During the past several decades, there has been a steady decline in church membership.  Why?  For one, many churches have abandoned it all together. This is due to the fact that it’s far more important for many churches to get warm bodies in the seats than it is to actually ensure that the church is comprised of mostly believers.  The church is thought of as a religiously entertaining place to gather, instead of group of interconnected people, unified by the Holy Spirit and transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ.

Secondly, and related to the first, many Christians have become entirely disenchanted with church membership because if all it takes to become a member in some churches is a profession of faith and semi-consistent church attendance, then what’s the point?  In that case church membership becomes meaningless, unless it is actually the verification of the Spirit’s powerful work in bringing someone into union with Jesus Christ and the church.

Lastly, it seems clear that the spirit of the age has promoted selfishness and self-promotion, even among professing Christians to such an extent that it has greatly affected body life and church membership.  How so?–1) There is a tremendous lack of desire to commit to a body or to commit to anything else for that matter: “What if I commit and I get stuck in something that’s hard or doesn’t satisfy me or what if something better comes along?  Rather than rush into something, I think the Lord is calling me to be patient and wait 5 or 10 years just to make sure I’m not missing out on what he has for me.”  What an interesting way to mask selfishness!

2) In addition to viewing commitment like the plague, there is also a severe aversion to accountability.  This aversion can be summed up with these comments—”I don’t want to be burdened and bothered by having to think about other people and I certainly don’t want other people poking around in my life and questioning things.  I’ve made it this far with very little input from others and I’m doing pretty well, if I do say so myself.”
The truth is we should find it very difficult to attribute those thoughts to a genuine Christian and I’m certain we would all agree that the Bible calls churches and Christians to a much higher standard than the things I have just mentioned.

Despite that trend, what is clearly contained within the teaching of the NT is the delineation of who is in and who is out of the church.  The following texts demand that there be some sort of guidelines to make that distinction–1 Cor. 5:9ff; 1 John 2:19.  The church membership process is a helpful tool to accomplish that.