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. Of course elders can extend their love to anyone and everyone, and should, within the limits of their ability. But the question is whether the Bible tells elders that they are to have a special responsibility and care for a certain groupa group of members. 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.
This verse does not say elders cannot visit unbelievers or those who are not yet members. But it does make clear that their first responsibility is to a particular flock. How are they to know who their flock is? Who are we as elders and pastors responsible for? For whom will we give an account to God?
The way Peter speaks to the elders in 1 Peter 5 is even more clear on this point. Verses 23: Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you not for shameful gain, but eagerly not domineering over those in your charge , but being examples to the flock.
Membership Is A Commitment To Help Support The Church With Your Finances As The Lord Prospers You
Last year, a self-appointed street preacher told me via email that Im going to hell because I receive financial support for my ministry! But Paul wrote , So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel. Churches are to support elders who work hard in preaching and teaching and support missionaries . I plan to do a message in this series on the church and finances.
Membership Is A Commitment To Participate Regularly In The Churchs Gatherings For Worship Teaching And Fellowship
Hebrews 10:25 exhorts, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Sunday morning is our main time to gather for teaching and worship. Fellowship also happens there, but also should take place in smaller settings during the week, as well as at church-wide socials.
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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 18:1517 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.
If there is no church membership, how can you define the group that will take up this sensitive and weighty matter of exhorting the unrepentant person and finally rendering a judgment about his standing in the community? Its hard to believe that just anyone who showed up claiming to be a Christian could be a part of that gathering. Surely, the church must be a definable group to handle such a weighty matter. You know who you mean when you take it to the church.
What Does The Bible Say About Church Membership And Attendance
Does the Bible say that we need to attend church? Is it okay for a Christian to not attend church? With so many TV and Internet evangelists, can they replace the local church? Is the local church irrelevant in this modern day and age? Is church membership essential to ones walk in Christ and to a persons salvation?
What the Bible Says About Church Membership
The writer of Hebrews clearly says that we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves as is the manner of some in Hebrews10:25: not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one anotherand all the more as you see the Day approaching. In the previous verse the writer says, And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Now it would be hard to spur one another on toward love and good deeds if we are sitting at home and watching a TV or Internet evangelist. Hebrews 13:7 is an impossible command for the Christian not assembling with the saints to follow since it says to Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. You can not imitate what you do not see and you can not remember church leaders if you never attend.
Pauls Teaching on the Body of Christ
Safety for the Sheep in the Sheepfold
The Church is Many Members but One Body
Under the Churchs Authority
The Church Christ Built
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Can You Grow In Your Faith Alone
Ultimately, we need to change the question. The question of whether on must go to church is like the age-old query regarding golf: Cant we worship God on the golf course? The answer to this question is of course you can… but do you?
While your first-time golfing on Sunday morning may provide a rich experience of grace and freedom, will such a worshipful attitude continue? Without a lot of focus, and the building in of spiritual practices and habits, Sunday morning golf will easily devolve into nothing more than Sunday morning golf.
Too often this is what occurs when people separate themselves for active participation in the community of faith.
Instead of asking Do I have to go to church? it is better to ask whether we can live our faith in isolation. Can we maintain spiritual growth? Can we maintain an active prayer life? It is important to look at these things over a length of time. What’s our true heart behind not attending church?
We are not talking about individual spiritual moments, but a life lived before God. The primary question to sit with is whether it is better for you to live out your faith in the company of others, or by yourself?
Importantly, nothing says that attendance at church is to occur at the expense of our livelihood, joy, safety, or heath. There are toxic communities in the world and Gods wish would be for us to remove ourselves from them.
For further reading:
Why Did You Start A Bible Commentary And How Long Did It Take You To Finish
What made you start a Bible commentary, and how long did it take you to complete the English version of the Bible commentary?
Ill put it to you this way. I never set out to write Bible commentary. That was never my intention. I never looked at a Bible commentator like, G. Campbell Morgan, and said, Hey, I want to do that. I could be a Bible commentator, too.
Instead, what I found through some very strange circumstances is that what I prepared for myself as teaching notes , was useful for other people as Bible commentary. So, I just kept on preparing my teaching notes and found out that that could be used by others for Bible commentary.
The people who first put my Bible commentary in line were the good folks of the Blue Letter Bible, and I will be always grateful to the people of Blue Letter Bible for putting my Commentary online and for continuing to host it. Blue Letter Bible is a tremendous Bible resource.
How long did it take you to complete the English version of the commentary? That contains work that goes back over about a span of about 30 years. I started preparing my Bible teaching notes in a certain format in the mid 1980s. Lets say it was about 1986, and then about 10 years later, in 1996, my commentary went online at Blue Letter Bible. In 2017, that I finally finished something on the entire Bible.
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What The Bible Says About Church Membership
Why should we discuss church membership? It is an issue that comes up frequently in our churches. People ask, why do they need to join a church? Why cant they just worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ? Isnt it extra-biblical anyway? Our position is that church membership is Biblical, even though it is not explicitly commanded in scripture. Before we can agree on church membership however, we must first understand how to handle scripture. God has not given us explicit commandments for everything that we are to do. The doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture does not say that God has given us every jot and tittle of what we are to do, rather that the principles are taught in scripture so that we can know what is the right response in every circumstance.
Since our practices in the church should be regulated by God, when we come up with our own ideas, we are denying the authority of scripture. But since scripture does not speak directly to everything, we need some standard to judge how to apply scriptural passages. Here is how the Westminster Confession defines what the standard should be for sufficiency of scripture in Chapter 1 Paragraph VI:
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
We see another covenant in the Bible in the marriage covenant:
If Paul Said That Circumcision Profits Nothing Why Did He Tell Timothy To Get Circumcised
Paul preached that circumcision has no profit, but then why did Paul tell Timothy to get circumcised?
Paul did preach that circumcision does not profit . Still, Paul had Timothy become circumcised . Timothy had a Jewish mother and a Gentile father, and it seems that at Pauls request he became circumcised as an adult. Why would Paul recommend or even require this for Timothy, if, as Paul writes in other places, circumcision profits nothing?
Heres the distinction. When Paul said that circumcision profits nothing, he said it in regard to making us right with Jesus Christ. And you have to know that theres nothing that circumcision nor any other ritual does to make us right before God.
There are certain rituals that we Christians do out of obedience, such as baptism and the Lords supper . But those things, in and of themselves are not what saves us. Its what Jesus did on the cross that saves us. So, a religious ritual by itself does not save us. Circumcision profits nothing for salvation but Paul did not have Timothy circumcised so that he could be saved or become more saved. Paul asked Timothy to be circumcised to make Timothy more effective in ministry. Thats just a simple distinction the difference between being effective in ministry and salvation in itself.
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Is Baptism Required For Church Membership
Does everyone who joins a local church need to be baptized? Whats the relationship between baptism and church membership ? Should baptists let those sprinkled as infants join their churches?
These are just some of the thorny issues Bobby Jamieson tackles in his new book Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership .
I recently spoke with Jamiesona PhD student in New Testament at the University of Cambridge and the author of Sound Doctrine: How Church Grows in the Love and Holiness of God Understanding Baptism and Understanding the Lords Supper about why he thinks Charles Spurgeon and John Piper are wrong, common objections to the closed membership position, why this practically matters, and more.
Why do you think believers baptism is required for church membership?
Church membership is a public affirmation of someones public profession of faith in Christ, and Jesus has appointed baptism as the means by which his followers publicly profess their faith in him. A church cant affirm the profession of someone who hasnt yet made that profession.
Baptism is how you publicly identify yourself with Jesus and with his people . Its how you visibly signify that you are united to Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection . Its how you are identified before the church and the world as one who belongs to the Triune God .
Baptism is where faith goes public. Its how you nail your colors to the mast as Jesuss disciple.
Own Your Piece Of The Pie
When youre ready to leave, its so easy to blame everyone else and never look inside.
Ask God to show you what part of your dissatisfaction is you and what might be related to others.
Even get input from others to see if you are seeing things correctly, not in a gossipy way, but in a What part of this problem is me? kind of way.
As a tip to church leaders, if you meet with someone whos leaving, own your part of the pie too. Admit that your church isnt perfect, empathize with their dissatisfaction and try to learn from it. Often there are things you could do much better.
Great things come from honest conversations in which people take responsibility.
Too many people leave without a conversation.
Dont leave without a conversationa healthy, respectful conversation.
In a small church, that might be with the pastor directly.
In a larger church, that might be your group leader, someone you serve with or campus pastor.
Either way, dont just slip away.
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Theology Of Church Membership
Christian theologians such as Bostwick Hawley teach that church membership is commanded in Sacred Scripture, grounding this in the fact that “apostolic letters are addressed to the Churches”, “Apostolic salutations are to Churches”, “Jesus Christ is the founder of the Church”, “authority and power of discipline are vested in the Church”, “Believers on earth are a part of the true spiritual Church”, the “general Church is the spiritual kingdom of Christ”, “Jesus Christ is Head of the Church, and Christians in an organized capacity are the body”, “Ecclesia, meaning assembly…designates a Church, or congregation of Christians, having the ordinances of the Gospel and discipline duly administered”, and “To the Church belong the ministry, the Scriptures, and ordinances for the perfecting of the saints”. Hawley states that the duty of church membership is taught:
Healthy Church Members Think Of One Another Often
I thank my God every time I remember you.
We cannot but stand in awe at the thoughts of a man in prison awaiting the possibility of death . Yet, while in this horrible circumstance, his thoughts continually came before the Lord in praise for the faithfulness of this church.
While many deserted Paul during his time in prison , the Philippian church cared for him, prayed for him, and supported his ministry. They were a faithful church.
Again, we must consider the typical reaction of people going through a difficult time. We often are prone to becoming self-centeredthinking that the world revolves around us. We become consumed with our problems and our circumstances, but this was not true of Paul.
Despite imprisonment, Paul constantly thought about this church and thanked God for them. How about us? Do you often think about the members of your congregation and thank God for them? This is a sign of spiritual health.
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Can God Hear Our Prayers When We Only Think Them
Can God hear our prayers when we say our prayers in our mind, or only out loud?
Thats a great question: Can God hear our prayers when we only think our prayers? Or do we have to say our prayers?
Let me answer that by saying that yes, God can of course read our thoughts He knows our thoughts. It is possible for a believer to communicate with God in their thoughts.
However, I think that it is good and healthy to speak our prayers. Im sorry, I cant remember the biblical reference right away. Hosea 4:12 says, take words with you, and return to the LORD. I like that the idea of bringing words with you as you seek God.
It is helpful for me, and it is probably helpful for you to actually speak out our prayers, even if its just in a whisper. Theres something about articulating my prayers and saying them that makes them more focused, more real, on my part. On Gods part, He can read our thoughts just as much as He can hear our words. But the benefit for praying out loud is real. Im not saying that we can only pray aloud so yes, its okay to pray with your thoughts. But the benefit is on our part, not on Gods part
What Does God Say About The Present Church
When we say that the future of the church is glorious, we affirm that the same is true in the present. Today, the church is exactly what God stated: the house of God, the pillar and foundation of the truth, Gods temple, His body, a chosen people, a holy priesthood and, regardless of the circumstances that it faces, it will continue being everything that God said it is.
In Ephesians 3:10, Paul explains what is currently happening with the church, so that Gods multi-faceted wisdom may now be made known through the church to the rulers and authorities in the heavens. We cannot fully understand the greatness of the church. For centuries, God kept hidden this marvelous mystery. That which was revealed to Paul and others is so extraordinary that even the angels watch what is taking place attentively. The love of the Lord for His church leaves everyone speechless. God desired to bring Jews and Gentiles together into one people: the church. This is not easy for those who expect everyone to unite under the Jews in order to come to God. Jesus Christ came to earth and gave up His life to save us.
Pastor Luis Ángel Díaz-Pabón is president of the Global Missionary Society and leads several ministries including La Capilla del Rey , a church in Miami, Florida. He serves as General Editor for the Fisher of Men Bible, now available in Spanish, Portuguese and English.
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