Distinctive of Karis Church is our emphasis on membership. This isn’t always popular, but we think it’s critical, both for the health of the believer and of the family at large, that we commit our lives to one another.
Membership means living out the gospel with a local group of believers. You agree to live in repentance and faith with them, trusting Jesus alone to save you and transform you. More specifically, you agree to believe certain truths about God and His gospel, you agree to live a holy life in response to those truths, and you agree to give your life to the church’s vision and mission. In Karis Church, our membership commitments are expressed in our church covenant.
We need other believers who will encourage us and challenge us. We need to know, though, that those brothers and sisters are committed to us. We need leaders who will look out for us. They’ll hold us accountable. They’ll help us up when we’re down. They need to know that we’ll do the same for them. Many like to point to an informal commitment to the church, but that isn’t worth much when times get rough. Making a covenantal commitment to each other is much needed. Mark Dever lists these reasons why we should join a church:
- join a church for non-Christians: display to the world how the gospel creates a loving community
- join a church for weaker Christians: come alongside those young in the faith and help them grow
- join a church for stronger Christians: truly learn, and help others learn, what it means to love, propelling us down the path of maturity
- join a church for church leaders: make it clear to your elders for whom they are responsible
- join a church for God: glorify Him by identifying with His people and laboring for His mission
The bottom line is that, if we don’t think we need the church or don’t particularly like the church, we’re on shaky, dangerous ground. Christ loves His people. He died for them. We should love them, too.
Membership isn’t explicitly commanded of us in the Bible. However, the idea is implied everywhere. The biblical metaphors of body, building, and household give a picture of committed union with one another. Membership seems to be assumed in the New Testament. In addition, in a culture of persecution like the early church experienced, it’s easier to tell who’s “in” and who’s “out,” so we shouldn’t expect much in the way of commands in the Bible. Here are some additional evidences for membership in Scripture:
- the call for leaders to lead and Christians to submit to them (Heb. 13:17)
- the call for church discipline and the possibility of excommunication (Mt. 18:15-20)
- the presence of lists or rolls in Scripture (Acts 2:37-47; 1 Tim. 5:3-16; Rom. 16:1-16)
- the “one anothers” found in Scripture and the need to apply them
In Karis Church, we think church membership is biblical and important. Therefore, it’s an important aspect of who we are. That is an important point not to rush past. This is a big part of our vision. Obedient, growing Christians should be an active part of a local church, and, if they so choose, they can involve themselves in one that does not put as much emphasis on membership. Karis, however, does.
Interestingly, one common question we get is this: “I love the community here, and I’ve never experienced anything like it, but why do you make such a big deal about church membership?” A response? Perhaps those two things are related. Indeed, we’re convinced they are.