Saturday, October 25, 2008

How Important is Church Membership?

At the end of my sermon last week I spoke about, among other things, membership in the church. Since then I have had a few questions then asking about where in the Bible it speaks about membership. As a help to those who have asked – and for those who haven’t – a few quotes from a sermon John Piper preached this past summer on membership.

How Important is Church Membership?
by Dr. John Piper

I will point to five strands in the New Testament of evidence for church membership. Each of these reveals something in the New Testament which would be minimized or denied if there were no definable local church membership.

1) The Church Is to Discipline Its Members
Church membership is implied by the way the church is supposed to discipline its members. Consider the implication of Matthew 18:15-17 where “the church” appears to be the final court of appeal in matters of church authority as it relates to membership: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

2) Excommunication Exists
Church membership is implied by the simple fact that excommunication even exists. Paul implies this in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 where he deals with the necessity of putting someone out of the church. He says, “What have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’”

3) Christians Required to Submit to Their Leaders
Church membership is implied in the biblical requirement of Christians to be submitted to a group of church leaders, elders, or pastors. . . . Consider the way the New Testament talks about the relationship of the church to her leaders: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account” (Hebrews 13:17); “We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

4) Shepherds Required to Care for Their Flock
Church membership is implied in the way the New Testament requires elders to care for the flock in their charge. . . . Consider Acts 20:28 where Paul tells the elders how to care for their flock: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”

5) The Metaphor of the Body
Church membership is implied in the metaphor of the body in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. The original meaning of the word member is member of a body, like hand and foot and eye and ear. That’s the imagery behind the word "member" in the text. Verse 12: “Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”

I close by urging you to pray and to think this through for your own life. The New Testament knows of no Christians who are not accountable members of local churches in the sense that we have just seen. “Lone-Ranger Christians” are a contradiction because becoming a Christian means being united to Christ, and union with Christ expresses itself in union with a local body of believers. It seems to us that in the New Testament, to be excluded from the local church was to be excluded from Christ. This is why the issue of membership is so important.

Church membership is a blood-bought gift of God’s grace. More than most of us realize, it is a life-sustaining, faith-strengthening, joy-preserving means of God’s mercy to us. I urge you not to cut yourself off from this blessing.

To read/hear my sermon from 2008-10-19, Click Here.
To read/hear/watch Dr. Piper’s sermon from 2008-07-13, Click Here.

No comments:

Post a Comment