a Christian, every church should open its membership only to those who credibly profess faith in Christ.
- The members of a church should be regular attenders. Church membership helps churches oversee the lives of their members. If someone doesn’t regularly attend, the church has no way of knowing how the person is doing.
- Members view the church as their primary context for fellowship and ministry. “I’m a member of First Presbyterian Church, but my real ministry is…” is an unbiblical way to begin a sentence. The New Testament is full of “one anothers” that were written to the members of local churches. That’s not to say that Christians shouldn’t fulfill those commands among Christians in other churches as occasion arises. Still, the New Testament envisions Christians fulfilling those commands primarily among a concrete group to whom they are accountable (e.g. 1 Cor. 12).
- The members of a church should have certain biblical privileges and responsibilities. The members of a local church should have the privilege of being admitted to the Lord’s Supper. They also have the responsibility to:
- Pray for the church.
- Be in transparent relationships with other church members in which they care for, encourage, rebuke, teach, and learn from each other (Eph. 4:15-16).
- Submit to the church’s leadership and teaching (Heb. 13:17).
- Promote unity in the body (Eph. 4:3).
- Financially support the church’s ministry (Gal. 6:6).
- Use the spiritual gifts to build up the body however they can (1 Cor. 12:7).