Why Formal Church Membership?
Membership in a church is not like membership in other organizations and attending church is not like attending a meeting of a club. In those cases, attendees are consumers and audience members and the organization exists to serve them. The Church is completely different—membership means ministry and service, going from being a consumer to becoming a provider of God’s love and care to others.
There are several reasons we have a formalized church membership:
1. Formal church membership leads to a greater sense of commitment to the local body.
Think of membership like a marriage; you don’t need a piece of paper or a ceremony to be married, living with someone for a certain length of time is considered a marriage by the state. However, the act of having a ceremony and signing a license signifies a different level of commitment. Formal church membership is simply saying that you are making a commitment to live with the saints at Lion and Lamb church in a committed and sacrificial way.
2. Formal church membership ensures elders know who is part of the flock.
The Bible charges elders to shepherd/oversee “the flock of God that is among you” (1 Peter 5:2). That raises the question of who is part of the flock of God in a given location? Church attendance alone is not a reliable indicator of saving faith in Christ and therefore membership in Christ’s universal church. In our more mobile culture, people will often move from one local church to another so that it’s impossible for the elders to know who is merely “attending” vs who is truly saved and committed to living out the faith at Lion and Lamb Church.
3. Formal church membership protects the church in the event a member is disciplined.
Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society and churches have been sued when they have pursued church discipline in accordance with Matthew 18. By becoming a covenant member of Lion and Lamb Church you are agreeing that the elders may share personal information to the extent necessary to either affect restoration of the erring member or to warn others of the members refusal to repent and be reconciled to the body.
Objections to church membership
The Bible doesn’t say anything about formal church membership:
Many people who oppose church membership do so because the Bible doesn’t give explicit instructions about membership. At Lion and Lamb, we believe that the Scripture neither prescribes nor prohibits local churches instituting a formalized church membership. The elders of Lion and Lamb believe a more formalized approach to church membership for this body is wise, allowing us to be faithful to New Testament principles regarding living life as the body of Christ.
I’m already part of the body of Christ so why should I have to become a member of a local church?
We believe that the body of Christ is comprised of all those who have repented of their sins and put their trust in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as the basis for their salvation (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12). Those who become covenant members at Lion and Lamb are simply indicating, formally, that Lion and Lamb is the local place they are living out their universal church membership.
The Bible calls believers to live in a certain way with each other (Mark 9:50, John 6:43, 13:34, 15:12, Romans 12:6, 10, 13:18, 15:5, Galatians 5:13, Ephesians 4:2, 32, 5:21, Philippians 3:3). We believe that is best accomplished in the context of covenantal community.
Why is it called covenant membership? What about the command not to make oaths?
We use covenant as a descriptive term to indicate the committed, and personal nature of our relationship with each other as opposed to a less personal/committed relationship found in a professional or civic group. We don’t take oaths to each other rather we agree that we will live in a certain way with each other.
What if I choose not to join?
If you decide to stay involved at Lion and Lamb without becoming a covenant member, we won’t pressure you to join and you’ll get the same pastoral care as anyone else who calls Lion and Lamb their home. We do limit certain areas of service to covenant members specifically, areas related to teaching, and representing Lion and Lamb:
- Elder and Deacon
- Any teaching position (Small group leader, primary/youth/adult Sunday school) You do not need to be a member to be a teacher’s helper
- Ministry leaders
- Welcoming/Greeting team member
- Worship team
Biblical reasons to consider becoming a covenant member:
- You want to identify with Christ or his people (Mark 8:38)
- You need to stop being an independent Christian (Matthew 18:15-17, Hebrews 13:17)
- You want to participate in a stronger, more unified effort of God’s people
- You’ll have greater opportunities to use your spiritual gifts for the benefit of the body (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4)
- You want to encourage new believers to make a commitment to the local Body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24)
- You believe Lion and Lamb is the local church Christ wants you to call your spiritual home, and the leaders at Lion and Lamb are the leaders Christ wants you to follow.