It's been a while since I blogged somewhat consistently, but I am planning to start up again. I am going to shoot for one substantive (yet concise) blog a week, and perhaps a few short links with notes in between. I hope this will help believers to think about what it means to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ and perhaps challenge some unbelievers to consider trusting in Christ.
The first topic that I would like to take up is active church membership. Is it important that Christian become active members of a local church? What is church membership about? What are the New Testament responsibilities of church members? What are the church leaders responsibilities to their members? What do baptism, the Lord's supper, and church discipline have to do with church membership? How does active church membership display God, and the gospel and draw people to Christ?
I have been doing some study on this topic mostly through listening to and reading people such as Mark Dever (Senior Pastor, Captiol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.--9 Marks); John MacArthur (Senior Pastor, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA); Austin Duncan (Student Ministries Pastor, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, CA); Byan Chapell (Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Luis MO); Colin Marshall and Tony Pane (Matthias Media); and others.
These men have challenged my thinking and helped me to understand that church membership is a glorious provision of our Lord for the sake of the display of the gospel to the world and the joy and growth of His Saints to the glory of God.
Church Membership: Is it Important?
I believe that church membership is not explicitly commanded and the process explicitly delineated in the New Testament, but it is everywhere implied and illustrated there. I believe that active church membership is essential for every Christian and the greatest advance of the gospel will happen through this God given means.
For starters let's look at Acts 2:40-47 (our first glimpse at church membership in action) and briefly highlight indicators that church membership is important from the context:
Acts 2:40–47 (NASB95)
40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Church membership Implied and illustrated:
1. Those who responded to Peter's message by embracing Christ as their Savior and Lord were publicly baptized and added to a recognizable number of people who confessed the same.
2. Those people became recognizable as "they" in v. 42. "They" were a distinct group of believers associating with one another.
3. This group then with one mind devoted themselves to certain things: 1.) The apostles teaching; fellowship (literally sharing their lives and sharing their faith with one another as they gathered together); to the breaking of bread (sharing the Lord's supper together as a group); and prayer (this was a corporate togetherness for the purpose of prayer--v. 42).
4. This group purposed to be together often and to share their possessions with one another as people had need (vv. 44-45)
5. This group organized daily services in the temple, and regular gatherings where they enjoyed the Lord's supper in houses. They purposed to share their lives together and meals together in Christian fellowship (v. 46)
6. They became known as those who were constantly praising God and having favor with people. In other words there was a winsomeness about their love, and joy in Christ and each other that was attractive to the watching world.
7. The display of the gospel seen in their lives translated into many more coming to Christ and intentionally joining themselves to this defined group of people (v.47b).
A few conclusions:
1. Membership is clearly implied and illustrated here.
2. Their are things that every genuine church member must be committed to: 1.) The gospel 2.) Baptism 3.) Association with other believers (membership) 4.) The apostles teaching 5.) Christian fellowship (sharing their lives with other believers) 6.) The Lord's supper 7.) Corporate prayer 8.) Meeting the needs of fellow members 9.) Fellowship with one another in daily life 10.) The glory of God displayed in their lives as they fear HIm and love one another together 11.) Seeing other added to their number through these means.
3. Final thought: Real, healthy church growth happens when we take membership seriously!
For more on NT indication and implications of Church membership:
See this helpful brochure from Grace Community Church, Sun Valley CA: Church Membership
Listen to this Seminar by Austin Duncan: http://www.gracechurch.org/media/6758/membership_matters/
Read this Article by 9Marks: http://www.9marks.org/what-are-the-9marks/membership
Listen to this seminar by Mark Dever: http://graceforus.org/resources/media/?sermon_id=703