Mention the words “church membership” and you’re likely to get some very interesting and at times unchristian responses. The idea of church membership is rooted in the fact that Jesus saves sinners for the purpose that they would gather together and live in community with the other people He saves and then scatter to live among the nations.
Many Christians today reject everything I’ve just written and instead believe that Christians can just be lone-rangers. The idea that Christians are to be lone-rangers is not biblical as the Bible clearly teaches that professing Christians are to be members of local Churches. Christ doesn’t save sinners so they will live in isolation or be lone-rangers—He saves them so that they will be in community with one another, speaking the truth in love to one another, “one anothering” each other, and displaying forth His character, and glory to a watching, but unbelieving world.
While local Churches may have many issues, the Church itself is purchased by Christ and is therefore blameless. The members inside the Church are justified and yet sinners meaning they are made right with God through the blood of Jesus but still growing in Christ-like character and going forth in Christ’s name to their families, neighborhoods, cities and to the nations with the Gospel.
Those who object the loudest to this kind of teaching think that they can be Christians and not be in the Church. From even from a cursory examination of the Scriptures- the lone-ranger view of being a Christian is not biblical. Christ saves Christians to live in community with other believers. Christ calls believers to membership in the local Church not only for their own spiritual growth but to use our spiritual gifts in the context of the local Church.
Christ calls other Christians to live in community with other Christians for the purpose of accountability, and spiritual growth. Christ calls Christians to live in community with other believers so they will grow in likeness to Jesus Christ. Christ calls Christians to live in community with other believers so that believers may minister in and through their local churches in order to reach one’s community, city, nation and the world with the Gospel.
In his helpful book Church Membership How The World Knows Who Represents Jesus Jonathan Leeman, an author, elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC, editorial director for 9Marks Ministries and editor of its eJournal writes to address an important but neglected part of the Christian life.
The whole book is worth reading for every Christian as Leeman grounds his teaching in the Bible and provides helpful advice for Christians who struggle with church membership as well as for those who are members of local churches. One of the more helpful points in the book is where Leeman notes that “submitting to ugliness scares people” (102). He continues explaining that “submitting to ugliness is exactly what submitting to local church can be. Churches are filled with other sinners whose visions of glory contradict our own. But this is how Christ loved us: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Christ’s love wonderful transforms the ugly into the beautiful (Eph. 5:22-31). Our love for one another should do the same thing—help the ugly become beautiful. Who can love this way? Only the ones whose eyes have been opened and whose hearts have been freed from the slavery of loving this world” (103). “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Church Membership How The World Knows Who Represents Jesus will help Christians who think church membership isn’t biblical by pointing them to what Scripture teaches about church membership, pastoral authority, life accountability and personal freedom. This book will also help church members to understand their responsibility to submit to Christ, the leadership of their local church, and to fellow members in the context of the covenant community of faith. I recommend you read Church Membership How The World Knows Who Represents Jesus because its punchy and provocative, but at the same time permeated with the gospel of the grace of God.
Author: Jonathan Leeman
Publisher: Crossway (2012)
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”