The Biblical Basis for Partnership

Over the next two posts, I’m going to focus on church membership (which we call “Partnership” at The Austin Stone) from a few different angles:

For many in the missional church conversation, this particular topic tends to take a back seat, but there is a strong warrant for membership biblically and necessity as a church on mission over time.

The Biblical Basis for Church Membership

Our church leadership calls people to become a partner at the Austin Stone, and believes other churches should thoughtfully pursue church membership.  While there is no direct command to “join a church” in Scripture, we see God commanding us to join or partner with the local church in two ways:

The Church is Publicly Visible

Jesus established the church to be a visible, public collection of people gathered to worship Him and make His name great. This is more than a loose collection or even a movement; God is calling us to closely affiliate with one another confessionally, to be on the same mission together, and to serve together. This is why we use the term partnership at the Austin Stone. (Matthew 16:18–19, Matthew 18:15–20)

Christians Submit to Leadership and One Another

Scripture repeatedly commands us as Christians to submit to our leaders, which requires that we have intentionally placed ourselves under the care, leadership, and oversight of specific leaders – the elders of a local church. Through partnership at the Austin Stone, we express our desire to be counted as a part of this community, and the leaders of this community become spiritually accountable for us. (Hebrews 13:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)

Other Resources

For more information on the biblical basis for partnership or church membership, I would recommend:

  • Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway 2012).
  • John Piper, The Meaning of Membership and Church Accountability, Desiring God,

By Todd Engstrom

Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth.

God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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