Last week I wrote about eight ways biblical, local church membership glorifies God and three steps that logically follow knowing those truths. This week I want to look at some dangers I’ve seen regarding the issue of membership, some action steps in light of all the information from these two weeks, and an important connection between church membership and missions that was made for me at CROSS19, a conference for 18-25 year olds that takes place every two years. My hope is that you see throughout this article the connection between church membership and our witness to the world.
Theme 3: Two Dangerous Thoughts I’ve Seen Relating to this Topic
- We should not commit to one church so that we can leave our options open. There are different reasons why people think this. Some may not join because they’ve experienced great hurt by a church in the past and they don’t want it to happen again. I have not experienced this myself, but I imagine it would be painful and lead to fear. Other professing Christians may not join a church because it involves things like making a commitment, accountability, and denying one’s self for the good of others. Both groups might say that it’s just easier to float around. I thank God that when we desire what is comfortable the Holy Spirit convicts us. Though our flesh can desire comfort, we’re constantly reminded in God’s Word that what is easier is not what is better. If we want to aim to obtain ease and comfort in this life, then we haven’t counted the cost of following Christ. Paul said that he wanted to know Christ through participating in His sufferings because God tells us that it’s achieving for us an eternal weight of glory. The church is where we get to function as a body for discipleship, evangelism, missions, forgiveness, and so much more. This commitment to staying in the body through hard times is on display for the world to see. Without joining a local church, this witness is significantly decreased. Every born-again believer is a part of the universal church. Scripture also makes it clear that we’re to commit ourselves to a local church. In Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, Mark Dever says, “Joining a particular local church is an outward reflection of an inward love—for Christ and for his people. And as we see so often in this life, the greatest love is rarely merely spontaneous; it is more often planned, premeditated, and characterized by commitment” (176-177). This is a powerful statement. In the same book, Dever goes on to write, “Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’ (Matt. 16:18). If Jesus is committed to the church, should we be any less committed to it?” (170)
We can just pursue Christ on our own. I think that some in my generation have this idea (which I’ve had before out of pride) of going out all on their own and doing something really hip, cool, and new in the name of Jesus apart from an attachment to a local church. In stark contrast to this, we should radically obey Christ in the ordinary tasks of day-to-day life. This isn’t to say that we should not take risks, evangelize, and go to new places. However, the motivation should be love for Jesus. This leads to love for His church. We should submit to a healthy church, stay at that church (generally speaking), and serve that church. God is the one who sees. He sees the radically ordinary things, and He is pleased by them when they’re done for His glory. I want that. So often I can mindlessly do tasks half-heartedly that could be done with such great intentionality. Instead, let’s do the radically ordinary together in intentional ways. The watching world will notice.
In Matthew 5:19, Jesus says, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” I’m sure that belonging to a covenant community comes with trials and challenges. After all, we see struggles that many of the churches in the New Testament face. Praise the Lord that we can trust Him in our trials. Scripture is clear that church membership is important, so how dangerous would it be for you and me to “relax” it? God knows what’s best, and He has made it clear that we should be part of a local body. Westwood, my family, is this a commandment that we will both do and teach?
Some Action Steps to Consider
Solidify your understanding of the importance of church membership through meditation on Scripture.
Learn more through one or more of the following books: Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman, What is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti Anyabwile, and I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer.
Talk to an elder about becoming a member and about how to best serve the body.
Talk to a Christian friend who doesn’t understand the importance of church membership.
Begin regularly asking those you meet with or disciple about how they are serving their local church.
Before I end, I’d like to make a quick and direct connection between membership in the local church and missions. This is a glorious connection of which I was made aware at the CROSS19 conference. Here are two quotes I heard from that conference that have really stuck with me. I hope God uses them to give you clarity as He has for me:
- “A calling overseas is confirmed not by a feeling or desire to get on a flight, but by a record of deeds done here. I want churches to be sad to send those going because of the role the person has played in their local church” (Mack Stiles, paraphrased).
- “If you are excited about missions and not about the church, then the best you are is confused” (Trip Lee).
As I said in the last article, I’m thankful that I get to walk alongside those of you who have far more experience than I do in the local church. I have a lot to learn, and I truly look forward to learning from you. As a 21-year-old I desire to be faithful as you are, and I pray that God would raise up many young people who are committed to a local church in the way that I get to witness at Westwood. It brings me great joy to get to see your obedience to God and know you are my family. So, thank you.
Bible Study Tip
The last step of the “Comprehension” stage is to make an outline of the text. Once you’ve seen repeated words and phrases, transition words, lists, comparisons/contrasts, etc., you have a better feel for what’s in the text and are able to better summarize the main points. Creating an outline helps you get an even better feel for the flow of thoughts.
The Mayos are currently serving in Georgia with OM as they wait for the Lord to open up an opportunity for ministry in Europe. Watch the video for an update from Makayla on their current situation and how you can be praying for them.
Links in this section are Amazon Affiliate links to books we find helpful
What Is a Healthy Church Member?
by Thabiti Anyabwile
In this book, pastor Thabiti Anyabwile attempts to answer the question, “What does a healthy church member look like in the light of Scripture?” God intends for us to play an active and vital part in the body of Christ, the local church. He wants us to experience the local church as a home more profoundly wonderful and meaningful than any other place on earth. He intends for his churches to be healthy places and for the members of those churches to be healthy as well. This book explains how membership in the local church can produce spiritual growth in its members and how each member can contribute to the growth and health of the whole.
The Gospel Comes with a House Key
by Rosaria Butterfield
What did God use to draw a radical, committed unbeliever to himself? Did God take her to an evangelistic rally? Or, since she had her doctorate in literature, did he use something in print? No, God used an invitation to dinner in a modest home, from a humble couple who lived out the gospel daily, simply, and authentically. With this story of her conversion as a backdrop, Rosaria Butterfield invites us into her home to show us how God can use this same “radical, ordinary hospitality” to bring the gospel to our lost friends and neighbors. Such hospitality sees our homes as not our own, but as God’s tools for the furtherance of his kingdom as we welcome those who look, think, believe, and act differently from us into our everyday, sometimes messy lives―helping them see what true Christian faith really looks like.
The Christian faith is not mindless or irrational. Knowing Faith is a podcast exploring how our faith is founded upon Scripture. The creators of this podcast believe the Bible is for everyone and are committed to helping the Church understand where their faith is rooted. Hosted by Jen Wilkin, JT English, and Kyle Worley, this podcast dives into Christian story, belief, and practice in a way that is accessible to everyone. For older episodes of Knowing Faith, check out The Village Church app or visit tvcresources.net.
For the Kids
In our first issue of the women’s newsletter, we recommended The World and Everything In It podcast, which is produced by World News Group. World also produces material for both children and teens. God’s Big WORLD contains content for kids ages 3-6, WORLDkids produces content for ages 7-10, and WORLDteen provides material for ages 11-14. Free resources are available on the websites, but for a small monthly subscription fee (ranging from $2-3/month) you can receive even more.