How can we tell if we have been infected by the spirit of our age and we have begun to think about the church in a worldly fashion rather than according to the Biblical model. Jonathan Leeman offers us the following very helpful list of symptoms of wrong thinking about the church in his book Church Membership. I have been guilty of some of these myself. If you have thought patterns about the church that resemble the types of statements below then you probably need to reconsider what the Bible teaches about the local church and 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 facts 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.
Leeman concludes, “the basic disease behind all of these symptoms, the disease which, I admit, courses through my own veins, is the assumption that we have the authority to conduct our Christian lives on our own. We include the church piece when and where we please” (Jonathan Leeman, Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, 23-24).