Restoring dignity to Church membership

When people trust in Jesus Christ as the one who died for their sins and was raised for their justification, they are forgiven and pass from death to life.

Jesus stated it this way, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).

At the very moment a person places faith in the Lord Jesus as personal Savior, he is united with Christ — by God— and made spiritually alive by God’s Spirit.

Referring to this work of God, 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus…” and II Corinthians 1:21-22 says, “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

This life and salvation is what we share in common when we come together as a Church. It’s the basis for our “fellowship of the Spirit” (Philippians 2:1-2). We share a common life in Christ! We belong to the same family as sons and daughters of Almighty God. We are the body of Christ in one local expressions of it on earth when we assemble. We belong to one another spiritually.

Romans 12:5 says, “…we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

When we assemble as Church, we are the temple of the living God. This is one reason why those who disregard or treat lightly God’s assembly invite His judgment on their lives (see: 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 11).

Scripture does not entertain a sharp distinction between God and His people. What you do to them, for them, or against them—you do to, for or against God. (See: Luke 10:2; Acts 2:47; 9:4; I Cor. 3:6; Eph. 5:25,29; Heb. 6:10; Matthew 16:18, 25:40). 

What is true spiritually about our union with Christ must be demonstrated functionally in committed relationships of mutual ministry, interdependence and accountability among God’s people.

The idea of a Christian who operates independently of other believers is foreign to Scripture. It is God’s will that all His children be deeply committed, functioning parts of an assembly of believers who exist under the pastoral oversight of elders. This is the undeniable pattern and expectation in the New Testament.

Scripture requires that all who have been united with Christ be united with others who are united with Christ. Yet I am really convinced of far more! The church, of all places, should be a “congregation of the committed.” And her membership should be based upon commitment.

The deficiency in many churches is the casual procedure of adding new members without any challenge to commitment. Integrity in the membership process is the place to begin in restoring a high view of the Church. 

Most believers recognize the need for Christian fellowship. But the deciding issue is how we define the character of that fellowship. What should it be according to the New Testament?

“Fellowship is more than unconditional love that wraps its arms around someone who is hurting. It is also tough love that holds one fast to the truth and the pursuit of righteousness. For most Christians, the support side of the equation comes more easily than accountability and the subsequent discipline involved. Which is one reason the behavior of Christians is often little different from the behavior of non-Christians. Maybe it’s because we simply haven’t taught accountability. Or maybe it’s because, in today’s fiercely individualistic culture, people resent being told what to do, and since we don’t want to “scare them off,” we succumb to cultural pressures.”

“But too often we confuse love with permissiveness. It is not love to fail to dissuade another believer from sin any more than it is love to fail to take a drink away from an alcoholic or matches away from a baby. True fellowship out of love for one another demands accountability.” (Chuck Colson, The Body, p. 130)

“Christian community starts at the point of commitment and covenant. There is no genuine Christian community without a covenant… Christian community cannot exist without commitment to Jesus as Lord and to each other as sister and brother. And this must be more than a general mental commitment. It must be specific and explicit, involving our time, energy, and resources. Covenant is not just a nebulous commitment to each other; it takes specific shape in history.”(Howard Snyder, “Liberating the Church,” p. 127)

Integrity of membership process is the place to begin in restoring a high view of the Church. This should not be done with legalistic attitudes nor to have an assembly of the spiritual elite, but to approach Church in a way that is faithful to God’s plan for it.

“The refusal to grapple with the issue of entrance into the Christian church is not toleration: it is betrayal of the gospel which we preach…a surrender to Christ is a surrender to His people—total involvement in the life of the church.”

“The church’s determination to make membership genuine — even difficult — rather than nominal, is shocking and even resented by Christians of a softer inclination.” (Colson)

We live in a day when people take covenants lightly and take a far more causal approach to commitments. At Millersville Bible Church, we make it our effort to approach membership consistent with what Scripture reveals about what it means to be God’s people. We view membership as a means for discipleship and for defining our relationship with one another — not just another hoop one must jump through to join the Church. 

Steve Cornell

This entry was posted in Accountability, Christian life, Christian worldview, Christianity, Church, Church growth, Church Leadership, Church membership, Church Planting, Ecclesiology 101, Elders, God's Will, In Christ, Leadership, Life of a pastor, Local Church, Millersville Bible Church, Pastors and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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