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Covenant Membership

What is a covenant member, and why does it matter?  Click here to find out.

Let's get this process started! 

  • Sign up for a Membership Class -- Our next membership class will be announced soon. Let us know you're interested in more info by emailing Scott[at]cccommunitychurch[dot]org.



What is Biblical Church Membership

and Why is it Important?


We believe the Church is the body and bride of Christ. It is not a religious institution or denomination, but is the spiritual body of all true believers from the beginning till the end of time. While the Church is an invisible body, we believe that God has also commanded that believers devote themselves to teaching, fellowship, and prayer in a community or local church which is the visible expression of the invisible body.

 Church membership is

  • a gift of God’s grace.
  • a way of officially identifying yourself with a local body of believers.  
  • a statement that you are in agreement with that local church and are a representative of it. 
  • also a good way of determining who is allowed to vote on important church decisions and/or who is involved in official church positions/functions.


Biblical Basis for Church Membership


1) The Metaphor of the Body

Church membership is implied in the metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12‐31. The original meaning of the word member is member of a body, like hand and foot and eye and ear.  That’s the imagery behind the word member in the text. Verse 12: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one body, so it is with Christ.” 

 So the question this imagery raises for the local church that Paul is describing in 1 Corinthians 12 is: Who intends to be treated as a hand or foot or eye or ear of this body? There is a unity and organic relationship implied in the imagery of the body. There is something unnatural about a Christian attaching himself to a body of believers and not being a member of the body.


2) Shepherds Required to Care for Their Flock

Church membership is implied in the way the New Testament requires elders to care for the flock in their charge. Of course elders can extend their love to anyone and everyone, and should, within the limits of their ability. But the question is whether the Bible tells elders that they are to have a special responsibility and care for a certain group—a group of members.  Consider Acts 20:28 where Paul tells the elders how to care for their flock.

 “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

This verse does not say elders cannot visit unbelievers or those who are not yet members. But it does make clear that their first responsibility is to a particular flock. How are they to know who their flock is? Who are we as elders and pastors responsible for? For whom will we give an account to God?


The way Peter speaks to the elders in 1 Peter 5 is even clearer on this point. Verses 2‐3:

“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.”

 “Those in your charge” (your portion, your lot) implies that the elders knew whom they were responsible for. This is just another way of talking about membership. If a person does not want to be held accountable by a group of elders or be the special focus of the care of a group of elders, they will resist the idea of membership. And they will resist God’s appointed way for them to live and be sustained in their faith.


3) Christians are Required to Submit to Their Leaders

Church membership is implied in the biblical requirement of Christians to be submitted to a group of church leaders, elders, or pastors. The point here is that without membership, who is it that the New Testament is referring to who must submit to a specific group of leaders? Some kind of expressed willingness or covenant or agreement or commitment (that is, membership) has to precede a person’s submission to a group of leaders.

 Likewise, leaders are said to be giving an account for the people under their care. How is this leadership and this submission going to work if there is no membership defining who has made the commitment to be led and who has been chosen as leaders? If we downplay the importance of membership, it is difficult to see how we could take these commands to submit and to lead seriously and practically. [Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12‐13; 1 Timothy 5:17]


4) It is implied in Church Discipline

Consider the implication of Matthew 18:15‐17 where “the church” appears to be the final court of appeal in matters of church authority as it relates to membership. If there is no church membership, how can you define the group that will take up this sensitive and weighty matter of exhorting the unrepentant person and finally rendering a judgment about his standing in the community? It’s hard to believe that just anyone who showed up claiming to be a Christian could be a part of that gathering. Surely, “the church” must have been a definable group to handle such a weighty matter. [Matthew 18:15‐20; 1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 6:1]


5) Excommunication Existed

Paul implies this in 1 Corinthians 5:12‐13 where he deals with the necessity of putting someone out of the church. He says, “What have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’” There are two implications here: One is that there is an “in the church” group and an “outside the church” group. Being in the church is definable. The other implication is that a person can be removed from being “in the church.” Such a formal removal would not be possible if there were no such thing as a clear membership—who is an accountable part of this body, and who is not?


6) Membership Matters for Evangelism

Meaningful membership is important because the church is God’s evangelism plan for the world. A church is like a radio transmitter, sending out messages about God twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.

  • If a church is full of members who claim to be Christians but live just like the world, non-Christians will look at the church and say, “What’s the big deal? All I see is a bunch of hypocrites with funny beliefs.” If a church’s members live in a way that contradicts the gospel, they will confirm non-Christians’ belief that the gospel is a lie.
  • But if a church is full of people who are genuine believers, who are united in Christ despite any worldly differences, who genuinely love and forgive one another despite their sin, who constantly grow in reflecting the character of their Savior, then non-Christians will be dumbfounded as they search for an explanation. The only satisfying explanation for such a church is that the gospel they believe and preach is true—that Jesus Christ has come into the world to save sinners by bearing God’s wrath against them in his death on the cross and rising from the grave in order to give them eternal life.

A church will only transmit these true signals about God if its members are Christians who are genuinely involved in the life of the church and live in a way that commends the gospel.  Meaningful membership is important because it is the only way for a church to corporately tell the truth about God and the gospel.

What a church believes (Theology/Doctrine) is critically important!

When someone chooses to become a member of a local church, that person must also agree to the essential theological beliefs of that church.

In essential beliefs — we have unity.

“There is one Body and one Spirit...there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all...” Eph. 4:4‐6


In nonessential beliefs — we have liberty.

“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters... Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls... So then each of us will give an account of himself to God... So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God.” Romans 14:1, 4, 12, 22


In all our beliefs — we show charity.

“...If I hold in my mind not only all human knowledge but also the very secrets of God, and if I have the faith that can move mountains — but have no love, I amount to nothing at all.” 1 Cor. 13:2

Many thanks to and Charlottesville Community Church for contributing to our format and understanding of this document.

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