First, I believe all Christians are part of the universal church. The word church, is from the Greek word ecclesia, which means a called out company or assembly. Those who were called out by God for salvation, who gather in His name make up His church. A believer is the church. Therefore coming together with family and other believers could be interpreted as the church gathering. For the apostle Paul makes clear we are all the church, the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are of one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many” (NKJV). Understanding this text, one could conclude that they do not need to belong to a local church. For from this passage they learn a Christian is the church.
This is indeed the case, but Scripture does not stop with the universal church. Instead the Holy Spirit, through the writers of the New Testament, establishes the need for believers to be in a local congregation. Nowhere in Scripture is this made clear than in the Pastoral Epistles. In (1 Timothy 3:1-13) Paul shares the guidelines for Elders and deacons. Those who would serve the body of Christ. Again in (Titus 1:5-9) Paul again lays out the qualifications for Elders to be placed in every city. Paul goes on to instruct Timothy concerning the church 1Timothy 3:14-15 “These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly, but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth” (NKJV). Notice the house of God in the passage is the church and how should Timothy conduct himself in that house. John Gill, the Baptist theologian explains the verse, “Now the above things were written to Timothy, that he might know how to order and manage things in this house and family; what became him to do himself, in the character he was; and what persons to direct in the choice of to be officers in it.” Paul was teaching Timothy and us how to establish procedure and leadership in the local church. This was the formula taught in the New Testament that each local body would have their own pastors and deacons. So the question now should be, why should a local body of believers have their own pastors and deacons? Once again we go to Scripture for the answer. Hebrews 13:17 “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (NKJV). In the book of Hebrews, the writer is instructing the church to come under the authority of their (pastors/elders); to be held accountable in their spiritual walk. Now earlier in the book, the Jews whom the letter was written to, were forsaking the assembly of the church. They were under persecution and were thinking of forsaking Christ. The writer of Hebrews encourages them to gather together to hold one another accountable and lift up and encourage one another. Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.” The gathering is for the believer and God has given offices to the local body of believers to help grow and disciple pilgrims holding them accountable in their Christian walk. The gathering defined in this passage is a collective and corporate worship of believers. And it is an imperative meaning a command. We as Christians are commanded to gather for corporate worship under an elder/pastor.
Throughout the New Testament we see the church gathering together for worship and fellowship under pastors. In (Acts 2:42-47) we learn the church comes under the Apostles teaching and have all things in common. Meeting together daily to break bread, pray and praise God. And once again we see the formula for local churches in Acts 14:23 “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed and fasted, they commended them to the Lord in whom they believed” (NKJV). Once again there is the appointing of those who would teach and hold believers accountable. God designed the church to gather together for worship and discipleship. If one is a believer they will gather in a local body. An interesting fact about the bible is all the letters written in the New Testament was written to a local church. An example would be 1 Corinthians 1:2a “To the church of God which is at Corinth” (NKJV). 1Thesssalonians 1:1a “To the church of the Thessalonians” (NKJV). And of course, to the seven churches in Asia (Revelation 1:4). Believers are meant to be part of a local body of believers who are under a pastor or elders.
Another perspective that shows believers are meant to gather and be part of a local body is the Spiritual gifts given to us. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all” (NKJV). We are to use are gifts for the edification of the body. Paul goes on to instruct the local church at Corinth saying, “Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel” (1 Corinthians 14:12 NKJV). Paul is teaching the Corinth church to use their gifts in love for the edification and glory of Christ.
So should you be a church member? According to Scripture, yes! The reasons stated are, we are to be held accountable and to use the gifts we have been given for the church. The truth being, we as believers are not meant to be alone in our walk with Jesus. He has called us to come together and proclaim Him. We are a family and as a family we need one another to help edify, encourage, and pray with. The purpose of the church is two –fold. One we are to carry out the great commission of (Matthew 28:18-20). Second, we are build a community that loves one another (John 13:34), and worships together as one body of believers (Hebrews 10:25). Remember the warning given in Proverbs 18:1 “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgement” (NKJV).
 Dr. John Gill (1690-1771) John Gills Exposition of the entire Bible. 1 Timothy.