The assumption of the New Testament is that every Christian is a member of a church in their locality. In this church they share fellowship, serve their Lord and submit to the elders.
Two scriptures that alert us to this expectation are:
- Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. This is the instruction of Hebrews 13:17. Clearly implicit in this text is that the elders know who they are responsible for and the church know who they re responsible to.
- So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord (1 Cor, 5:4-5). Paul here is indicating that the the man guilty of outrageous sin in having an affair with his step-mother should be removed form the church. In v13 they are told to expel him. This person is handed over to the realm of Satan; that is the world. there are only two realms the world and the church. If you are not a church member you are in Satan’s realm; the church.
I suggest that there are only two reasons why a Christian is not in church membership:
- They are in the process of regularizing their situation and becoming a church member. They must sort this out as soon as possible.
- They are “under discipline” and thereby excluded from church membership. In such a situation they need to repent and be restored to the church.
I feel we too easily excuse Christians from not becoming church members. It is after all very much the spirit of the age not to commit to things. However, this is all surely wrong. We should, I feel, name it for what it is and that is disobedience.
I feel that we should be more inclined towards treating any professing Christian who refuses to be a church member as a non-christian. They have after all chosen the realm of Satan, the world over against the realm of God, the church. So they should be treated as unbelievers.