On May 31, during the Sunday services, people from Restoration will express their desire to belong to each other by holding common commitments– we will become members. This is the first of a 2 part series on what we believe about membership. The mic goes to the New Testament first. Some thoughts from Paul and Jesus…
A few arguments from the New Testament for church membership
1. Members of a Body:
This is the metaphor the apostle Paul used when he was describing the local church. (see 1 Corinthians 12). The illustration of the body implies connection and interdependence. The body has members (arms, legs, spleen, kidneys) that work together and need each other. The body is not a pile of independent ‘attachments’.
2. Shepherd Leaders:
The Bible calls the leaders of the church to be shepherds. Shepherds are required to care for a particular flock. Commitments held in common define who is a member of that community.
a. Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
b. 1Peter 5:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
3. Faithful Members:
The Bible calls members to an intentional relationship with their leaders. Pastors (Biblical leaders) are obligated to follow the example of Jesus and to lay down their life for those in their charge. Christians are obligated to commit themselves to a particular church (and a particular group of elder leaders). This is the community to which they give their time, talent, and treasure for the building of God’s Kingdom.
a. Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
b. 1Thessalonians 5:12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
c. 1Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
4. Redemptive Discipline:
Sometimes, the Church is called to discipline its members. This responsibility and the joy of seeing transformational repentance is given to those who belong to each other as members.
a. Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
1. Every person who wants to follow Jesus should take a position under the leadership and authority of a particular group of elders. In our Anglican tradition, this is the Rector (the Senior Priest in charge– David Hanke) and the Vestry (elected, non-ordained lay people)
2. We should declare ourselves part of a community who expect to be watched over and cared for by a particular group of elders (the Rector, pastoral leadership, and vestry)
3. We should find our place in the organic whole as a body part. You cannot follow Jesus by yourself. We need to be members of a particular, local body of Christ.