Why Church Membership?
Three reasons for committing to your local congregation through church membership.The pundits of today’s world declare that we are living in the age of declining commitment. The percentage of registered voters who show up at the polls is declining, in spite of some hotly contested races. Membership in various labor unions, school associations, and other such organizations is also declining in both totals, and percentage of eligible population. Even Gallup finds the percentage of Americans who report belonging to a church, synagogue, or mosque at an all-time low, averaging 50% in 2018. The past 20 years have seen an acceleration in the drop-off, with a 20 percentage-point decline since 1999, with more than half of that change occurring since the start of the current decade.
Amid those statistics of decline, the U.S. Assemblies of God can, with gratitude to our Lord, report that the past decade has seen more than 12% growth, to over 3.2 million adherents. During that same decade, membership in the Fellowship, as a percentage of the whole, has remained steady at 57.4%
Still, many may ask, “Why should I become a member? Isn’t it enough that I just attend and support the church?”
Both in our theology and practices, we must understand “the big C” and “the little c” when it comes to the Lord’s Church. We belong, through salvation, to “the big C,” i.e. the one, true Church made up of all believers, of all times, or, as described “from every nation, kindred, people, and tongues,” (Revelation 7:9). Always keeping that in view is vital.
However, the New Testament clearly makes the case for “the little c,” the local church, with chosen leaders and committed followers who make up a body of believers. Consider that every biblical instruction (from both Jesus and the apostles) regarding reconciliation, discipline, and the way to select ecclesiastical governance is channeled through a defined local church. Having membership in a local church body is certainly in harmony with the whole of New Testament teaching.
In today’s world, our churches experience both privilege and responsibility. Not-for-profit status, ability to issue contribution credit to donors, church property tax exemption, and other opportunities all require a legal corporation, with defined members. In most states, the acquisition of property and the securing of a financial loan for construction require “action” or approval of the defined membership, and documentation of the same.
The U.S. Assemblies of God Constitution and Bylaws lists the qualifications for a church’s recognition as “General Council Affiliated” (which means also “self-governance”) to include a defined membership, and a minimum number of members to qualify.
Perhaps most noted among the reasons for advocating church membership has to do with the focus on Kingdom advance, and the Church’s mission and vision. Today’s world has a disease spreading that includes “spectator religion” (I watch you perform), and “religious consumerism” (where can I find the best for least-cost). Nothing countermands those two church-destroyers more effectively than the step of commitment called “church membership.”
By making such commitment to a local church, a person is saying, “I am all in,” and “I will help make our church even better.” Faithfulness, prayer, participation, and assisting in key decisions affecting the future of the church (pastoral selection, leadership selection, major building decisions) all contribute to the advance of the local church accomplishing Kingdom purposes. Membership is key in making such happen.
Your local church is a gift to you, a place of ministry and growth. You are a gift to your local church — in service, faithfulness, and spiritual support.
Now is the time to be a member of your local church.