Meaningful Membership Pt 2 Membership Matters

Part one can be found here

Some have asked the question “Is church membership even biblical?” The simple one word answer is Yes. However we don’t have a verse like “Thou shalt join a local church” so let us look at some verses that imply church membership.

Take Mat 18:17 for example “And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.” Who is the church? If it’s every saved believer how could we tell all of them? Do we tell this problem to every one who sits in our church? These answers are obviously no, but it is implied that the church would know it’s members. In Acts 5:11-14 we find ” And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. 12And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. 13And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 14And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.)” Verse 13 tells us the people outside the church did not want to join the church. There must have been some way of keeping track of who was a member of the church. In I Cor 5 Paul gives clear instructions on removing a person from the church at Corinth. Verses 12-13 read “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? 13But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” Paul uses the the words “without” and “within” to describe those who are members and those who are not. The church has a God given authority to judge those within. These passages of Scripture primarily demonstrate the practical side of church membership. Early churches had members, but there is more to it than just joining a group.

The church is also designed to show forth the love of God to a lost and dying world. Listen to our Lord’s prayer in Jn 17:20-23 “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” By uniting with and submitting to a local church you are showing the work of God’s grace in your heart to the world around you. By members of a church working together and loving one another the love of God is lived out in a broken world. The church should be a picture of the love we have in Christ.

I pray this gives you some basis for a biblical church membership. Since membership does matter, what do we do with those who think their church membership does not matter? I am speaking of those within a church who at one time were active and for what ever reason they had a change of heart and now no longer participate. In part one of this series we laid out five minimums for acceptance into the church. Those same minimums should be maintained through out our time in the church. So let us now look into some areas where people may turn away from these basic tenants.

#1 Believe: In order to join one must be saved by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a matter of the heart and all that we can do is look for the fruits of faith and repentance. Suppose they recant their faith and say they will not believe in Christ any more, what should the church do? The church has one option if they will not repent: removal. Those who have no faith in Christ are not members. If someone claims to be saved but shows no fruit we should remain gracious to them encouraging their growth and honoring their profession.
#2 Baptized: The candidate must be properly baptized. This would come into question if someone who claimed to be saved in the past came to the realization of their true lost condition and was saved after becoming a member. In this case the church rejoices and administers baptism. If a member our church is baptized another church, we remove them and recognize their wishes to join that church.
#3 Agree With Our Doctrine: To be a member one must agree with what the church teaches. There are two directions a person can go from the established doctrine of the church: add to or take away. In every church there will be some minor differences in how one views the Scripture. If a member changes the view he once held Titus 3:10-11 is very clear “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” The church must try to correct him. If this fails, he must be removed for the protection of the body.
#4 Accept The Leadership: Why would someone’s feeling about the leadership change. If he is doctrinally sound, this change can usually be narrowed down to hurt feelings or rebellion. Hurt feeling arise out of misunderstandings and personality clashes. This can be solved by both parties adhering to Eph 4:2-3 “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” As for our second cause, rebellion, this should never be tolerated. The process of Mat 18:15-17 should be prayerfully followed.
#5 Attend: Lets put this into two categories: slacking and stopping. In either case the church should seek to resolve the situation. If they are slacking off then encouragement is needed. If they stop seek their return. If they refuse to return after a period of time they will have to be removed from the membership of the church. This obviously excludes the elderly, sick and some military personnel. Patience is the key here.

Why enforce these things you ask? God designed it this way. The image of Christ is at stake. This will promote holiness in the body. It unites the church to glorify God. It encourages spiritual growth. It reduces the common hypocrisy associated with the modern church. It ensures that the church remains faithful in her responsibility to equip, educate and encourage her members.