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10 things you should know about church membership (Part II)



This week’s editorial is a continuation from last week, and lists points 5 to 7 of what we should know about church membership1. In reading them, may we continue to be encouraged in our love for Christ and his church!


Pastor Luwin Wong 

 

5. Membership is a meaningful commitment.

When God counts his people for the very first time in Numbers 1:1–3, he counts every adult male ready for war. God was forming an army, and he wanted everyone to know who could be counted on to help carry out the conquest in Canaan. Don’t worry, I think women should be church members just as much as men! The argument here is that Christians should be counted in, so that we can be counted on. That’s what local church membership should mean. It’s not just signing your name on a piece of paper. From the individual’s perspective, membership is what your signature signifies.

 

It signifies your commitment to believe and live in a biblical, God-honouring way. This is why many churches (including ours) require prospective members to sign a statement of faith and a church covenant. Signing the statement of faith signifies that others can count on you to teach and abide by the doctrine stated in it. Signing the church covenant signifies that others can count on you to live according to the commitments specified in a church covenant — living a holy life, attending services, praying for your fellow church members, serving them, loving them, supporting the church’s discipline and attending its ordinances (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), growing in truth and love, evangelising your unsaved friends, giving financially to support the ministry and needs of the church, etc.

 

What if I said to my wife before we were married, “Honey, you already know I love you, and I can love you just as well without marrying you; so why don’t we just keep it common law?” We all know that’s weak. Why? Because it displays fear of commitment. A wedding ceremony publicises and solemnises the covenant commitment between man and wife. And local membership publicises and solemnises the covenant commitment between a member and a church. Of course, it’s not always as permanent as marriage, but it is a covenant commitment.

 

6. Membership applies biblical metaphors for the church.

The Bible sees local churches as flocks of sheep (1 Peter 5:3). It’s never a good thing for a sheep to go solo looking for green grass. Rogue sheep are easy prey. We belong in the safety of a flock. Membership helps keep us gathered with the other sheep under the protection of the shepherd. Besides, what kind of under-shepherd doesn’t know which particular sheep the owner has entrusted to him? Membership helps us keep track of which sheep we’re responsible to graze, gather, guide, and guard.

 

Paul tells Timothy that the local church in Ephesus is like a family with members (1 Timothy 3:15). Friend, what kind of dad or mum would you be if you didn’t know which of the children on the block you were responsible to feed, or which ones should be in your house at bedtime? I don’t discipline the kids down the street; I discipline my own kids. It’s unsafe to be a kid without parents and a home. Membership helps church leaders know who belongs to the household, and it lets family members know where they should go when it’s time for dinner and rest.

 

If a local church like the one in Ephesus is a physical body, “members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25; 1 Corinthians 12:27), then each person is a body part — an arm or a leg, a hand, foot, thumb, or toe. A body part detached from the rest of its body is not beautiful or cool. It’s gruesome. But that’s what it looks like for a Christian to refuse to join a local church — an arm flopping around on the ground. Arms don’t last long when they’re detached from a body. And think of what happens to a church body when you refuse to attach your part, or you violently detach from it . . . well, we can only take the metaphor so far; but Christian, to be what God designed you to be, to be part of the body, you need to figure out which body you’re going to be attached to, and then formally, visibly, join that body — by becoming a member of it. Besides, your church body needs you, even if you’re a tiny pinky toe or an unseen, uncelebrated pancreas.

 

7. Membership facilitates ministry.

It sounds big to say that you’re a member of the universal church and that you love all Christians in the world. But can you really love all Christians in the world equally well? To bear one another’s burdens, spur one another on to love and good deeds, consider each other more important than yourselves, bear with one another in love, exhort one another, and all the rest, it seems we need to be together in the same place. It’s the people sitting next to you, across from you, two aisles up, four aisles back — the local people — that are the most likely beneficiaries of your love. Local church membership says, These are the particular saints I’m going to prioritise in my discipling and love — warts and all. 

 

(1) Paul Alexander, (Nov 8, 2019), 10 Things You Should Know about Church Membership, Crossway. Taken from https://www.crossway.org/articles/10-things-you-should-know-about-church-membership/

 



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