Church Membership – Is it biblical?

If you are reading this, then the blog title probably caught your attention because of the debate that goes on around this topic. However, I hope to offer quite a different perspective on the matter that will unite us in Christ rather than divide us over doctrine.

Firstly, what may surprise you considering my view on church, is that my answer to the question “Is Church membership biblical?” is a resounding YES. If this surprises you then read on – I was equally surprised that I came to this conclusion. In fact it will become rather obvious as you will soon see.

One of my favourite portions of scripture is 1 Cor. 12 as it talks about the Church as the body of Christ. Paul gives a beautiful illustration how the body is supposed to function and what the composition of the body is. Near the end of his description he says the following:

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 1 Cor. 12:27 [NASB]

As you can see the Body of Christ, who is the Church, has many members and we are each individually members of it. So in a nutshell, Church membership is biblical (!!). However, it is important to note that it is not the man-made organizational membership we often see today. Rather, it is an organic membership because each member is a body part characterized by life. So you may be asking the question “How do I become a member of this Body/Church?”. Paul gave us the answer earlier in 1 Cor. 12:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:12-13 [NASB]

The baptism of the Spirit causes us to be incorporated or “membered” or submerged into the body of Christ. Our membership to the body of Christ is a corporate membership, with the purpose of the Church functioning together to be the body of Christ and to reveal Christ to the world. Our membership is not to an organization but to an organic body and it is not done by physically attending a membership course but by spiritually being baptized and incorporated into Church life with others.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 1 Cor. 12:14-26 [NASB]

We can also see that the members are all different, but the body can only function when all the members are functioning together in their God-given roles. The body simply cannot function and display Christ when only one member functions. Sadly much of the modern traditional church has a top heavy structure, whereby only one or a few members function in the church gathering as opposed to an open participatory and every member functioning gathering promoted by Paul. God also desires that there be no division in the body, but rather that each member cares for one another. If one member suffers the whole body suffers and cannot function properly. With over 33 000 denominations in the world the body of Christ is extremely divided to the point where fellow brothers and sisters want nothing to do with one another. We must realize we are all capable of functioning as members of the body of Christ and we are all part of the same body, Christ.

So as you can see, church membership is not only biblical but needs to be understood in order for Christ to have His expression to the world. The members of the Church are united in their union with Christ by the work of the Spirit. We are so joined to Him through the Spirit that we form a beautiful body, Christ Himself, in a fallen world. I hope this post inspires you to be a loving and functioning member in the Body/Church.

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Nathan Odell Nathan Odell is the author of Joined to Him. You can connect with him on

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  1. […] Christ if we don’t love those that make up His body, and on the other hand, when we love the members of His body, we show that we love Christ […]

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