Is It Necessary To Place Membership With A Congregation Once You Have Been Baptized Into The One True Church?
As Christians seek out a congregation with which to work and worship (and thus commit to be under the oversight of the local leadership, Acts 20:28; this is commonly called "placing membership"), they need to be cautious and wise, making sure the church and its leadership are sound in the faith (1 John 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Several passages indicate that Christians must commit to the work and worship of a local congregation:
- Christians are commanded not to forsake assembling with the local church (Hebrews 10:25,26). Among other things, they are to partake of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week as they gather with their fellow members in one place (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:18, 20, 33, 34; 14:26; etc.). Exceptions, no doubt, would be if one is unable to attend his/her local church due to legitimate sickness, traveling (visiting another sound church) or being commissioned by the church to travel to other churches for evangelistic purposes (Acts 13:1-3; 14:21-22).
- Christians need to recognize that elders (also called the shepherds or pastors) of a local congregation (flock) will have to give an account to God on the day of judgment on the way they handled themselves in guiding the flock (Hebrews 13:17). How can they guide the flock unless they know who is in the flock? Since qualified men are commanded to oversee their flock; then it follows that the flock are commanded to be overseen and held accountable, including working and worshipping with their local flock/church. They also need to question new members so that no false doctrine is introduced into their midst that would tear up the flock (err on the side of caution, Acts 9:25-31). There are certain obligations on the part of both the elders and the congregation in order for the church to function correctly. Please consult the questions "What Are The Duties of The Elders Toward Its Members?" and "What Are The Duties of Members Toward Its Elders?" for further information.
- Each Christian needs to do its part in edifying the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:9-16). How can Christians edify the body over time unless they choose to place membership in that local body? There are certain duties and obligations laid upon Christians that would need to be fulfilled by placing membership with a local body. A Christian would want to place membership so that he/she can do his/her share in the edification of the body of Christ by stirring up love and good works among the brethren. They can help with evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20), teaching, (2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 2:3-5) and benevolence (James 1:26,27).
- Paul (Saul) is a good example of a sinner who became a Christian and immediately was trying to join himself to the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-30). The disciples there were hesitant because they knew about his persecutions and murders and was rightly skeptical of whether or not he was a true convert or a schemer. Saul did not waste any time desiring to be with the family of God in his local area (1 John 3:1). He was part of several congregations throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. It says in verse 31: "Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied."
- With all the "church hopping", immorality and divisiveness tearing so many local churches up, it would be wise for congregations to reinstate "letters of recommendation" from other sound churches or faithful Christians before they fully accept the membership of another (2 Corinthians 3:1). If someone says, "You shouldn't judge Christians" all you have to do is have them read 1 Corinthians 5:12.
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