Church membership is a big deal. You will not find a command in scripture to join a church but make no mistake, the new testament community recognized the importance of being members one to another. When you commit yourself to the local church one of the commitments you make is to the leadership.
Church membership is a formal recognition that you are a member of God’s family and you are placing yourself under the leadership of this local congregation. You identify the leaders as God’s gift to the local fellowship and you look to those leaders as your shepherd.
Consider 1 Peter 5:1-4
Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 also provides clarity identifying the role and responsibility of a shepherd: But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Here are three specific responsibilities of a shepherd from the collective counsel of God’s Word:
1. Shepherds are to labor within the fellowship of believers. 1 Peter uses the word oversight and 1 Thessalonians uses the word labor. The responsibility identified in this job description is to exert effort to the point of great exertion. The pastor elder has the responsibility of preaching, teaching, counseling, admonishing and so much more. Formal membership establishes a relationship between the shepherd and congregation.
2. The pastor elder has the responsibility to oversee the congregation. As representatives of God’s grace to the church the pastor elder must lead and direct the church to accomplish the mission that God has given to His bride. Church membership calls the congregation to follow the direction the unershepherds. This formal relationship requires that the congregation pray for their leader to lead well. Pray that God would use His servants to accomplish His purposes. Under-shepherds should be preachers and teachers, godly men whose desire is to build up the church by equipping the saints to serve the Lord and teaching them from His Word. Ultimately the job is to constantly point people away from ourselves and to point them to the Great Shepherd.
3. The pastor elder has the responsibility to admonish the congregation. As mentioned in an earlier post the shepherd must admonish the congregation. When Paul calls shepherds to admonish he is describing the role of warning or correcting. This is not popular within our culture but the shepherd must warn and speak directly to sin within the life of the congregation. In 2 Timothy 4 Paul warns Timothy of a time that will come when people will turn away from strong warning and run to leaders who ignore this responsibility.
2 Timothy 4:1-3
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
Church membership solidifies the relationship between the congregation and the leaders. God has given gifts to various leaders for the purpose of equipping and building up His the congregation. Church membership is important and the roles and responsibilities of leaders are available to those who join the work of the local church.
Our Pastor writes most of the blog posts we publish, however, occasionally some of our other church leadership (some staff, some volunteer) who also contribute to the New Life blog.