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Church Membership: Biblical or of the Devil?

Or Maybe Somewhere In Between?

Posted Thursday, February 02, 2006 by Charlie Trimm

Adam and I got into a debate in class the other day about church membership, so I thought we could spill it over into the blog. I'll present a little about my side, and Adam can add in his side. To state my position up front: I do not think church membership is biblically commanded or necessary, however it is a good idea for American churches.

There are several texts that could support membership, but they are all weak in my opinion. These are from Dr. Jacobson's notes.

1. "Added to their number:" Acts 2:41, etc

This is a figure of speech and should not be taken literally.

2. Widows on the church list: 1 Timothy 5:9

I grant that there was a list for widows. But there is a huge jump from this to a general church membership.

3. Church discipline and actions of the church: 1 Corinthians 5:13, 2 Corinthians 2:6,7

Comments about the "majority" do not need to imply an official list.

I think that church membership is a wise idea for our culture, and if I was going to start a church, I would include church membership. But I would place it in the same category as having a church building: the early Christians wouldn't know what you were talking about. I think a church does not need a formal list of members, but could operate very well with only an informal knowledge of who was part of the assembly, and I think that this is how the early church operated.

But that's just my opinion.

Thursday, February 02, 2006 6:56 PM

Brian wrote: So who leads the church? If you don't have church membership, then may I assume that you don't have "congregational rule" government either?

Saturday, February 04, 2006 7:57 AM

Charlie wrote:  Well, congregation rule is in my doctrinal statement, but I'm not sure how strongly I hold to it. I wonder how much we have been influenced by American democracy. If someone does not have congregational rule, then the need for membership just about disappears. If you do have it, that is where the pragmatically nice part comes in. But I don't think the early church had it: "it seemed good to all of them" does not imply voting to me. It sounds like a group got together and talked it over and reached a conclusion.

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