THE VALUE OF OFFICIAL CHURCH MEMBERSHIP Pastor Howard Lawler I have been an official member of a church almost my entire life as a believer. I believe it is healthy. I have benefited from it and intend to maintain the practice. Other people resist joining a local church. Some have had bad experiences in the past. Others say that the Bible does not teach official church membership. They argue that what really counts is spiritual membership in the one true Church composed of all people saved by the blood of Christ and baptized by the Holy Spirit into one body. That is what counts most. And I cannot point to a stone tablet that says, “Thou shall become an official member of a local church.” I also know people have bad experiences sometimes. I have had them too. But all that does not change my mind about official membership being a wise move. First, bad experiences do not negate good ideas. I have had a sour creamer ruin a cup of coffee at more than one restaurant, but I will not convert to the black brew. Just because some folks have had bad cars in the past, they do not walk for the rest of their days. They try again because a car can get you somewhere when it works well. So can membership. Second, while the Bible does not mention official membership per se, the Bible shows that God works through structures. The early church was not the loosey-goosey group some think it was. The essentially spiritual nature of the church did not keep the apostles and others from applying form to the family of God. When the New Testament uses the word “church” it most often refers to a local church, not the universal church. Those local churches had structure. The New Testament churches… Had set meetings: Acts 2:46; 1Cor 16:2. Had specified offices: Acts 14:23; Phil 1:1; 1Tim 3:1-16; 5:21; Titus 1:5-9. Exercised discipline: 1Cor 5:1-13; 2Cor 10:11; 1Th 5:12; 2Th 3:6-15; Heb 13:17; 3Jn 1:9-10. Set policy: Acts 15:1-31; 1Tim 5:19-20. Knew their numbers: Acts 1:15; 2:41; 4:4. Had formal welcoming: Gal 2:9. Had a list of widows: 1Tim 5:9-11. Organized ministry to meet needs: Acts 6:1-7. Received offerings, sent monies and administered property: Acts 2:45; 4:32-37; 1Cor 16:1-4; 2Cor 8-9. Sent official letters: Acts 18:24-28; 1Cor 16:3; 2Cor 3:1. Was called to be orderly: 1Cor 14:33,40; 2Cor 12:20; Col 2:5; Titus 1:5; Jas 3:16. Some may fear that structure strangles life. It can. Yet good structure promotes health. A skeleton can become a problem if it becomes diseased and rigid, but I don’t know anyone who wants to do without one. A boneless church is not healthy. Having a specific set of identifiable members allows us to accomplish some important things. Shepherds know which wooly sheep are in their own flock. Shepherds of souls must know too. Of course we will minister to people who are not official members, but pastors need to know what people we are primarily responsible for before the Lord. Membership is also a means by which we can maintain doctrinal purity. By having people sign our doctrinal statement, we have a tangible commitment to the core truths of the faith. We are on a solid footing for orthodox and united ministry. It further gives us a way of helping determine personal giftedness and ministry interest as well as knowing that people we place in service are professing believers and share our heart for ministry. This is especially important for leadership functions like teaching and serving on committees that direct ministry. It also promotes accountability. A person who joins a church has agreed to live under the authority of the leaders, helps place those leaders into office by vote, and holds them accountable for godly leadership practices. A member also agrees to submit to church discipline when it is necessary. Like marriage, commitment is what makes a church effective. If all we had were people wandering in and out of churches, the heat and the lights wouldn’t even be on. It takes people who settle in and make a place home to make a local church work. The apostle Paul told the Colossians Christians “I delight to see how orderly you are” (Col. 2:5). That may seem like a strange delight to some, but Paul was wise. He knew that good things came out of healthy order. Church membership is one way mature believers foster that joy.
Pages to are hidden for
"THE VALUE OF OFFICIAL CHURCH MEMBERSHIP Pastor Howard Lawler"Please download to view full document