Church membership is something that I've done a couple of times in the past at other churches, and also something that I have chosen not to do as well. To be honest, I can't remember my past reasons for choosing membership, but I do know my reason for not choosing membership at one church. They didn't allow women in leadership positions (as elders; they could do things like teach Sunday school, and I did). I couldn't in good conscience join a church that said, through actions if not in words, that women were not equal to men and were not capable of leading.
A friend of mine was considering joining this church; she said she wanted to be able to help with decision-making through being able to vote on church issues. Another member told her that she was wrong for wanting to do that and that there were other reasons one should join a church, but voting should not be one. He then gave her part of a sermon by John Piper about membership. The sermon infuriated me. It was very manipulative and controlling, and the best (and only good) point was left to the end. There were five reasons to join a church:
- The church is to discipline its members
- Excommunication exists
- Christians Required to Submit to Their Leaders
- Shepherds Required to Care for Their Flock
- The Metaphor of the Body
The last one, "The Metaphor of the Body", was the only one I found to really be a good reason for joining a local church:
"Church membership is implied in the metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12–31. The original meaning of the word member is member of a body, like hand and foot and eye and ear. That’s the imagery behind the word member in the text. Verse 12: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
So the question this imagery raises for the local church that Paul is describing in 1 Corinthians 12 is: Who intends to be treated as a hand or foot or eye or ear of this body? There is a unity and organic relationship implied in the imagery of the body. There is something unnatural about a Christian attaching himself to a body of believers and not being a member of the body."This is part of the reason I've decided to join a local church. In my experiences there the last five or six months, I have found it to be a body of which I want to fully be a part. In this church, women are welcome to be a fully-functioning member of the body, and though there is still progress to be made in this area, I see that it is being made, and I am excited to be a part of it.