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COHc Connections

Module 6 Church Membership & Christian Peacemaking

Connecting to Christ Our Hope church:

What is church membership?

Why is membership important?

What is biblical peacemaking and what is its process?

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6.1 The Concept of Church Membership

People often ask, Why should a church emphasize membership anyway? That seems too clique-ish and club-like to me where is that in the Bible anyway? The answer is actually pretty simple. On the one hand, we fully recognize that youll never find the phrase church membership in Scripture. Yet on the other hand, we see that whenever churches are talked about or addressed in the Bible, the assumption of church membership is on almost every page!

Churches have members!...

EPH 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household20 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

ROM 12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Church members are devoted!...

AC 2:40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The reason for church membership is easy to see: there is no such thing as community without commitment! Making church membership official is really just making open and plain what the Bible assumes- that a believer will commit to covenant with other believers in order to live, learn and experience the Gospel as one people joined together in community. After all, we need each other The Church is a Body!

While we realize that there are a great number of healthy churches that dont practice church membership, we see great benefits to practicing membership by a local church. For God wants to move all Christians from believing to belonging! God would say to us, If you love my Son, His loves will become your loves. Jesus proclaimed, I will build my Church (Mt. 16.18); He is obsessed with this work of gathering and building His church. Because Jesus accepted us, we ought to accept His beloved Bride- The Church. A key question to diagnose spiritual health is: what is your relationship with Jesus Bride?- Are you committed to Jesus commitments? Will you accept this bride?

6.2 The Benefits of Church Membership

Of course, many of the benefits of a vital church should always be available to anyone who attends. Because Jesus has a huge heart and an open-door policy (Come unto Me all who are heavy laden), so should all churches- not discriminating against anyone- but welcoming all. Even so, Rick Warren helpfully summarizes why church membership is of great benefit:

Worship helps you focus on God. It prepares you spiritually, mentally and emotionally for the week ahead.

Fellowship helps you face lifes problems by providing the support and encouragement of other Christians.

Discipleship helps you fortify your faith by learning the truths of Gods Word and applying biblical principles to your lifestyle.

Ministry helps you find and develop your gifts & talents and use them in serving others.

Evangelism helps you fulfill your mission of reaching your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers for Christ.

The community we seek is found not in some generic love for man, but in a specific love for the redeemed. Our love should be greater toward those with whom we have Christ in common than toward those with whom we share a job or a hobby... Every Lords Day we have a reunion. We, all His children, gather in the throne room, the church militant and the church triumphant gatheredcoram Deo, before the face of God. And there we are one, in union with Him.

R.C. Sproul, Jr, TableTalk Magazine:

Building Community (Nov. 99)

6.3 The Bibles Reasons for Church Membership

Undoubtedly, the previously mentioned points are all great reasons to bond with other believers by joining a church! Yet beyond these more pragmatic benefits, the Bible also stresses that the following reasons are of particular importance as well:

A __________: Members have the benefit of church power to shape the ministry of the congregation. It lies with the members to choose officers who, in turn, guide the direction of the congregation. Officers are elected (Acts 6.1-6), by the people. Membership entitles you to voting rights within the government of our church. While congregational meetings are usually open to anyone who wishes to attend, only members may pass resolutions, vote for changes to the by-laws or elect and dismiss pastors.

__________: Informal membership privileges may include priority in pastoral and private counseling, church ceremonies (like marriage) and opportunities to lead church ministries (e.g. serving as church officers). Yet, the sacrament of baptism is so special it is a rite of passage that is reserved for each local church family! Thats why Jesus included it as part of His Great Commission to the Church in Matthew 28.19:

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

So baptism is much more than a sign to the watching world (mans sign to man). It is the sign that God has chosen to signify His special relationship with His people, symbolizing ones entrance into the covenant family called The Church (Gods sign to His people). Thus, we believe its appropriate that baptism should be reserved for members only. Members may baptize their infant children into the covenant family of our church.

__________: Members have the benefit of accountability to the elders, the spiritual leaders of the church. Hebrews 13.17 teaches us to obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls. This command assumes that you are in a covenantal relationship with certain leaders. These leaders labor to both pray for you and provide spiritual care. So, it makes sense to listen to them. Those Christians who may say, I am accountable only to God are not only living in a way that is unknown to the Bible, they are living in a spiritual danger zone.

6.4 The Number 1 Reason to Join a Church

While all the aforementioned reasons for membership are significant, by far and away the number one reason for anyone to practice church membership and join a church is the 58 one-another commands in the Bible. By bonding ourselves with other believers in expressed, tangible commitment, we are practically __________ God and making a big step towards living out these one another commands in the Scriptures.

JN 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

GAL 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

RO 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

RO 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

GAL 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

HEB 3:12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

1TH 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

EPH 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

COL 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

RO 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

EPH 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

6.5 IMPLICATIONS for CHURCH MEMBERSHIP

So we would be wise to think through the implications of these one another commands for believers and for the local church. As we do, three (3) principles emerge:

The Principle of __________: These are not just suggestions; rather, they are commands from God to us as His blood-bought people.

The Principle of __________: All of these commands are written in the present continuous tense; so we should be doing these things constantly.

The Principle of __________: Most of these one-anothers were writ