What are some clubs, organizations or groups (not including the local church) that you have joined over the years?
What were the costs and requirements to be a member of the club, organizations or group?
How does membership in a local church differ than membership in other organizations?
“So if we approach church membership from the perspective of entitlement, we have it upside down. You always ask first what you can do for your church.” ― Thom S. Rainer, I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference
Is there or should there be a cost associated with being a member of a local church? What should those costs or requirements be?
Joshua Harris wrote the book, Stop Dating the Church. Mark Dever, David Platt and Thom Rainer have either written books or articles on this same topic. A basic distillation of these books and articles contend that many Christians in North America will flirt with and date the church but never marry (commit) to the church.
Do you believe that an individual can go through the process of joining a church and still not fully commit to the church? What are some examples or actions that show a person is still dating the church rather than fully committing to the church?
Dr. Platt records four reasons that Christians in North America date the church. He writes:
There are a lot of reason I think we date the church. We date the church because we’re independent. We’re a self-reliant, self-sufficient people. The thought of mutual submission and accountability and interdependence seems foreign to us, if not frightening to us. I think we date the church because we’re indifferent sometimes. “Is the local church really that big a deal? Isn’t it just a formality, an unnecessary formality, maybe even a legalistic formality that, along the way in our church tradition, we’ve added on and it’s corrupted the simplicity of the Christian life?” Maybe we date the church because we’re immature. Sometimes we date the church just because we’re immature in our faith. Now, it’s interesting, oftentimes we will talk about how we’re not committed to the church, and we will talk about that it’s a mature thing to say. We’ll say, “I love Christ, and I’m growing in my relationship with Christ, and I just can’t get bogged down with the church. I can do more in my relationship with Christ and for the glory of Christ in the world apart from the church. So, I’m just going to leave the church alone and grow myself in my relationship with Christ.” People will even say things like, “I love Christ; I just can’t stand the church.” Sometimes we date the church because we’re indecisive. We can’t decide on the one we like. It’s the grocery store mentality applied to the local church, from one to the next to the next. “Where’s the best product for the best price?” Oftentimes, we’ll start to get camped out somewhere, then we’ll say, “Oh, no. That’s not going to work. That’s got that one, so I need to move onto another one.” Then, you move onto another one. Even when we begin to settle down in a local church, this mentality still pervades our thinking. We’re always cognizant of the things that are just not up to par in this church that we’ve committed ourselves to, and we’re always comparing the product here with the product somewhere else. We’re indecisive, and it leads to a critical attitude in the church.
Do you agree with Dr. Platt?
Have you ever been guilty of dating the church?
Is the local church really that big of a deal? Why?
Is it possible for one to grow in Christ and accomplish more for Christ apart from the church? If so, how? How does this thought process line up with the Word of God?
Is there ever a legitimate reason for leaving a church?
Is there a perfect church?
Although there is validity, I believe, in leaving a church where the leadership consistently presents false doctrine, I also see people who are offended by one remark from the pulpit or one perceived hurt flit to the next church to look for fault there. It's like the cartoon I saw of a skeleton dressed in women's clothes and sitting on a park bench; the caption read, 'Waiting for the perfect man.' There is no perfect church either.” David Jeremiah
Would it surprise you to learn that membership in a local church is never commanded in God’s Word? Over the years, I’ve heard people say that they have no intention of ever joining a church. Many times, the lack of a command for membership is cited. Although membership is never commanded, it is implied.
Read Acts 11:22, Romans 16:3-5, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4:15, Galatians 1:2, I Thessalonians 1:1-2. What do we see implied in these verses?
Read Matthew 18:15. What action implies church membership?
Read Hebrews 13:17. What does this verse imply about the local church and leadership? What is the responsibility of both the leaders and members of the church? For further reading on the leader’s responsibility and accountability of his action in the church read Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-3
Accountability is also implied within the local church. This is all over the New Testament. Acts 6: Church members are accountable for appointing leaders over them. Acts 13: Church members are accountable for commissioning missionaries. Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5: Church members are accountable for purity in the church. That’s the whole point in 1 Corinthians 5. God is not speaking, in 1 Corinthians 5, to the immoral man who’s indulging in sexuality immorality. He’s saying to the church, “You have not guarded the purity of Christ, and you are accountable for that.”
We see that church membership is implied in Scripture. What do you think some of the responsibilities of a member are?
Read the verses below and then write the responsibility of the church member beside it.
- Romans 12:9-13
- John 13:34-35
- 1 Peter 4:9
- 1 Corinthians 16:20
- Romans 15:7
- Galatians 5:13
- Romans 15:14:
- Colossians 3:13
- Ephesians 5:21
- Hebrews 10:24
- 1 Thessalonians 5:13
- Galatians 6:2
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
- James 5:16
- Phillipians 2:3
- Romans 14:19
- Colossians 3:16
- Ephesians 4:32
- Acts 2:45; 4:32-37
- 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
- Galatians 6:1-5
How important is being a functioning and healthy member of a church? Let me end this study by a quote from Jonathan Leeman, author of Church Membership.
"Christians can think it’s fine to attend a church indefinitely without joining; Christians think of getting baptized apart from joining; Christians take the Lord’s Supper without joining; Christians view the Lord’s Supper as their own private, mystical experience for Christians and not as an activity for church members who are incorporated into body life together; Christians don’t integrate their Monday-to-Saturday lives with the lives of other saints; Christians assume they can make a perpetual habit of being absent from the church’s gathering a few Sundays a month or more; Christians make major life decisions (moving, accepting a promotion, choosing a spouse, etc.) without considering the effects of those decisions on the family of relationships in the church or without consulting the wisdom of the church’s pastors and other members; Christians buy homes or rent apartments with scant regard for how factors such as distance and cost will affect their abilities to serve their church; Christians don’t realize that they are partly responsible for both the spiritual welfare and the physical livelihood of the other members of their church, even members they have not met. When one mourns, one mourns by himself. When one rejoices, one rejoices by herself."
(Questions provided by Pastor Ricky LeMons - Trinity Baptist Church)