This morning I attended a meeting in St. Louis for church planters called Plant Midwest. They bring in a variety of different teachers to exhort those who are involved in church plants. The speaker for the day was Sam Storms, pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The topic was church membership. Storms is a great person to address such a topic, because when he was called to Bridgeway, the church was without any form of church membership.
Storms posed the following question, “Is church membership biblical?”
“Well, that depends on how one defines biblical!” He responded.
Storms went on to explain that there is no where in Scripture that states plainly something like, “Thou shall be a member of a church.” The question is, is such a statement even necessary to defend church membership? The answer is most certainly no.
Storms then offered eight truths found in Scripture that make little sense if not understood in a covenant membership context.
1. Accountability to the elders in the church
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Hebrews 13:17
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 1 Tim 5:17
2. Requirements that shepherds pastor 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,[a] which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20:28
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. 1 Peter 5:2-3
3. Church discipline
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:4
For 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. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
4. List of widows enrolled
Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband. 1 Timothy 5:9
5. Congregational decision making
Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers. Acts 15:22
6. Responsibility in the household of faith
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10
7. The gathering of the church
If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter,will they not say that you are out of your minds? 1 Corinthians 14:23
8. The variety of biblical metaphors for the church: body, flock, building, etc.
When considering these biblical realities it seems obvious that the answer to, Is church membership a biblical concept, is yes. One is hard pressed to explain the previous scriptural commands and truths outside of the context of church membership. I am grateful that Sam Storms took the time to speak at Plant Midwest. However, I do want to say that what has been written was derived from my own personal note taking. Therefore, all errors should be attributed to me and not Dr. Storms. However, I do believe I represented his point faithfully.
You can purchase Dr. Storms books here: