Church Membership

Okay, now devotion to the church. What is
Scripture saying about how much or how little Christians should devote themselves to the
church, and if that should we devote ourselves to a local church, or is it just to be devoted
to all Christians everywhere in the universal church? One of the most common questions here
is, “Is church membership necessary?” I was on a plane the other day with a guy who said,
“Church membership is nowhere in the Bible. I’m not a member of a church.” This guy said,
“I’m a follower of Christ but not a member of a church because that’s just a manmade
thing, this membership thing.” And this is where I would grant clearly that membership
at a local church is not biblically commanded. You won’t find anywhere in the Bible where
the word church membership is even mentioned, and you won’t find a command for believers
to become a member of local church, and so for many people that just seals the deal.
We need to be careful. There’s also not a place where Jesus explicitly says the words,
“I am God.” There’s also not a place where we see the Trinity specifically outlined in
Scripture in the kind of terms that we’re looking for here, so let’s not throw it out
the window just yet. I would put before us tonight that membership
in a local church is Biblically implied… understood. Now I want to be careful here.
Even with this word membership. I think it’s the best word. I don’t know a better word
to describe because what we’re talking about is as a body, and there are parts and there
are members of a body. Now people say well yes we’re just members of the universal body
of Christ, but I want you to think about four ways that the Bible implies church membership
in a local church and why it’s important. Number one, membership is implied by church
gatherings. When we see this word ecclesia, the church of God in Corinth, the church that
meets in Aquila, Priscilla’s house Corinthian 16. That’s where 90 of the 114 references
to ecclesia come in the New Testament to a gathering a place, and followers of Christ
belong to one of those gatherings. When Paul writes to the church in Corinth
it’s a certain defined people. He’s not writing. Although obviously the implication is there
in Scripture, and they’re for all of this, but this is a letter written to a local church
in a specific time and a specific place; a specific gathering of believers, and so it
begs the question as a Christian what gathering are you a part of, with what church do you
gather? Membership is implied here that you are a part, member, whatever you want to call
it. You are identified with a gathering of believers. Some people say well I gather with
all kinds of churches. I go to a different every Sunday, so I get all the different letters,
and it’s all the better. I’m in this church and this church well, okay. Second, membership is implied by church discipline.
Now we’re going to talk about church discipline later on, but when Jesus talks about confronting
a brother in sin, listen to how he relates it to the church. He says in verse 17 if he
refuses to listen to the them, tell it to the church,” so you confront a brother and
his sin. If that doesn’t work, you take two or three others along, and then if that doesn’t
work; if he refuses to listen; tell it to the church, so who is the church there; a
universal body of Christ? My bro over her is unrepentant in his sin so announcement
to the entire universal body of Christ that this guy is unrepentant. No. This clearly
tells it to a gathering of believers, the local church. Yet to First Corinthian’s five, which we’re
also talking with church discipline, and basically Paul, talks about excommunicating someone
from the church. We’ll talk about what’s going on there in a little bit, but the reality
is in order to be excommunicated, taken out of the church, you got to be what first, in
the church. You got to be a member of the church, and apparently it was a big deal to
not be a member of the church, to be basically kicked out of the church; sent out from among
them. How would it be possible to do what Jesus, Paul are talking about there if you
weren’t defined as a member of the church in the first place; identify it with a gathering. Third, membership is implied by church leadership.
Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leader and submit to them for they are keeping watch
over your souls as those who will have to give an account.” That’s a command for Christians
in the Bible. Now again this is something we’re going to talk about later but think
about this for a second. Leaders they will give an account, so leaders in a church will
give an account for those whom they lead, so I’m a pastor of a church; who do I give
an account for; who will I give an account for; every person in the universal body of
Christ? Am I responsible for pastoring, shepherding and accounting to God for every single Christian
on the face of the planet or in all time? No. I’m responsible for the church that I
pastor, the gathering, the people. Now obey your leaders; submit to them; that’s a command,
so follows of Christ are commended to obey the leaders in the church. Now who does that
mean that you obey; every single Christian that’s out there; turn on the TV you’ve got
some bro; whatever he says I got to do it. No. You obey the leaders of the church that
you’re identified with. This whole accounting language, being shepherded over a flock in
Acts 20, 1 Peter chapter 5 the reality is you’re not supposed to obey just any Christian
leader. We’re going to talk about what this means obeying leaders, submitting to leaders,
and I’m not supposed to be accountable for every single person in the universal body
of Christ. That totally implies a local church. Next, last implication church membership is
implied by church accountability. You look at these passages below, and you see God holding
the church accountable for choosing leaders in Acts chapter six they’re supposed to choose
leaders among them. The church is accountable for preaching the gospel in Galatians chapter
one. If they’re not, somebody’s not preaching the gospel, the church is accountable for
shutting them up. The church is accountable for identifying members. That’s picture in
first Corinthians five. It’s interesting the church is the one that defines who’s a member
in First Corinthians five, not the individual; the church defines that. The church is accountable
for sending missionaries in Acts Chapter 13. And so all these passages you put them together
they beg the question from every follower of Christ in this room are you an accountable
member of local church. Now I’m not just saying is your name somewhere on a roll; do you attend
somewhere. I’m saying who is your life committed to. What body, what gathering of believers
are you committed to being with, spurring on, holding fast to the hope of God; Hebrew’s
chapter ten. Who were the leaders that your life in submission to who are accountable
for your spiritual growth, and if you can’t answer that question the reality is you are
living contrary to the pattern of the New Testament. I know that’s not particularly
popular today, but it’s what’s in Scripture. Guys this is important. Local church for all
these different reasons God’s designed it this way for our good and for his glory. We
don’t shop and just hop around from church to church, and we certainly don’t ignore the
church altogether. That’s not an option. There are no believers in the New Testament
who are not associated with a church, with a local gathering of believers, so my encouragement
is if you are here and you are not committed to a local gathering of believers that you
would walk out of here with a firm commitment to make that priority in your Christian life
to leave your ways behind and follow his ways. This is a commitment of your life to a gathering
of believers.

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