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Principles for Bible-Believing Churches: Changing the Membership List

Posted by Matt Postiff March 11, 2011 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Church 

Principle: No individual or sub-group of the church or outside the church can unilaterally change the membership roll of the church, either in or out.

This includes:

  1. The pastor. For example, (A) the pastor cannot add favored individuals to membership on his own authority. (B) The pastor cannot remove disfavored individuals from membership.
  2. The church board or council. (C) The church board does not have the power to directly change the membership roll either by addition or subtraction, as above.
  3. A member himself or herself. (D) An individual cannot join the church without the church’s approval. (E) The individual cannot remove himself from the church without the church’s approval.
  4. Any outside authority. (F) No outside agent, like another church, a denominational hierarchy, or a government, can impose upon the church to include or remove a member.

In other words, it is not within an individual’s power to dictate to the corporate body what the church’s accepted membership roll is. Neither can a government force membership to include any person, especially one whose profession or behavior is not in accord with the Christian faith or our constitution.

The congregationally-governed church cannot absolve itself of the responsibility to maintain a list of members. This includes that the body is the authority over the list, and the individuals or groups above cannot force upon it a change that it does not agree to.

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