I want to begin a three part series on Church Membership. These are the notes from our Wednesday night Bible study here at Lee Creek Baptist Church. These messages were preached Jan 18-Feb 1 2012 and can be heard on our website. The need for this teaching is great among Southern Baptist especially, because many churches have a membership that is often four to five time as large as the attendance. Some as high as ten fold the attendance. The issue begins with who is allowed to join a church. Often times our membership is out of control because the people we have put on our roles never intended to stay in the church. They had a religious experience and when it wore off they left, never to be seen again. Many were never truly converted. So what do we do?
In order to properly teach on this subject we must establish what the Bible requires of a member of a New Testament Church. So we will begin with five minimums for acceptance in to the church’s role. These are the minimums, not maximums. We should expect to see some spiritual growth in love, knowledge and service after they join and continue under biblical teaching. So what does the Bible say is required of us to join the church?
Believe This may seem obvious to some of you but many people have joined their church as a baby, when a priest baptized them. John 1:12-13 tells us the “power to become the sons of God” only belongs to them who “believe on his name.” That is, the ones who have saving faith in Jesus Christ. They make up the “Church” that Jesus said He would build in Matthew 16:18. People who have not been regenerated and indwelt by the Holy Spirit can not function in the church. Simply put, they follow a different leader and their heart longs for worldly thing and not spiritual things. When a church is is full of lost members it can not fulfill the office God intended it to hold. “Ye must be born again” is still the step in church membership.
Baptism Only the believer is a proper candidate for baptism (Acts 2:41). No babies where ever baptized in the New Testament. When an entire household was baptized in the Bible you have to make the assumption that they were a young family with babies every time in order to believe that. Acts 8:36-39 give us the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch who, after he had heard the Word, wanted to be baptized. Phillip said “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.” Notice how they both went down into the water and both came up out of it. This was not a sprinkling. The only baptism that is acceptable before God is done by immersion, by a fellow believer, upon their profession of faith. This is the first act of obedience that every Christian should want to take. If a person can’t follow Christ this far, they are not a candidate for membership.
Agree Doctrinally Acts 2:42 tells us the early church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine.” Pastors are commanded to teach sound doctrine: I Tim 4:13, 16. We live in a day when there is a different kind of church on every corner. All of these verious beliefs have sprang up over differing doctrinal views. Odds are, there is a group that already preaches the Bible “your way.” The church and her pastor are commanded to gaurd these doctrines I Tim 1:3. In Romans 16:16-18 Paul instructs the church to “mark them that cause divisions and offences contrary to doctrine… and avoid them”. Often times this treatment could be avoided if the church and the prospect were honest on the front end. If the doctrine of the church can not be accepted, membership is not an option.
Attend The Services Heb 10:24-25 are pretty cut and dried. Verse 24 tells us “to provoke unto love and good works.” How can you help others in this task if you don’t want to be with them? Church requires Christians, and the Christian requires church. v25 “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” To not go to church is to disobey a direct command from holy Scripture. We have every right to take a vacation, work an extra day or stay home sick when necessary. Even if we are to old and feeble to attend church, that is understandable. But, If someone is “forsaking” the church and has no plans of returning, they are out of fellowship. Let us be reminded that true Christians can not stay in this condition. I John 2:19-20 is clear “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us…” The believer may from time to time become disgruntled with the church or it’s leadership, but he can not stay that way. v20 “..ye have the Holy One..” The Holy Spirit comes and corrects our heart. The Great Shepherd takes care of His sheep. If there are no plans of staying, there should be no plans of membership.
Accept The Leadership God appoints the leaders in the church. In the Bible they are called Pastors, Elders or Bishops. What ever you call them the Bible is clear, God has put them there to “under shepherd” His flock. Many passages of Scripture support this. For example Heb 13:7, 17 show the responsibility of both the pastor and the pew. The pastor is to lead, and he must give an account, of both of himself and those whom he pastors. In I Pet 5:1-4 Peter tells how true pastors are to conduct themselves. We have the criteria for a qualified pastor in I Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. Pastors meeting those standards are to be prayed for, not opposed to. If a person can not accept the God given leadership in the church, they have no business seeking membership there.
May God be glorified in His Churches!