A Healthy Church Member is a Committed Member (Part3)

July 13, 2014 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

 

Why Every Christian Should Be A Committed Member Of A Local Church

  We are looking at the marks of a healthy church member. We are in the 6th mark, which is a committed member of a church. That should be obvious in a series about what it means to be a healthy church member, but when we look at the lifestyle of many Christians today, we see that this is not so. There are many Christians who think that they can be spiritually mature without belonging to any church. They think that they can attend this church today and then another next Sunday, and they are going to be ok spiritually as long as they do your QT regularly, they give to the work of God, they are involved in some parachurch, etc.   But Christians cannot mature spiritually living this way if they have an opportunity to join a local church and neglect being formal members and being committed to it.   You may ask why is it inadequate be involved only in a parachurch without commitment to a local church? The reason is because in many parachurches, there is no baptism, no Lord’s Supper, no church discipline, no qualified Elders who oversee the flock and protect the flock from false teachers.   Because of this faulty view of church membership, I have taken time to prove from Scripture that becoming a formal member and being committed to a particular local church is biblical. We may not have the specific command “Be a formal member of a local church and be committed to it” as I said before, there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence that point to the fact that formal membership is biblical.   In our last study we learned that there is NT support to the concept of formalized church membership. Today, we are going to look at why every Christian should be a committed member of a local church.  

1.    Being a committed membershows that we treasure what God treasures.

There is no question that God treasures the universal church. This is clear most especially in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where he talks about the universal church.  
  • In Eph 5:25, Paul said that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
  • In Eph 5:27 One day, Christ will present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
  • Ephesians 3:10 …through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
  • In Ephesians 3:21 Paul shows that God’s glory will be displayed not only in Christ but also in the church forever.
  But God not only treasures the universal church but also the local churches as seen in the following passages:  
  • Act 20:28 - 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. (“The flock,” did not refer to all the churches in Asia Minor or Judea, or Samaria, or Spain, or Rome, or Macedonia. This referred only to the area of responsibility of the Elders which was the local church of Ephesus.)
 
  • God is concerned how one behaves inside the church and so Paul says in 1 Timothy 3:15,“If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.”
 
  • The metaphors used for the local church show God’s intimate relationship and concern for the visible body of Christ.
 
  • 1 Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, …
  • 1 Corinthians 3:9 … You are God's field, God's building.
  • 1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?
 
  • The Lord’s promise of his very presence when a local church implements church discipline shows Christ’s great concern for the local churches.
  Mt 18:15-20 “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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them   If each member of the Holy Trinity is repeatedly portrayed as treasuring the local churches, then so should all Christians.  

2.    Being a committed member proves our obedience to God’s command.

  The Bible clearly commands every believer to be deeply involved in the lives of other believers. And this involvement takes place most especially in the local church. Heb 10:24-25 says,   24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.   The meaning of this passage is not only that we must attend church services regularly. It implies formal membership.   To prove this to you, turn to chapter 5 of the book of Acts. In Acts 5 we read of the reaction both of church members and outsiders after a husband and wife named Ananias and Sapphira died on the spot when it was revealed by the Holy Spirit that they had lied regarding their donation to the church. In Acts 5:11 we read that, “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” We also read in Acts 5:13 that “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” Verse 13 tells us that the unbelievers had great respect for the Christians, but for a while after the incident of God’s severe discipline of the church, unbelievers and perhaps superficial believers wanted to join the church unless they were truly converted.   The Greek word that is translated join in verse 13 is the word kollaō. It comes from the wordkolla which is the word “glue” in Greek. In Tagalog the word for glue is also “kola” or “pangkola.”   According to the Enhanced Strong’s Dictionary the Greek word that is translated “join” means “to glue, to glue together, cement, fasten together, to join or fasten firmly together, to join one's self to, cleave to.”   What this means is that the word join in Acts 5:13 doesn't refer to an informal, merely assumed sort of relationship, but one where you choose to "glue" or "join" yourself firmly to others. This language makes sense only in the context of membership (Kenneth Kantzer).   That same "glue word" is used in the New Testament to describe the following:  
  • In Mt 19:5 it is used of a man being joined together to a woman in a married relationship.
  • It 1Co 6:16 it means to be joined together in a sexual relationship with a prostitute.
  • In 1Co 6:17 it means to be joined together with the Lord in salvation.
  • In Acts 9:26 we read that about three years after Paul’s conversion, that, “…when he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples.” This refers to intimate association with the Jerusalem believers and not just informal relationship with them.
  • In Acts 17:34, we read that those who heard the preaching of Paul “joined him and believed.” Their attachment to Paul here was with the intention of joining to be a disciple.
  • Rom 12:9 says, “hold fast to what is good.” The phrase hold fast is “kollaō” and here it has the significant to be attached or devoted to what is good or to cling to it with deepest sympathy.
  And so going back to Ac 5:13, the implication is that if you are a genuine Christian, it is expected that you would want to have this glue-like attachment and devotion to the church that involves deepest sympathy for its leaders and members. This unmistakably refers to a recognized church membership. Not to do so is to act like an unbeliever or to show that you are unwilling to make yourself accountable to God and to others.  

3.    Being a committed membergives us the best opportunity to prove we are Christians.

  The book of 1 John was written to help people identify the evidence of true salvation in their lives. One of the most important signs that we are truly born of God is genuine love for other Christians.   1Jn 2:9-10,Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.   1Jn 3:14-17,We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him   Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC and the author of 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, says,   I don't care how much you cry during singing or preaching, if you do not live a life marked by love toward others, the Bible has no encouragement for you to think that you’re a Christian. None.   Do you want to know that your new life is real? Commit yourself to a local group of saved sinners. Try to love them. Don’t just do it for three weeks. Don’t just do it for six months. Do it for years. And I think you’ll find out, and others will, too, whether or not you love God. The truth will show itself.   This is the reason for so many “one another” exhortations in the New Testament.  
  • Romans 12:10 ESV Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • Romans 15:7 ESV Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
  • Galatians 5:13 … through love serve one another.
  • Ephesians 4:32 ESV Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
  • Colossians 3:16 ESV Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
  • Hebrews 3:13 ESV But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
  • Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
  Wayne Mack and David Swavely, in their book Life in the Father’s House, write,   You cannot obey those passages that show your responsibility to other Christians unless you are committed to a local church. Almost all the “one another” and “each other” passages of the NT are given directly to local churches and are intended to help those churches be what God wants them to be. It is not enough for us to say that we are merely a part of the universal or invisible church (all those who believe throughout the world, regardless of church affiliation). We must also commit ourselves to a local or visible group of God’s people  

4.    Being a committed memberis essential to an orderly administration of the church.

a.    Being a committed member makes the duty of the leaders to shepherd the flock attainable.

 
  • In Acts 20:28 Paul told the elders to keep watch over God’s flock to shepherd them. It is very difficult to shepherd if its leader did not know who his flock is. Acts 20:28 ESV 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.
  • Hebrews 13:17 adds that church leaders are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.How can a pastor shepherd a flock to which he must give an account to God if he doesn’t even know where the sheep are or who they are? It’s very difficult.
 

b.    Being a committed member makes the obligation to honor and to submit to church leaders practicable.

 
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 ESV We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you,  13  and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
  • 1 Timothy 5:17 ESV Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
  • Hebrews 13:17 ESV Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
 

c.    Being a committed member clarifies the difference between believers and unbelievers and makes obeying the command for church discipline doable.

  The Bible clearly delineates between those who are inside the church and those who are outside. On one hand, a Christian is called a “brother” or a “sister.” They are referred to as “those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). On the other hand unbelievers are called “outsiders.”  
  • 1Co 5:12-13 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
  • Col 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.
  • 1Th 4:12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one
  • 1Ti 3:7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
  Wayne Mack and David Swavely, in their book Life in the Father’s House, write,   If a “bother” or “sister” is living a sinful lifestyle and refuses to respond to private confrontation, then the church is commanded by God to deal with the sin.[This we see in Mt 18:15-17 and in many other NT passages.]   But how do we know whether a particular attender is a “brother” or “sister” without a system by which the person can officially join or reject the church? And how can we officially put the offending party out of the church if he or she has never officially entered into it?   ….   This is the reason why those who want to become members of the Church go through an interview process and be placed on a roll or some other kind of formal membership process.  

5.    Being a committed memberprovides special benefits and advantages to its members.

a.    Ministry Opportunities

Leadership, teaching, evangelism, handling of funds, music, ushering, nursery care and grounds keeping should be performed by those who love Christ and are committed to the church. That is because the members of the body are gifted by the Spirit for the purpose of accomplishing the works of the ministry (1Cor 12; Eph 4:11-16). One way to make sure that takes place is by making membership a requirement for such service. Many other churches do that; so in many cases those who refuse to become members are basically saying that they are not willing to fulfill the ministries for which they may be gifted by God. On the other hand, those who are members have the freedom to obey God in any way He calls them to serve.

b.    Ordinances

Lord’s Supper andbaptism

c.    Helpful services

Weddings, dedication,

d.    Increased Knowledge

Membership provides an opportunity to educate people about many topics that may not be regularly discussed from the pulpit. You have parenting seminars, spiritual gifts, discipleship, church distinctives and particular doctrines that are discussed in membership classes and doctrinal or discipleship classes such as the IBI or TEA.

e.    Special Benefits

1 Timothy 5:9-10 ESV  Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,  10  and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.

f.     Loving Accountability and discipline

Another benefit of belonging to a local church is that its leaders and members can hold us accountable according to the process of church discipline found in Mt 18. The possibility of being confronted for our sin or put out of the church is not something we naturally view as beneficial, but that is only because our viewpoints are clouded by our sinful flesh. Actually we should welcome and even seek such accountability, because it is a powerful tool that God uses to mold us into the image of His Son.   Confrontation is an act of love that greatly benefits the one confronted, and even the harshest discipline is enacted for the good of the offender. Consider these verses.
  • Galatians 6:1 ESV Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
  • 1 Timothy 5:20 ESV As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
  • 1 Corinthians 5:5 ESV you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
  • 1 Timothy 1:20 ESV among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.
  Accountability and confrontation from other individual believers can take place in our lives if we are not members of a church, but the later stages of the process often cannot. So if we should persist in some sin (God forbid), all of the means that God has designed to pull us away from it are not available to us. So in effect, an unwillingness to join a local church is tantamount to saying we are not interested in divine accountability in our lives.

6.    Being a committed member delivers us from many of the disadvantages of an open membership.

  In an “open membership” system attendees are considered a members if they regularly join the Sunday worship gatherings for a few months. They are considered members even without determining their spiritual condition.   Problems to this approach:  
  • The unconverted who is regarded as a church member will tend to have false assurance of salvation.
  • God’s name will be dishonored. The more unconverted people become members of the church, the more sin will be committed. Outsiders will them think that sin is not a big issue for members of the body of Christ, and this could result in the mockery, not only of the church but of Christ Himself.
  • If an unconverted member is confronted for his sin and he does not want to submit, the local church can be put to a great disadvantage legally.
  • Unconverted members can be a source of grief to the leadership because of their “consumer” mentality. Just imagine what would happen if the church is composed of a majority who only think of what they can get out of the church and not of what they can contribute for its welfare.
  This is not to say that when you have formal membership that all its members will automatically become spiritually mature. Of course not, but because it is God’s will that Christians join a local church and be committed to it, joining a church out of obedience to God will create a mindset and environment that is more conducive to spiritual growth.  

Closing Words

I’d like to close with these words from the chapter “Why We Really Need the Local Church” in the book Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris, pp. 57-61.   But what if you still feel hesitant about taking this step? Maybe you're starting to see that God’s plan for the church is beautiful, but you’re still distracted by all the things you think are wrong with the churches you’ve attended. I won’t deny that there are problems. The sad reality is that there are churches and church leaders that grossly misrepresent Jesus Christ through their lives and teaching. And you only need to attend one ineffective, unfriendly, or lethargic church to send all the soaring rhetoric about the bride of Christ falling to earth like a deflated balloon.   But are these experiences really what hold us back from loving the local church? I‘ve come to believe that our generation’s biggest obstacles aren’t problems in the church, but problems in us. We have absorbed attitudes and assumptions from the world around us that have negatively affected what we expect from church and how we approach our role in it.   For example:  
  • We‘ve adopted self-centered attitudes. We’ve believed the lie that we’ll be happier the less we sacrifice or give of ourselves and our time. But the more we clutch our time, money and comfort and selfishly refuse to give to our church, the less we receive back.
  • We‘ve let proud independence keep us uninvolved. This can be pride that says, “I don’t need other people in my life.” Or it may be pride that says, “I don’t want other people to see me for who I really am.” Both forms cut us off from the blessings and benefits of community in the local church.
  • We’ve adopted a critical eye toward the church. We’ve believed that by complaining or logging our church’s faults, we are accomplishing something. But God calls us to repent of our critical spirit and pick up one of concern instead. Genuine concern is what happens when we see a problem and we care. That kind of concern leads to positive changes for us and our church.
  Recently my friend David from New York told me how he’d been going to church as a “consumer,” focused on comparing and critiquing. He realized he needed to become a “communer” who goes to meet God and express His love to others. God has helped him change from a person who left church each week with a list of complaints to an active servant. “The beautiful part of all this,” David said, “is that I’m a lot happier as a communer than I was as a consumer.” Only when you and I reject self-centeredness, prideful independence, and a critical spirit can the beauty of the local church come into focus. Then we’ll see that committing to a church isn't a burden, but a gift and a necessity. It doesn’t tie us down; it anchors us in the storm of life. And even its faults become an opportunity for us to love and serve.   THE OPEN ROAD   I came across a book by a young Christian author who shared his story of finding God on the open road. He and a buddy packed up for a road trip and hit the highway in search of God. His pastor at home just didn't seem to understand his longing for spiritual depth, so he left everything familiar behind and headed out for adventure. It made an interesting book. There’s definitely something appealing about striking out and discovering God. It sounds spiritual and courageous. But I don’t think it’s what God’s Word prescribes for spiritual growth. And ultimately I don’t think it’s as spiritual or as courageous as it might appear. Going away is easy. Do you want to know what’s harder? Do you want to know what takes more courage and what will make you grow faster than anything else? Join a local church and lay down your selfish desires by considering others more important than yourself. Humble yourself and acknowledge that you need other Christians. Invite them into your life. Stop complaining about what’s wrong with the church, and become part of a solution. It’s so simple and yet so life-changing. Life lived in a local church is an adventure that t will lead to more joy and more spiritual depth than you can imagine. It might not make a bestselling memoir… but it’s the story God loves to read.