(Leslie is a senior at the University of Southern Indiana [USI], and she’ll be graduating this May with a degree in Math Education. She’s been attending Westwood for about nine months and has been a member since the beginning of 2020. She has a passion for the local church and for global missions and desires to serve the Lord overseas in the near future if it pleases Him to allow her the opportunity.)
First of all, I know that many of you have been walking in obedience regarding church membership far longer than I have. I want to tell you thank you for showing younger followers of Jesus like me what it looks like to obey God in this specific way. Church membership is a topic that I’m passionate about because we learn from the very Word of God that God Himself is passionate about it. Like in all things, He is passionate about it because He has designed it in a way that brings Himself glory. But, as you probably know, biblical church membership is not something that always comes with ease. After all, a church is made up of people who still sin—people like you and me. As we pursue unity, it’s important to remember that our biggest problem is always our own sin. Let me say that in a more personal way. My biggest problem in living in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ is always my own sin.
There are many different directions that I considered taking concerning this topic of church membership. Instead of trying to cover all of them, I decided to focus on three themes: the way biblical, local church membership glorifies God, logical steps derived from a biblical basis for church membership, and dangers I’ve seen relating to this topic. I’ll address the first two themes this week and the third theme next week along with some thoughts on church membership and missions.
Theme 1: Eight Ways Biblical, Local Church Membership Glorifies God
- Church membership shows God’s attributes, like His supreme power and grace in ransoming and unifying a diverse group of people who are members of one another (Romans 12:5).
- Church membership distinguishes those who attend certain gatherings from those who have been officially and publicly recognized as Christians by the elders and church body. This also allows for biblical church discipline to be exercised so that the local body can remain a pure and holy witness before a dark and sinful world (Ephesians 2:19-22).
- Church membership gives us the opportunity to obey Christ in submitting to those He has placed over us (Hebrews 13:17). Jonathan Leeman writes in Church Membership, “Just as the Bible establishes the government of your nation as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your citizenship in that nation, so the Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ and your citizenship in Christ’s present and promised nation” (25). He also writes, “Christians don’t join churches; they submit to them” (30).
- Church membership allows us to hold one another accountable, encourage one another, and admonish one another (Colossians 3:16).
- Church membership allows us to get to know and care for one another far more intentionally (Romans 12:9-18; 1 Peter 1:22).
- Church membership is a covenant. Keeping this covenant means showing grace to one another and serving one another. This commitment resembles concepts of biblical marriage (Hebrews 6:10).
- The church is what Christ promised would prevail, and it’s by God’s power displayed through His church that the gospel will get to the nations (Matthew 16:18).
- Church membership is founded on the gospel and shows the world what the gospel can do (John 17:20-21; 1 Peter 2:9,10).
Theme 2: Three Steps that Logically Follow
- If you are a baptized, born-again believer then you should become a member of a biblical local church. If you are a born-again believer and have not been baptized and have not become a member of a biblical local church, then you should do both of those things.
- If we are members of Westwood (or any local church), we should: regularly attend the Lord’s Table, hear God’s Word and obey it, regularly fellowship together for mutual edification (right now this might look like using resources like Zoom and Marco Polo), love God, love one another, love those outside our fellowship, evidence the fruit of the Spirit, and worship God in all the activities of our home, work, community, and life (9 Marks of a Healthy Church, 159).
- We should emphasize the importance of church membership with those whom we disciple and do our best to make sure that all believers around us realize the importance of church membership.
Bible Study Tip
After marking the text, compare various translations of the passage and note the differences. This can help expand your understanding of its meaning and clear up any confusion. Here’s a word of advice regarding translations from Jen Wilkin’s book Women of the Word:
“It is important to note that there is a difference between a translation and a paraphrase. Translations [like the ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, or RSV] stick closely to the original language. . . Paraphrases, such as the NLT or The Message, attempt to take the original language and ask, ‘What does it mean?’ They interpret. Paraphrases can be useful but should be regarded as commentary (man’s interpretation of God’s words). Paraphrases are best consulted after careful study of an actual translation” (94).
Autumn Fair is one of Westwood’s supported missionaries and is serving in Peru through Mission to the World. She is currently in language training as she prepares to move to Cusco to serve children and families by performing ultrasounds and assisting at a local orphanage. Click the image to watch a video update from Autumn and learn about the impact of COVID-19 in her area. If you would like to receive her email updates, contact Abby Dill to get connected.
Links in this section are Amazon Affiliate links to books we find helpful
Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus
by Jonathan Leeman
Why should you join a church?
Becoming a member of a church is an important, and often neglected, part of the Christian life. Yet the trend these days is one of shunning the practice of organized religion and showing a distaste or fear of commitment, especially of institutions.
Jonathan Leeman addresses these issues with a straightforward explanation of what church membership is and why it’s important. Giving the local church its proper due, Leeman has built a compelling case for committing to the local body.
by Jen Wilkin
We all know it’s important to study God’s Word. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. What’s more, a lack of time, emotionally driven approaches, and past frustrations can erode our resolve to keep growing in our knowledge of Scripture. How can we, as Christian women, keep our focus and sustain our passion when reading the Bible?
Offering a clear and concise plan to help women go deeper in their study of Scripture, this book will equip you to engage God’s Word in a way that trains your mind and transforms your heart.
The Chosen is a quality, multi-season series about the life of Jesus Christ. The creators of the series have done their best to stay true to the gospels with some minor creative liberties regarding unknown details. The series can be watched for free by downloading “The Chosen” app, and it can also be watched on VidAngel, a streaming service that has its own material but that also allows you to connect to your other streaming services to watch filtered content: “VidAngel provides a way to skip or mute things you don’t want to see or hear in movies and TV shows. Want to skip the nudity in Game of Thrones? Go ahead. Don’t like the mature language in Stranger Things? Mute it. Want less blood and gore in Hacksaw Ridge? VidAngel lets you skip and mute any objectionable content, all in the privacy of your home.” VidAngel is currently offering free access through the end of April to anyone who agrees to its “Social Distancing Policy”. No credit card information is required to take advantage of this great offer!
For the Kids
by Sally Michael
When you want to get to know someone, where do you start? How do you introduce yourself? Usually you start with someone’s name. God knows this—and he doesn’t have just one name to share with us! The Bible gives us many names for God and tells us what they all mean. And when we learn a new name for God, we learn something new about him, too! This book is for parents and children to read together. Every chapter includes questions for family discussion and an activity.
New City Catechism
Question 4: How and why did God create us?
Answer: God created us male and female in His own image to glorify Him.
“Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. This is true not merely at the beginning, as though in the course of time something else were to be added to our community; it remains so for all the future and to all eternity. I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity.”