Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Value of Church and Church Membership

The local church is more important than most people realize. For instance:

In Matthew 16 Jesus told Peter that He would build His church. Jesus didn’t say He would build a non-profit organization, a publishing company, a traveling quartette, or big business. He didn’t say He would build stay-at-home-Christians. He said He would build His church. Then in the book of Acts we see that beginning to happen as the church is birthed and begins to spread by carrying out the Great Commission. Jesus identified so closely with the church that when Saul was persecuting Christians, Jesus said he was persecuting Him. The book of Ephesians describes Jesus as the head of the church and us as members of the body.

In the Old Testament, God’s glory was displayed through the Tabernacle and later the temple. In the New Testament, it was displayed through the person and work of Jesus Christ. The book of Ephesians tells us that God’s glory is now on display in the local church!

In other words, church is IMPORTANT. Church participation is important. And being members of the church is important.

This is where it gets confusing. Membership in a local church means a lot of different things to different people and in different churches. Many people associate the term membership with meaningless rituals, silly rules, having your name on a dusty roll book, and secret handshakes. For others it means nothing more than joining a non-profit organization and becoming part of a legislative body to carry out business. Borrrring.

The word member is of Christian origin, but it has been taken over by the world and emptied of its original meaning.

The Bible paints a very different image about membership. Being a member in a church is not some cold induction into an institution, but rather becoming a vital organ of a living body (Romans 12:4-5; I Cor. 6:15; I Cor. 12:12-27).

At PCC we try to capture that image. When we offer membership we are asking people to commit themselves to the THIS CHURCH FAMILY and to OTHER BELEIVERS in this church. We are not asking people to commit to a business institution, but to become a member of our family. Big difference. This is entirely Biblical.

The phrase “one another” or “each other” is used more than fifty times in the New Testament, telling us of our responsibility to each other. We are told to love each other, pray for each other, encourage one another, teach each other, bear one another’s burdens, submit to each other, and be devoted to one another. All of these commands are what membership in a local body of believers is all about.

The essence of membership in contained in our willingness to commit to one another. We don’t transfer letters, and we don’t accept the transfer of letters either. That kind of institutionalism has nothing to with being a member of a family.

If you are not committed to a local church, you simply will be unable to grow spiritually as you should. Additionally, there are many commands in the NT that you are being broken by not being committed to a church family. Many Christians like to hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. This is a direct expression of America’s rampant individualism. They have not been taught, or either ignore the fact, that the Christian life involves more than believing – it also includes belonging.

We belong together. We need each other. We are connected, joined together as parts of one body. We are a family.

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