Friday, September 28, 2012

Church Membership, part 7

We have already laid out the reasons why church membership is important and significant to the life of a Christian. Those things would be included in a “membership class” or “membership interview”, so those things will not be re-written here.

Some church membership processes are more involved than others. Most of them include some variation of the following elements.

  1. Baptism by immersion - This is the “confession of salvation” in the NT church. It is one of the first steps of obedience in following Christ as his disciple. It is a public demonstration of a spiritual reality.
  2. Membership interview or class - Some churches have several-week long classes for those interested in becoming members. During these classes, topics such as doctrine, church membership responsibilities, vision of the church, spiritual gifts, and testimony of salvation are discussed. Other churches discuss have a membership application and then an interview with an elder/pastor or other designated person.
  3. Elder affirmation - Because of the responsibility of elders to oversee the church, some churches require that the elders/pastors give an affirmation for new members. The elders/pastors are also the ones who conduct the interviews or classes.
  4. Congregational affirmation - Because of the authority in scripture to the church body as a whole, most churches require some form of affirmation from the congregation at some point.

Usually, precluding any of these things may be a conversation with a pastor/elder or deacon or other church member. Some churches do the membership class kind of as an “interest/get to know you” kind of thing. Others require the church membership class as a prerequisite to becoming a “full member”.

Next week - lingering thoughts about church membership.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the Blogs for September 20, 2012

8 Reasons to serve outside the four walls on a Sunday (interesting)

The Gospel and Fasting (good reminder)

Prayer - Illumination

Good quote here for preachers - Dr. John Stott wrote: "Authentic Christian preaching is a bridge-building operation. It relates the text to the context in such a way as to be both faithful to the biblical text and sensitive to the modern context. We must not sacrifice either to the other."

Suffering and a Good God (interesting)

new book "Everyday Church" - this is a great quote

Corporate Worship Behavior  (thought this was interesting)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Church Membership, part 6

Over the last two weeks’ articles, we have listed 12 biblical responsibilities of a “church member”. Putting them all together would be similar to what many congregations have in place today called a church covenant. A church covenant is a declaration of church members’ responsibilities and one’s commitment to those responsibilities as a participating member of a congregation of believers. Church covenants can be helpful in reminding all church members that being a church membership is meaningful and significant, something more than just a name on a roll. Church covenants should be a reflection of the principles found in the “new covenant” that all Christians are under in Christ Jesus rather than something in addition to what has been spelled out in the New Testament regarding church.

Therefore, church covenants, should be taken seriously. It is much more than a contract or agreement or bargain because of the seriousness of what church is and the significance that the New Testament places on the church as the body of Christ. Church covenants are a promise of responsibility and accountability. It is a commitment of giving ourselves to a group of people with whom we share in Christ and with one another the burden and privilege of making disciples (Matthew 28:16-20; Matthew 22:34-40). It represents our commitment to each other as brothers and sisters in the family of God for the mutual edification of one another through the exercising of spiritual gifts as we each grow up to spiritual maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-17).

Many church covenants start out something like this: “Having been led, by the grace of God, and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, and upon our profession of faith and baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we do now before God and this congregation covenant to do the following”.

Then, the covenant will go on to list things that should reflect (hopefully) the “responsibilities” that we have listed the last couple of weeks in the Forerunner articles that come straight out of the scripture.

The learning of what church covenant means and what church membership in churches usually takes place through a church membership process. It takes many forms in different churches.

Next week, we will look at what a church membership process might look like.

Church Membership, part 5

Let's continue our list of biblical responsibilities of church members:
  • Every member is responsible to submit to other members in general and to the elders/pastors whom God has placed among them as the under-shepherds who watch over their souls.
  • Every member is responsible to pursue a holy lifestyle that communicates the gospel so as not to bring reproach to the name of Christ, and thereby bring discipline into their lives from the church.
  • Every member is responsible to pursue the means of God's grace in growing toward spiritual maturity.
  • Every member is responsible for an on-going lifestyle of repentance, showing humility and dependence upon God's grace.
  • Every member is responsible to seek to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace among the church through a biblical peacemaking process.
  • Every member is responsible to care for the needs of others, particularly those of the household of faith, but generally to all those whom God places in their path.
  • Every member is responsible to speak the truth in love at all times, particularly in times when sin must be confronted among the church.

These biblical responsibilities are in no particular order nor is this an exhaustive list. These are a list of about 12 that cover the general responsibilities of all church members.

In fact, notice carefully. Many of the things on this list (last week and this week) refer to the character that the Holy Spirit produces in the lives of Christians; they are lived out within the context of a congregation or community of believers.

These responsibilities are not to be seen as rules & regulations. In fact, for the Christian, 1 John tells us that the commandments of the Lord are not burdensome; they are a joy because they are for our good and God's glory.

What does all this look like when applied to a congregation?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Church Membership, part 4

The question we left hanging last week was this: how do we do church membership according to biblical principles?

Entrance into the "universal church" is accomplished by the Holy Spirit as He applies the work of Christ in a person's life, regenerates his or her spirit, and baptizes him/her into the "body of Christ". The physical representation (or sign) of this entrance into the "universal body of Christ" is through the ordinance of water baptism by immersion that pictures the death, burial, and resurrection to new life in Christ. Therefore, baptism by immersion is the "profession of faith" we find in the NT rather than the "walking down an aisle" that we so often associate with this.

The outworking of one's "membership" in the universal body of Christ is represented by one's "membership" in a "local congregation or assembly" of believers through full participation in the life of that local congregation.

Being a church member comes with responsibilities rather than rights. And, all those who desire to "join" our local congregation must understand and commit themselves to fulfilling these responsibilities. Here are a few:

  • Every member is responsible to believe the gospel and live out the implications of the gospel in every arena of life under the Lordship of Jesus through the indwelling presence and enabling power of the Holy Spirit.
  • Every member is responsible for being baptized by immersion as a testimony of one's faith in Jesus and entrance into the body of Christ.
  • Every member is responsible to give time, talent, and treasure to the mission and well-being of his/her church.
  • Every member is responsible to participate in the life of the church--gatherings, Lord's Supper, exercising spiritual gifts, ministries, outreach, etc. unless providentially hindered.
  • Every member is responsible for his/her role in the Great Commission.

More to come in the next installment in this series.


Here are some quotes from the book The Trellis and The Vine that didn't make it in the sermon yesterday about how making disciples is fleshed out in a congregation:

  1. What is God doing in the world? God is calling people into his kingdom through Spirit-backed gospel preaching. He is growing a great worldwide vine, which is Christ and the people who are joined to him.
  2. Everyone who by God’s grace becomes a disciple of Christ is not only part of the vine, but also a vine-worker, a disciple-maker, a partner in the gospel. Although some Christians have particular gifts and responsibilities for teaching and oversight, all Christians have a role in prayerfully speaking the word of truth to each other and to those outside.
  3. Training is the process of growing mature Christian vine-workers--that is, Christians who are mature enough enough in their faith to look for opportunities to serve others by prayerfully speaking God’s truth to them. This is our aim in people work. It involves not just ministry skills and competencies, but growth in convictions (understanding) and character (godliness). This is a fundamental aspect of church life, and might involve a shift in the way we think about church.
  4. Training (understood in this way) is the engine of gospel growth. People move from being outsiders and unconverted through to being followed up as new Christians and then growing into mature, stable Christians who are then in turn trained and mobilized to lead others through the gospel growth process”