Uninvolved members confuse both real members and non-Christians about what it means to be a Christian. And “active” members do the voluntarily “inactive” members no service when they allow them to remain members of the church; for membership is the church’s corporate endorsement of a person’s salvation. Again, this must be clearly understood: membership in a church is that church’s corporate testimony to the individual member’s salvation. Yet how can a congregation honestly testify that someone invisible to it is faithfully running the race? If members have left our company and have not gone to any other Bible-believing church, what evidence do we give that they were ever part of us? We do not necessarily know that such uninvolved people are not Christians; we may simply be unable to affirm that they are. We don’t have to tell them that we know they’re going to Hell, only that we can’t tell them that we know they are going to Heaven.
A recovered practice of careful church membership will have many benefits. It will make our witness to non-Christians more clear. It will make it more difficult for weaker sheep to go straying from the fold, while still considering themselves sheep. It will help to give shape and focus to the discipleship of more mature Christians. It will aid our church leaders in knowing exactly who they are responsible for. In all of this, God will be glorified.
Pray that church membership may come to mean something more than it currently does, so that we can better know those for whom we’re responsible, so that we can pray for them, encourage them and challenge them. We should not allow people to keep their membership in our churches for sentimental reasons. Considered biblically, such membership is no membership at all.
In the “Questions for Reflection” is this further explanation:
Church membership, the author writes, is a church’s corporate testimony to an individual member’s salvation. Read Hebrews 13:17. The Bible teaches that church leaders will be required to “give an account” for those under their care. Do you think this “account” will simply be a statement that a person once made a decision for Christ, or is it a knowledgeable testimony that a person is faithfully bearing fruit in the gospel? How does this affect our understanding of who should be on our membership rolls?