Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the church, membership, baptism, and life together in the church. As I preach through 1 Corinthians and our church works to update its prospective member class, I’ve found great profit from reading the works of Jonathan Leeman (Church Membership and Church Discipline) and Bobby Jamieson (Going Public: Why Baptism is Required for Membership) on these subjects, but I’ve also found help in some shorter pieces.
Whether you are a pastor, a member, or a free-range evangelical, these resources will encourage, challenge, and bring light on the subject of membership in the local church. Perhaps in the weeks ahead I can add a few posts myself.
Is Church Membership Biblical? by Matt Chandler
If you view church as some sort of ecclesiological buffet, then you severely limit the likelihood of your growing into maturity. Growth into godliness can hurt. For instance, as I interact with others in my own local body, my own slothfulness in zeal is exposed, as is my lack of patience, my prayerlessness, and my hesitancy to associate with the lowly (Rom. 12:11-16). Yet this interaction also gives me the opportunity to be lovingly confronted by brothers and sisters who are in the trenches with me, as well as a safe place to confess and repent. But when church is just a place you attend without ever joining, like an ecclesiological buffet, you just might consider whether you’re always leaving whenever your heart begins to be exposed by the Spirit, and the real work is beginning to happen.
You can also find John Piper’s strong affirmation of “How Important is Church Membership?“
Is Church Membership Really Required? by Ricky Jones
“First, it’s simply not possible. To imply you can be part of the greater community without first being part of the smaller is not logical. You cannot be part of Rotary International without also being part of a local chapter. You cannot be part of the universal human family without first being part of a small immediate family.
“Second, it’s not biblical. Every letter in the New Testament assumes Christians are members of local churches. The letters themselves are addressed to local churches. They teach us how to get along with other members, how to encourage the weak within the church, how to conduct ourselves at church, and what to do with unrepentant sinners in the church. They command us to submit to our elders, and encourage us to go to our elders to pray. All these things are impossible if you aren’t a member of a local church. (See 1 and 2 Corinthians, James, Ephesians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and 1 Peter for references.)
“Asking where the Bible commands you to be a church member is like asking where the USGA rulebook for golf insists you be a human. The whole book is addressed to the church.
“Finally, living without church membership is not healthy. Independence—the desire to choose for yourself what’s right and wrong—is at the heart of sin. You need the humility lesson of submitting to flawed elders. You need the encouragement of sharing victories with your church. You need the fellowship of sharing sufferings with your church.
Here are a two other helpful posts on membership from TGC
- 6 Reasons Why Membership Matters (Kevin DeYoung)
- Is Baptism Required for Church Membership? (an interview with Bobby Jamieson)
Baptism Isn’t Cute, It’s War by Jamus Edward
“We treat baptism way too lightly. When we think about baptism we often giggle about the water being too cold. It can be so “cute” when little Johnny pretends like he wants to dive into the baptistery. Yet baptism was never intended to be cute; in the New Testament, baptism was a declaration of war and death to who we used to be before Jesus. . . .
“It is for this reason that baptism is not just a symbol; it is a pronouncement of spiritual warfare on sin and the principalities and powers of darkness. This is why as soon as Jesus was baptized, the Spirit immediately led Him out into the wilderness to engage in spiritual warfare with the devil for 40 days and nights (Matthew 4).
May the Lord continue to build and grow his universal church by strengthening and purifying his local churches.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds