Of course it does. Just ask a couple wanting to get married. Ask a family that needs a place to have a funeral service. Ask the father and mother that want to celebrate their child’s birthday. Ask a politician seeking credibility with their constituency. As is said, membership has its’ privileges. People often treat the church like a country club or a community center seeking what they can get out of it. From a biblical perspective, though, we agree that membership matters. The reasons are different but it matters. The question then is, what are the requirements to be a member of a local church and to maintain that membership? The answers are more important than most think. Without a clear understanding of what membership means, there is at best ambiguity in the church and at worse chaos regarding the responsibility to encourage, exhort, teach, reprove, correct, and discipline. As I have recently experienced, the seemingly simple task of creating a church directory sparks all types of debate regarding membership.
In these times of mega-churches and the competition for larger membership numbers, a church must be willing to set aside tradition and/or popularity and submit to the Scriptures for guidance in the determination of church membership. It is not an easy task. Any time we submit to God’s Word it humbles us and honors the Lord. Pisgah Baptist Church in Excelsior Springs, MO is taking that step. Doug Richey, the pastor, writes on his blog about the process. Once the qualifications for church membership were determined, it became necessary to remove names from the church rolls. He writes an answer to the question “What is gained by removing members from church rolls?” The question once answered begs the last question, “What is it that you gain by not taking biblically faithful steps in dealing with non-participatory membership?”
What would you say?
Romans 3:10-11 states that no one seeks for God. Yet there are many churches and ministries that strive to be “seeker sensitive”. We spoke briefly about that misplaced focus in Sunday School today. If man, in all his sin, does not seek God then to what is a church striving to be sensitive? Although I believe concern for the lost is necessary, what results is an attempt to make the church look more like the world so those that are lost will feel more comfortable. The church no longer looks like the body of Christ but a moral version of the world.
While thinking of these things I read this post by John MacArthur, “A Clarion Call to the Modern Church”. He uses the term “user friendly” to describe the trend to be more acceptable to sinners. He states:
Like the modernists a century ago, churches in the user-friendly movement have decided that doctrine is divisive–peace is more important than sound teaching. Wanting to appeal to a modern age, they have framed their message as a friendly, agreeable, and relevant dialogue, rather than as a confrontation with the gospel of Christ.
The only hope is a return to Scripture and sound doctrine. We evangelicals desperately need to recover our determination to be biblical, our refusal to comply with the world, our willingness to defend what we believe, and our courage to defy false teaching. Unless we collectively awaken to the current dangers that threaten our faith, the adversary will attack us from within, and we will not be able to withstand.
Preaching the Gospel and holding to that truth is not trendy and cool. But it is the Gospel message that the Lord promises to work through to accomplish salvation for the lost. Romans 1:16 So let us not forget that our sensitivity is to be to the Word and Will of God.
Jim Elliff of Christian Communicators Worldwide, along with being an author and conference speaker is the founding pastor of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. As Jim Elliff states, “This church is a family of home congregations using the homes of members as the principle meeting places.” With the desire to spread the Gospel and reach the local community for Christ, many churches decide at some point that it is time to expand or build a new church building. Jim Elliff, based on his experience with the house church model and his study of the New Testament church, presents an alternative to building campaigns.
In the online version of The Briefing Phillipp Jensen writes about church planting. Before he begins addressing the topic, though, he lists three things that we must assume about church planting.
“Firstly, true Christian churches are planted only where the pure gospel of Christ is preached. We must not vary from the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified, with its accompanying call to faith and repentance. This is the foundation for building Christ’s church. This is the seed for planting. And we must not think that the church of Christ can be planted by any other method. If we are not preaching the gospel and seeing people come to faith through the power of the Spirit, then we are not planting churches. We may simply be transferring existing believers from one place to another. (This may be a good thing in some cases—especially if they are being ‘transferred’ from churches which are not teaching the Bible. But it is not planting so much as transplanting.)
Secondly, we cannot preach this gospel of Christ without carrying the cross, as he did. This is not optional. We cannot preach Christ and expect to avoid suffering. We cannot preach Christ and be popular. We cannot preach Christ without being willing to lay down our lives for the salvation of others.
Very often, the suffering will come in the form of persecution. And most painful of all, it will often be from other Christians. Just as for Christ it was his co-religionists who persecuted him most, so for us it will be members of other Christian churches and denominations who are most hostile towards church planting. Most Christians are all for evangelism and church planting, so long as it doesn’t affect them—the NIMBY syndrome (Not In My BackYard). But in a country like Australia, it is almost impossible to plant a church without affecting someone else. And when it does, tension and disagreement inevitably occurs. We cannot discuss church planting, and get involved in it, without being prepared to suffer for it.
Thirdly, any discussion of church planting assumes a passion for the lost. Millions of Australians will be born, grow old and die without ever hearing, in a meaningful way, about what Christ has done for them. The Bible may still be a top seller, but there is little evidence of it being high on the list of what people actually read. The lost are all around us. There are many areas, communities and sub-groups in our society which have little or no Christian witness within them. How can we reach them? We cannot expect them to come to us. We must go to them, and plant churches in their midst.”
Voddie Baucham asks the question in order to discuss the topic. Evidently when he travels and speaks at different conferences and events that happens to be one of the most asked questions. Where are all the healthy churches? I admit I have asked that question, usually to myself though. The characteristics of a healthy church listed by these people are churches that:
1. Preach and teach sound doctrine
2. Support, promote and practice home discipleship
3. Are led by godly, manly elders
4. Practice church discipline
Voddie acknowledges that this is a very narrow list but it does represent the majority of the questions asked of him recently. He explains more fully each topic then gives us hope that there is always a remnant that desires to serve the Lord faithfully whatever the cost. He finishes by saying,
“Keep praying. Keep searching. Keep trusting the Lord. There are good churches out there. No… I don’t have a list of the ones in your area (so please don’t call or write asking for one… you know who you are). Nevertheless, I have to believe they’re out there. And between the internet, conferences, denominational publications, and word-of-mouth, they can be found. If not, the Lord’s people still have permission (and a mandate) to plant new churches. Or in a worst case scenario… move. We uproot our families for better jobs, better houses, and better neighborhoods. Why not move for a healthy church? Of course, just like jobs, houses and neighborhoods, their is no guarantee that a healthy church will be exactly what you think it is.”
Truth In Love