Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” But how can a Christian know who his leaders are? It was probably easy to tell in the early church where there was one primary group of Christians in each city with one team of elders. But in the modern American church, this is no longer the case. A Christian can attend one church this Sunday and another the next and so on, never attaching to a pastor or group of pastors in any meaningful way. Church membership clarifies spiritual leadership, enabling Christians to submit in obedience to Christ.
But there’s another half of Hebrews 13:17. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” Every Christian needs leaders to keep watch over their souls. If we don’t commit to one church, this is unlikely to happen. Pastors will only be able to give us intermittent, momentary care. We need a committed relationship with our church leaders in which we submit to them for the watch-keeping of our souls. In other words, do you know who your pastors are? Church membership will help you be sure.
The most terrifying aspect of pastoral ministry is the accountability. Church leaders will have to give account for the souls entrusted to them. In our church-hopping culture, it is very difficult to know whose soul we’ll be held responsible for. Formal commitment clarifies this and empowers pastors to do the work God has called them to do. When we refuse commitment, we expose them to incredible danger. In other words, do your pastors know that they are your pastors? Church membership will help them be sure.