October 27, 2021 Eric Gawura

What’s the deal with the Church? Do you have to be a member of it in order to be saved?

What’s the deal with the Church? Do you have to be a member of it in order to be saved?

What’s the deal with the Church? Do you have to be a member of it in order to be saved?


The short answer to this question is “yes…..and no.” Yes, it is absolutely necessary to be a member of the Church to be saved. But “No”, you don’t need to hold membership in a church to be saved.


Confused? Well, let’s sort this out.


To answer this question a clarification needs to be made about what the word “church” means. In English church can mean one of three things: 1. An individual congregation, like Our Redeemer; 2. A Christian denomination (e.g., Lutheran, Baptist, Roman Catholic, etc.); or 3. The whole body of Christian believers. The first two meanings refer to institutions, the third meaning refers to the nature of the Church. In parlance we use a small “c” to refer to the institution (i.e., “church”) and a capital “C” to refer to the nature of the thing (i.e., “Church”).


The presence or absence of that capital “C” makes all the difference in how you answer the above question:


  • Do you have to be a member of a/the church to be saved? NO! Membership in any institution, whether it be a local congregation or an international denomination, is not a requirement to enter heaven (i.e., salvation).


  • Do you have to be a member of the Church to be saved? YES! Why? Again, let’s sort this out.


What is The Church? In the most fundamental sense, the Church is the total number of individuals who have heard the Gospel and believed it, who have faith in Jesus Christ as their God and Savior. Because faith is a matter of the heart then the Church cannot simply be equated with any institution. People join churches for a whole multitude of reasons, and so it will always be true that congregations and denominations will have official members who have joined that institution for various reasons but who do not have faith. Obviously, people who do not have faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior will not be saved. This is why membership in an institution (“church” with small “c”) will not save anyone.


So, the Church (capital “C”) is made up of all of those who do have faith, all of those who are receiving the salvation that God offers humanity in Jesus Christ. Faith is the only thing needed for salvation, and faith automatically make a person a member of the Church, the community of those who believe in Jesus. So, since faith is necessary for salvation, and since faith make you a member of the Church, then being a member of the Church – the “communion of saints” in the words of the Creed – is necessary for salvation. So, you don’t need to be a Roman Catholic or a Lutheran or a Baptist to be saved, but you do need to believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. If you do, then you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, even if you’re Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or Baptist.