What do you believe about Church membership?
a) What is the Church?
We go around the country and we see many great church buildings some are ornate with exquisite architecture, others less ornate but with equally good architecture. Still others are rather plain, the building in which we now meet is an example of this.
The particular building itself is a reflection of the theology of the people who attend services in there. Some worshippers believe in celebrating a weekly sacrifice of Christ therefore have a large altar at the front, others believe in the primacy of preaching – preaching being the pinnacle of worship as a result their buildings are represented by a large pulpit or platform area. The Church, for most people is a building that reflects the particular beliefs of the people who attend.
BUT is this really what the church is?
If we look in the NT we find following the Acts of the Apostles there are various letters which were written to the Church: The first one is to Rome then Corinth, Galatia etc. these letters were not written to buildings but to people.
The Lord Jesus Christ said that he is building his Church. He was not concerned with the building but the people. His whole purpose of coming into this world as a man was to build his church.
By the redemption of sinful humanity. Each person saved is another brick in the Church of Jesus Christ. Therefore all who are saved are automatically members of the Church! As Christians born again of the Spirit of God we are automatically a part of his universal Church! So why do we insist that Christians become members of the local church?
1. The local Church
The local Church is particular gathering of Christians in one place see Galatians 1:2 – To the Churches in Galatia. Paul recognised the local gatherings of Christians to be distinct churches. It is to these gathered bodies of people that the NT letters were mainly written. So how do we belong to a local church?
There are no rules for belonging or becoming members of the local Church laid down in scripture therefore each local church has an amount of licence as to how they go about this. Some believe that those born into the family of believers automatically become members. Others believe in baptism being the outward evidence of a person’s salvation and therefore they are then admitted into Church membership. Others like ourselves admit people into membership upon application, followed by an interview by a representative from the eldership and then when they are satisfied they are truly saved are admitted into membership. The only rule I would say that is absolute is that the applicant be truly born again and belongs to Christ’s Universal church.
But what are the privileges of belonging to the local Church?
Our first privilege is that we belong to the family of God in our own locality. There is much talk in the scripture of the church being the family of God. No child can truly flourish outside of his family. Some children are orphaned but when they come into an adopted family they find the security and love they so need. It is just the same for the children of God. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ belong to His family. The local family meet for Praise, worship, learning, mutual encouragement and fellowship. Until a Christian truly belongs to the local church then he is an orphan.
Another picture of the Church both universal and local is that of the body. The local church is a small picture of the body of Christ. The body of course needs its members. Just as a body with only one leg is disabled – so the local church is disabled without all its members. There are many Christians who just like are legs without bodies. They often say that they attend a local church and that is enough. That is simply not good enough we need to belong to the body, joined by every sinew necessary. A leg inside a pair of trousers that is not joined at the hip is not a part of the body – in fact it is a nuisance and out of control! How can it know which way to turn unless it fully belongs. It does not feel as the other leg does, it does not belong. Christians who are separated from the church are just like amputated limbs.
By saving Grace we belong to the universal Church of Jesus Christ – Why not go the whole way and belong to the Church of Christ in the locality of where you live?
Colossians was written to the Church that worshipped together at Colosse. In his letter Paul teaches the church many things but the passage we read earlier highlights the privilege these believers had by belonging to the church gathered there.
What are these privileges?
Paul laid down a set of rules. This is not pharisaical or oppressive but they are helpful rules for Godly living in order that the church glorifies the Lord Jesus in all that she does.
Firstly Paul reminds the church of their position before God; they are a saved people. The first rule being that we should constantly remember what God has done for us. This is why we regularly celebrate the Lord's supper which is an ordinance instituted for the local Church to celebrate regularly.
Other rules include a holy life. Paul says put to death immorality,impurity,passion,evil desire and covetousness in verse v5.
But how do we do that?
By knowing the ways of God! The whole purpose of Paul’s letter is to teach the churches and its leaders how to be good Christians. That is why the church should concentrate on sermons and bible studies etc.
The privileges of the local church are:
1. Belonging to each other
2. Knowing the God given rules and how we should operate
3. To be taught what to do.
b. The purpose
V 2 to set our minds on things above! Not on earthly things below.
How do we do this?
The writer to the Hebrews reminds us to meet together regularly and not to give up for this very purpose. Paul also says this in this passage.
V 15 ff
i. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts – corporately
ii. Be thankful
iii. The indwelling word of God.
iv. Teaching each other
v. Admonishing –
Disciplining is a vital part of life. But it must be done with wisdom: All wisdom – the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, not the authority of men.
vi. Worship –
Vitally important to join together for worship I wonder if you know how difficult it is for others when you cant be bothered???
vii. Everything we do!
So church membership – what is it? It is commitment to belonging to the people of God . Not purely for the benefit of numbers but for the benefit of the individual, the church but more importantly for the Glory of Christ Jesus.