Many people join a church with little thought of the Biblical implications of such a decision. The American church culture, with its consumer driven emphasis, has made church membership almost meaningless. There is no depth to our understanding of church membership much less any feeling of responsibility. Many move from church to church depending on which church has what they are looking for at the given time.
While I do not expect to change the bent of our church culture as a whole, I aim to make a difference at Lakeview. I do want to change the mindset of membership at our church. I want to not only make sure new members understand the seriousness of church membership but also that we are constantly educating the entire church on the Biblical meaning of church membership. It is so easy to be swept up in the flood of the American church culture.
Jonathan Leeman gives us a good definition of church membership in his excellent book, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love. He says:
Church membership is (1) a covenant of union between a particular church and a Christian, a covenant that consists of (2) the church’s affirmation of the Christian gospel profession, (3) the church’s promise to give oversight to the Christian, and (4) the Christian’s promise to gather with the church and submit to its oversight.
I think that is a good definition for us to work with. Let’s enlarge upon it just a bit.
1. Church Membership Is A Covenant- Yes, church membership is more than signing a card. It means more to join a church than it does to join the country club or Netflix. It means to enter into a covenant. A covenant is a solemn agreement between the members of a church to act together in harmony with the precepts of the gospel. It is like a marriage covenant. It means taking responsibility for the other members and it means submitting to others. It is a covenant that promises that you will be a dependable part of the church. It is not a no risk and cancel at anytime proposition. It is not join until you shop and find a better deal.
2. Church Membership Affirms the Christian’s Profession of Faith In Christ- By joining the church, the individual is proclaiming their salvation by the grace of God, through the work of Christ, and applied by the power of the Holy Spirit. And the church is affirming that they have seen the evidence and fruits of that in the person’s life by receiving them into membership. Honestly, that takes time. People are usually quick to want to join but the church must vet them over time , as best it can, to examine their fruits. The problem in many churches today is that there are more goats than sheep in the membership. I think in most cases, it takes a good year to come to that conclusion.
3. The Church Promises to Oversee the Christian’s Discipleship- The church is a spiritual organism and is interested and concerned about the spiritual needs of the member. This is not to say that the church does not meet physical needs. I think that the church has a Biblical responsibility to meet the physical needs of its members as well. But the primary need is spiritual. The church is to do what it is called to do: teach, preach, exhort, rebuke, encourage and call all its members to engage in the mutual building up of its members. The church exercises great oversight to ensure these things are being done. The church is not called to entertain its members but to edify its members by the word of God.
4. The Christian Promises To Regularly Assemble With and Submit to the Church- The member has responsibility to gather. How often? As often as the church deems to be necessary. The Authority to determine the frequency of assembling lies with the church. At Lakeview, we meet three times a week: Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday evening. There may be other times when services are added as well. It is the responsibility of the membership to meet at each appointed time unless sick or providentially hindered. The member also bears the responsibility to support the work of the church financially. While the church must spend God’s money wisely, it should be the desire of every member that the work of the church not be hindered by lack of financial ability. Each member also should serve. Service is not just teaching a class or watching a nursery but serving in every service in the effort to encourage each member.
Unless we understand these things, the church will not be able to pull together to maintain unity and to glorify God to the fullest extent.
HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!