We live in a day that for many people, the idea of church membership seems antiquated. A day where some professing Christians believe they can be an entity unto themselves and do not need to be part of a local body of believers. The Word of God has never called us to be “lone ranger” Christians! In fact, whenever you see “church” mentioned in the New Testament, (with one possible exception in Matthew) it is always a local body. Now, someone claiming to be a believer with no attachment to a local body is not consistent with Scripture – it is a foreign concept according to the Word of God. Without going into great detail as to which specific doctrine will allow us to recognize what a church is, there is no doubt that there are some structural issues and biblical practices that must be carried out to be a true church. First, the Word of God clearly states that there must be called men of God who preach the Word, meaning you must have the office of elders. Now at Trinity, when we call a man on staff he must meet the qualification of an elder: our staff fills the role of elders at Trinity. Not only the issue of elders, but secondly there must be deacons and their selection and conduct be handled properly according to the Word of God. Third, the ordinances must be carried out - indicating not only The Lord’s Supper and Baptism, but also the accountability that is brought about through these ordinances among the family. The point is, that there are some in our day that have the idea that their family of 4 or 7 would constitute a biblical church. After reviewing these three basic structural “musts” - you can see where it would be a stretch, at best, but not at all practical. Can you truly carry out the call of the church within just a 4-7 member family venue? Now let me state very clearly that I don’t believe you have to meet in a building with a steeple on it to be a church. I believe you can have a church in a house, but just because you call your house a church doesn’t make it one. I can call my old Ford truck a Cadillac but it doesn’t make it so. If I were to start a church with my family of 4 with the goal teaching them, but not striving to reach others for Christ and get them involved in my church, I don’t think I could call my house a church.
I would also mention that my family needs other families. I need to watch other men interact with their children, my boys need to see other men that love Christ and serve him faithfully. I need to be around people that are different than myself – people that I may clash with in personality because this is where our Christianity is played out. If it isn’t displayed within a body of believers, then I would be hard pressed to call it real. When I become part of a body I am saying I am one of you, I am a believer. I am asking and expecting you to hold me accountable - I am in need of you encouraging me when life brings heartaches, and I should be there for you in the same time of need. Don’t try passing off the “I can worship in a deer stand” - the question I would submit is, do you? Do you lift your voice to sing praises? Do you gather with other believers for corporate worship? If you do this, I bet you never see any deer. The truth is that one may say they can - but they don’t. I have prayed in a deer stand; I have acknowledged the handiwork of God in a deer stand; but I can’t participate in public worship. The whole idea of Hebrews 10:25 is carried out in public worship. Any reader of the Word of God knows there was membership in the Bible. While the Word doesn’t say: “Thou shalt join a church”, over and over you see in Scripture the fact that membership is assumed for the believer. Let me give you some bullet points to close:
• Heb. 13:7, 17: Obviously this is not speaking to just any spiritual leader having to give account for just any saved person. It was a member of this body with a Pastor who will give an account for them.
• First Timothy 5:9. The phrase, “be taken into the number” could be translated as, “to be put on the list.” There was an obvious list of widows in the Church. Now certainly not every widow in the nation was listed. Only the widows of that Church. How would they know who belonged to that Church without membership?
• 1st Pet. 5:2-3 Who are the ones I am to shepherd? Is it just any believer, or actual members? Well the answer seems to be obvious.
• 1st Corinthians 5:12-13 The issue in these verses is church discipline. It says that we shouldn’t judge “outsiders” - who is that? Those who are not in our church. Then it says put the evil person out from “among you.” To be “out of” well, logic states I must have been “into.” Could you imagine in the Church of Corinth if this family who was involved in sexual immorality had a “our family only’ home church. Who would have corrected them? No one would have voted to throw mom out of the house would they?
The point is we need other believers around us. I need other people that do not look like me or like the same things I like - but we are of the same mind because we love and worship the same God. By all means, be part of a body - Don’t be one who just “shacks up” with a church and visits eternally! Pour your life into a church, laugh with them, cry with them, shout with them, but most importantly, worship with them!