by Michael Gilbert
March 4, 2007
Have you ever wandered about baptism and congregational membership?
Maybe these questions have popped up in your mind – “does a person have to be a member of the same congregation where they were baptized?”, or “what about placing membership?”.
Thankfully, God has touched on these topics in His Word.
Baptism places a person into the church of Christ (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:13, etc.). However, it does not make one a member of a ‘local church’ (congregation).
All Christians worldwide cannot meet in the same place. Therefore, God established ‘local congregations’ that meet in various locations (e.g., the DeKalb Church of Christ). It is God’s desire that all Christians associate themselves with a local church (Eph. 1:1).
Placing Membership – A Good Practice
Upon one’s baptism, the new Christian should place membership with a particular congregation of God’s people.
There are no forms to fill out…no one will take a vote. It simply means that a new Christian should notify a specific congregation of his intention to worship and work with them.
The same goes for a Christian who moves into a new area. He should seek out a faithful congregation of the church of Christ and express to them his desire to worship and work with them.
Following Paul’s Example
The apostle Paul serves as an example of “placing membership”. After his baptism, he “…assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. An he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:26-28).
Paul’s experience teaches us that all new converts should seek to associate with fellow members of the church of Christ.
The Importance of Placing Membership
Here’s a list of reasons why Christians should place membership with a local congregation:
1. Paul realized the importance of being identified with the local church (Acts 9:26).
2. Placing membership acknowledges that the local church is Biblically right (1 Jn. 1:7).
3. Placing membership acknowledges one’s desire to be with a local church family (1 Cor. 10:25)
4. Placing membership acknowledges that one respects the leadership of the local work (Heb. 13:17).
5. Placing membership acknowledges that one wants to use His talents for the local work (Rom. 12:4-10; Rom. 16:1).
6. Placing membership acknowledges that one wants regular association with the family (Heb. 13:1; 10:24-25).
7. Placing membership acknowledges that one wants to financially support the local work (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
8. Placing membership acknowledges that one wants to faithfully support the local work by regular attendance (Heb. 3:13; 10:25).
As you can see, acknowledging the desire to worship and work with a local church is both biblical and logical!