The Bible refers to the church in many different ways. But, first and foremost, she is the body of Christ. The church, in this definition, is the spiritual organism composed of mutually interdependent parts, which are its members. Our union with Christ makes us members of Christ's body and members of one another (Rom. 12:5). Interestingly, in the New Testament there are more imperatives that refer to our relationship with each other than our duties in the world or even our relationship with God. This implies that my relationship with the Lord is measured by my relationships with other Christians more than any other factor (1 John 3:23; 4:7, 20).
Therefore, we must take seriously the fact that we are members of one another. But do we know what that means? The membership rolls of our churches seem more like a formality than the reality God intended. Biblically, membership means life shared together. Another word to describe the church is koinonia, which indicates a corporate or communal nature that is absolutely essential to its true being. The church does not exist, it cannot develop without community life. The natural expression of Christ's life in the believer leads him to gather together with other believers (Acts 2:44, 46) and to resist the temptation to stop gathering together (Heb. 10:25). Any believer, therefore, who fails to experience the intimate life of communion with his/her brothers and sisters, fails to experience the church as the body of Christ.
It is when the church is gathered together—whether as a small group in a home (Rom 16:3-5) or in corporate celebration in a building (Acts 3:1)—that the “life of the Body” can best be expressed in a way that fulfills the words of Scripture. who say, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (Eph. 4:15-16).
The Purpose of Church Membership
The purpose of church membership is for Christians to encourage and help one another to express the life of Christ; and that in this way they demonstrate the love and unity which should characterize the people of God.
Paul, writing in 1 Corinthians 12, records that each member of the body is needed by the others, consequently, by the entire church. God wanted all the needs of His people met. For this reason, He imparted to His children special skills and abilities. That is, through the Holy Spirit, God distributed gifts and talents to His church. The needs of each are best met in an environment where fellowship is well developed.
Two basic elements define the purpose of membership:
1. Mutuality: We can say that mutuality is a lifestyle in tune with the New Testament commands regarding what Christians should do to each other to express their love and unity. This attitude produces a healthy, vigorous church that will naturally impact the world. The result is that this local congregation achieves the main goal: to glorify God (Rom. 11:36).
2. Exercise of spiritual gifts: In this basic manifestation of the life of the body, the members maintain fellowship with one another by the exercising of the gifts they have been given to serve one another (1 Pet. 4:10). One of the ways we build ourselves up is through the practice of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts become vital and practical when they are awakened, recognized, and practiced within the life of a living Christian community (Eph. 4:15-16).
Key Characteristics of Church Membership
Far from allowing the idea of isolated disciples, or "unchurched" believers, this is what the Lord Jesus says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
Mutuality expresses the love ordained by Christ. The concept of church membership emphasizes some vital characteristics:
1. Church members value relationships
2. Church members contribute to the maturity of each other
3. Church members help each other
The goal of every Christian is to live in community. Every day more and more believers are discovering that they cannot be Christians on their own. Christians do not have the strength to live up to their divine calling to the Kingdom, except when they share life together in community.
Steps to become a member at Bethel Presbyterian Church:
1 - Understand the gospel of Jesus Christ and God's plan of salvation: click here.
2 - Know who we are and what we believe: click here
3 - Study our membership vows found in the Presbyterian Church in America’s Book of Church Order (section 57-5):
4 - Meet with the elders of the church.
* If you want to understand more about what it means to be a church member in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), click here.
* If you want to become a member of Bethel PCA, click here and send us a message.