Placing Membership with a Local Church

Saul at Jerusalem

The New Testament stresses the importance of Christians being part of a local congregation. But how does one join or place membership with a local church? At what point does one become a part of a congregation of God’s people? If we look at Saul’s effort to join the church in Jerusalem, we will see that there are two steps necessary for one to place membership with a local church.

When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:26-28).

The first step that is necessary for one to join a local church is for him to make known his desire to join that church. In the New King James Version, the text says that Saul “tried to join the disciples” (Acts 9:26). This was more than just an intention on his part. It was more than simply attending their assemblies. The text implies that his desire to be part of that group was made known in some way to the congregation.

However, one stating his desire to place his membership with a local church does not automatically make him a member of that church. Though Saul “was trying to associate with the disciples,” he was not immediately identified as a part of their number. Why?

The second step, after one declares his desire to join a congregation is that the congregation agrees to receive him. At first, the church in Jerusalem rejected Saul because they did not believe “that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26). It was not until after they became aware of Saul’s conversion and faithfulness that they welcomed him and “he was with them” (Acts 9:28).

The members of a congregation have the responsibility to keep that local church pure. While non-Christians are certainly welcome in the assembly of the church (1 Corinthians 14:23-24), one must only be accepted as a member if he is a disciple (Acts 9:26) – as Saul was as a baptized believer (Acts 9:18; cf. Acts 22:16; Matthew 28:19). Furthermore, we are not to maintain fellowship with Christians who are engaged in immorality (1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 7, 11, 13), nor any “brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Therefore, before a congregation accepts one into their fellowship, they must have sufficient reason to believe that this person is a Christian who is faithfully serving God. Without a basis to believe this about Saul, the church in Jerusalem would not accept him; but when they learned that Saul was in fact a faithful Christian, they accepted him.

Conclusion

One joining a local congregation involves two parties – the individual and the congregation. First, the individual must make known his desire to join the congregation. Second, the congregation must – based upon the knowledge that this individual is a faithful Christian – accept that individual into their number.


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Comments

  1. Thank you, another great article!

  2. Thanks, Darlene.

  3. Keith Stonehart says

    I used this last night in my teen class on “Finding your own faith” to help them understand that becoming a member of the church universal, doesnt make you automaticly a member of the church local. Great class material here- thanks!

    Keith

  4. Thanks, Keith. Glad you were able to use this.