Some of my readers might be thinking “Church Membership?–Don’t we have more important things to talk about. I mean, this doesn’t have anything to do with salvation, missions, evangelism, or my Christian life.” Or does it? I hope to show that membership in a local church does in fact have everything to do with salvation, missions, evangelism, and your Christian life. I hope in this series of articles I will not just convince you that church membership is a Biblical idea, but I hope to give you a vision of the radical centrality of church membership in your walk with the Lord.
Cavalier attitudes about church membership abound. Jonathan Leeman helpfully comments, “There are a few people who say that church membership is necessary, and a few who say that it’s optional but the majrity of Christian folk, I assume, are somwhere in between. They have a vague sense that Christians should be involved with a local church. But they would also say it’s not the most important thing in the world, so we shouldn’t make too big a deal about it. If Christians spend several years hopping from church to church, or if they decide to attend one church indefinitely without joining, that’s okay, too.”
My prayer is that we at Hopewell Baptist will not follow the crowds but will be diligent in Biblically examining what the Bible has to say for us about Church Membership. So where should we start?….Jesus!
That’s right…Jesus! If we are going to learn about the church we need to start by looking at Christ. After all, the church was His idea, not ours (Matt. 16:13-20). He is the head of the church (1 Cor. 12; Col. 1). Jesus told His Apostles (the foundations of the church) that he had “all authority” in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18-20). In plain language, Jesus is king…King of the universe…king of the world…and especially king over the church. This is important for us to realize: The church is not a democracy. It is a monarchy. It is a monarchy with King Jesus on the throne.
Often times the world tries to convince us that local churches are just one more political interest group or community organization. In other words a church is a club…a club like any other that you might join. But this is not true. Local churches are not state institutions. They do not exist by permission of the state. They exist because of the mandate of King Jesus. The local church is “in” the world but not “of” the world. Every local church across the globe shares the same goal, the same mission, and the same King. They are all part of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdoms of this world will ebb and flow, rise and fall, be born and pass away. But the kingdom of God (which is what the church belongs to) is unfading and will last into eternity (Rev. 21).
In this light we begin to see the local church may be far more important than we realize. This is the one institution that the true King of the Cosmos, Jesus Christ, established. This is the one instutition of the Kingdom of Heaven that has been placed on earth. This is the one institutioin that willingly bows its knee to King Jesus. When we remember who Jesus said He is, then we begin to get a greater sense of the magnitude of the importance of HIS institution, the church.