When you get down to it, and at its very core, there’s something simple and refreshing about being a part of a church family — aka church “membership”.
Toward the end of the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, specifically in vv. 42–47, Luke shares a glimpse of the function, behavior, and duties of the early church:
All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.Acts 2:42-47
Yesterday, the other members of Redeemer City Church of Reykjavík voted Heather and me in as members of this church family. It was a special day, to be sure, and we’re immensely grateful and excited to be a part of (for however long we’re able) this cohesive body in Iceland — one that dedicates itself to the proclamation of the Gospel and aligns itself with the teachings of Christ Jesus.
For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, becoming a member of a church simply means that — if you’ll allow me to oversimplify it — you make a covenant with the church’s body (other members), align yourself with a common vision + mission, and hold one another accountable in your various stages of life.
At least that’s how I’d put it based on what I’ve read in the New Testament. And, for further reading, the desiringGod website does a great job of explaining church covenant and its implied biblical context.
Granted, some areas of the modern, Western church — at least from what I’ve gleaned from my own personal experience and the experience of some friends — has transformed church membership into something that oftentimes concerns itself with a lot of rules, voting, and programs rather than cohesion and accountability.
Whatever your experience might be with church membership, Paul offered what I feel is some extremely relevant and helpful advice to the church in Corinth as he closed out his second letter to them: “Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.”