A Book Review from Books At a Glance
By Ryan McGraw
Church membership has been an important issue ever since being a Christian was no longer associated with being a tax paying citizen. While the church in medieval and Reformation Europe encompassed society and virtually all people were baptized church members by default, the question of whether or not to join a church was a moot point. In the present climate, the pendulum has swung the other direction.
Many professing Christians in the Western world no longer see the need for the church, and many who do see the need for it do not see why they should become members of a local congregation. Yet as Mark Dever shows, Church membership is an important part of Christian discipleship. In this short booklet, he introduces us to some of the main reasons why church membership should be a priority in our lives.
Dever begins with the shocking warning that some people who refuse church membership are on their way to hell (9). He provides readers with seven reasons why they should become members of a local church.
- First, we display the gospel to the world (11). This is the case because God mends both our broken relationships with himself and with others (13).
- Second, the Bible requires us to join a church (17). Though this command is not in Scripture expressly, the examples of counting members in the book of Acts (18), the practices of church members (19), the mutual commands binding Christians together (20-22), submission to elders (23), and church discipline (26-27), among other things, all assume church membership.
- Third, we should join a church in order to love and edify other believers (28). We must not approach the church as consumers, but as those joining a family (29). Discipleship is both an individual and a corporate process (34).
- Fourth, joining a church has an important role to play in evangelizing the world by creating a clear distinction between the church and the world (34).
- Fifth, being a church member can foster assurance of salvation (36).
- Sixth, being a church member exposes false versions of the gospel (40).
- Seventh, and last, we should join a church in order to glorify God (42).
The only slight omission in this sevenfold argument for church membership is the role of membership vows in uniting believers in a common faith and binding them together in a local body. Though his approach is overwhelmingly positive, the author’s sobering bottom line is that “If you consider yourself a Christian but refuse to commit to a group of people dedicated to following Jesus, I fear you may not have much reason to think you are genuinely converted” (33).
This little book is a simple yet near comprehensive introduction to the issue of church membership. Dever concludes by stating, “Joining a particular church is an outward reflection of an inward love – for Christ and for his people. And, as we see so often in this life, the greatest love is rarely merely spontaneous; it is more often planned, premeditated, and characterized by commitment” (44). Reading this little book will help you develop a targeted and intentional approach to Christian living.
Ryan M. McGraw
Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Buy the books
WHY SHOULD I JOIN A CHURCH?, by Mark Dever