A Christian who is not a Church Member is like a bird without a nest, or a squirrel without a drey, or a rabbit without a hole. Such people can be likened to those those living rough, out on the streets, whilst there is a home available to them. Every Christian should have a home of which they are a part; they should be members of a church. They should be in the home that the LORD has ordained for them. Now each of us may have to work hard and pray hard in order to decide which church to settle in, but we all must settle, commit and be a member of a church and that will our home. This is God’s pattern.
Right at the beginning of the church age, we see the pattern set for how people should be committed to a church. We read in Acts 2v42 concerning the first Christians that, after they had confessed Christ and been baptised, they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Here we see how the first believers of the church age came together as a living testimony to the LORD. Church membership was not something they deliberated upon. Rather, a commitment to a church was the natural flow-out from them coming to Christ and following Him.
But can it not just be the case that you go to a church and if you attend regularly enough then you are considered a church member? It appears looking at the situation of the church in Corinth, that there was a clear understanding of who was a member of the church. In 1 Corinthians 5:2 Paul writes to them concerning a man who was having an affair with his step-mother. He writes Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? To put someone out of your fellowship, you need to know who is in the fellowship. There seems to have been a clear knowledge of who was a member of the church in Corinth.
If we dwell a little further concerning the functioning of the church at Corinth we will see that the person who was no longer considered to be a church member was to be delivered unto Satan (see 1 Cor. 5:5a). This dramatic act demonstrated that he was now deemed to be out in the world, which is the realm where the evil one, Satan, has sway. This again alerts us to the big issues appertaining to a Christian choosing not to commit to a church. In doing this they are, in a sense, aligning themselves with the world. The way that this whole issue is developed in the New Testament indicates that someone is either a church member and blessed in the fellowship of God’s people or they are not church members and therefore out in the world; out in Satan’s domain.
The fact that it is known who is actually in a fellowship is also seen by looking at the issue of church leadership. Church leaders are given responsibility to look after a flock of God’s sheep. In Hebrews 13v17 we read Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. The clear inference here is that there are a group of Christians who know who their leaders are. Accordingly it is to these men that they have a responsibility to submit. This whole theme is hinted at when we look at Paul’s observation of the elders being recognised in Ephesus. He says of them that Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood (Acts 20v28). The elders in Ephesus knew that there was a flock and they knew who was in it because they were to care for all the flock.
The above mentioned themes also alert us to the fact that church membership is restricted to one church. Although fellowship can be enjoyed and shared with other churches, our commitment is to one church and to be submitted to the leadership of that church.
The celebration of the Lord’s Supper also adds a certain poignancy in respect of these issues. In 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 Paul writes Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf. Whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper we declare our oneness as the people of God. Whenever we eat and drink together at the feast we declare that we are a part of each other and we are together in the local representation of His body. There is then an inherent contradiction if someone is celebrating the Lord’s Supper and is still refusing to commit to that fellowship. The Lord’s Supper is not just declaring a commitment to the LORD, it is also declaring a commitment to one another.
Finally, for those of you who are Christians and are church members, remember to live out what you are. When you commit to a church you become an insider to that church. The sad thing is that many who have committed to a church then choose to live as outsiders to that church. They live a contradiction. So fellow Christians when you have committed to a church make sure your live out that commitment by being steadfast in supporting the leadership, activities and fellow believers in Christ in that church.
Taken from the Feltham Evangelical Church newsletter of May 2015