Why is church membership important? There are many reasons, but without it there can be no accountability or church discipline. Church discipline is the process of correcting sinful behavior among members of a local church body for the purpose of protecting the church, restoring the sinner to a right walk with God, and renewing fellowship among the church members.
Matthew 18:15–20 gives the procedure and authority for a church to practice church discipline. Jesus instructs us that one individual (usually the offended party) is to go to the offending individual privately. If the offender refuses to acknowledge his sin and repent, then two or three others go to confirm the details of the situation. If there is still no repentance—the offender remains firmly attached to his sin, despite two chances to repent—the matter is taken before the church. The offender then has a third chance to repent and forsake his sinful behavior. If at any point in the process of church discipline, the sinner heeds the call to repent, then “you have gained your brother” (verse 15, ESV). However, if the discipline continues all the way through the third step without a positive response from the offender, then, Jesus said, “let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (verse 17, ESV).
Church membership is also important because it helps define the pastor’s responsibility. Every church, whether large or small, needs a pastor who will shepherd, lead, feed, and guide the people to spiritual growth and service for the Lord Jesus. In larger churches, a senior pastor often shepherds the pastoral team in addition to shepherding the congregation. As a result, a senior pastor should be held to an even higher standard of agreement to 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:6-9 than other pastoral roles.
It is important to commit to your local church where you can give your resources, serve others and be accountable. Membership reflects what the church is, it is a reflection of the organic community that exists in the body of the church.
Membership doesn’t save us, but we should be a part of the community we live in, part of the church we are a part of. We should agree to live by certain established godly principles and standards. It enables us to grow and become spiritually mature.