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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

What Is Church Membership?

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In the last post, I answered the question, What Is the Local Church? That brings us to the next question: what is church membership?

Answer: It’s a declaration of citizenship in Christ’s kingdom. It’s a passport. It’s an announcement made in the pressroom of Christ’s kingdom. It’s the declaration that a professing individual is an official, licensed, card-carrying, bona fide Jesus representative.

More concretely, church membership is a formal relationship between a local church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.

Notice that several elements are present:

  • a church body formally affirms an individual’s profession of faith and baptism as credible; 
  • it promises to give oversight to that individual’s discipleship; 
  • the individual formally submits his or her discipleship to the service and authority of this body and its leaders.

The church body says to the individual, “We recognize your profession of faith, baptism, and discipleship to Christ as valid. Therefore, we publicly affirm and acknowledge you before the nations as belonging to Christ, and we extend the oversight of our fellowship.” Principally, the individual says to the church body, “Insofar as I recognize you as a faithful, gospel-declaring church, I submit my presence and my discipleship to your love and oversight.”

The standards for church membership should be no higher or lower than the standards for being a Christian, with one exception. A Christian is someone who has repented and believed, and that’s who churches should affirm as members. The only additional requirement is baptism. Church members must be baptized, a pattern that is uniform in the New Testament. Peter said to the crowds in Jerusalem, “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). And Paul, writing the church in Rome, simply assumes that everyone who belongs to the Roman church has been baptized (Rom. 6:1–3). (I'll consider this requirement of baptism further in the next post.)

Church membership, in other words, is not about “additional requirements.” It’s about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church. It’s about “putting on,” “embodying,” “living out,” and “making concrete” our membership in Christ’s universal body. In some ways, the union which constitutes a local church and its members is like the “I do” of a marriage ceremony, which is why some refer to church membership as a “covenant.”

It’s true that a Christian must choose to join a church, but that does not make it a voluntary organization. Having chosen Christ, a Christian has no choice but to choose to join a church.

This article is excerpted not from Church Membership (pictured above), but Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the name of Jesus (Crossway, 2012). A longer discussion is found in the former book.

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Jonathan,
You say, "And Paul, writing the church in Rome, simply assumes that everyone who belongs to the Roman church has been baptized (Rom. 6:1–3)."
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

May we not equally say that Paul simply assumes that all baptized believers in Rome belong to the Roman church? In Rom 1:7, he says he's writing "all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints". I take it he simply assumes one local church in Rome (no small town!) made up of ALL the saints residing there.  So when Paul later was taken to Rome he now belonged to the Roman church and no one asked him to sign a covenant.  Would you say Paul and some of those beloved and called ones were NOT church members unless they made the subsequent choice of officially joining some smaller division of "all those in Rome"?
If so, where did Paul or any apostle once in any of their epistles or our Lord in any his teaching clearly command or encourage such a "joining" of "a church"?

The "died to sin" part of Rom 6:2 reminds me of what William Law wrote about church membership:
"Many are the marks, which the learned have given us of the true church; but be that as it will, no man, whether learned or unlearned, can have any mark or proof of his own true church-membership, but his being dead unto all sin, and alive unto all righteousness."
Thanks ,
David

David,

Well stated. You've made some edifying observations regarding Jonathan's premise. It really saddens me when I see what may well be described as extra-biblical tactics employed amongst the brethren. If however, one's ultimate objective were to build a "seeker-sensitive" tax exempt non-profit corporation, ...then to PROTECT one's livelihood from potential litigation, such carnal techniques as a legally-binding membership contract would of course, be critical.

I would expect that the Silversmiths in Ephesus required a prospective artisan to sign a covenant when joining the local Idol-making Union.

I fully expect to sign a membership contract when dealing with the unredeemed WORLD, whether it's a Homeowner's Association or a Labor Union. I don't recall however, our Lord ever pressing for a signature amongst his disciples,...a simple "Follow Me" sufficed.

As for the straw man; "how then could discipline be exercised without knowing who's in?" I would only point out those serious-looking men wearing sunglasses and wired earpieces dispersed amongst the crowd at a political event. They scan their assigned sector looking for suspicious behavior, when they do, the offender is rapidly apprehended and escorted away from the assembly.

Furthermore, my name IS known amongst the brethren, as it appears on the end of year "Giving Statement".

If my deeply held convictions about the unbiblical practice of signing a document to "prove" regeneration and love for the brethren was deemed threatening to the "safety" of the local body, and I was requested/ordered to leave by the Elders, I would do so. It's your "house", thus your rules. Those that are led by the Spirit don't require something "extra" to insure cooperation.

Dave

David is exactly right. Paul was never writing to scattered and competing local churches, he simply wrote to the church in a location. Those letters in no way assume that the local churches have formal membership to the exclusion of any other local church.

This essay misses the mark, pun intended, by a mile. Peter said "repent and be baptized" not " repent and be baptized by a clergyman and join a local church after going through a membership class".

If you are a Christian you already hold the only membership that matters.

, Without writing a novel on every area of what goes on @ BNC, I can't throguohly express the like-mindedness of EVERY area of the church in the detail I'd like to. The best I can do is say that Jesus' mission was to reach and save the lost and that's the mission that we all adhere to we do everything we can with precision and excellence because 1) We've got servants and leaders that listened to God's calling for them and serve how HE wants them to serve, and 2) we are ALL devoted to glorifying God. When you glorify Him, people pay attention lost people pay attention. And that's who we're here for. So is there any area of BNC that's not like-minded and on the same mission that another area is? ABSOLUTELY NOT! And it's all for HIM! on 07 February 2010 / 7:36 PM

Jonathan

“Church Membership” is a challenging concept. Not much about it in the Bible.

One recommendation for a believer considering this extra-biblical concept would be... WAIT...
Before applying for “Church Membership” - WAIT... And then - WAIT some more... Take your time, a full year even two, get to know the folks, see if they are living in liberty, (Where the Spirit of the Lord is - there is Liberty. 2 Cor 3:17.) Or, are these folks living in bondage to fear. (For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; Rom 8:15.) Take your time, the Lord will show you. I’ve been in bondage to fear. And I didn’t know it. It’s NOT pretty.

Be a Berean and check the scriptures to see if what they say is accurate. At least according to what the Lord has shown you. There are NOW thousands of denominations with thousands of different beliefs. With many “saying” - “The Bible is the Word of God.” And - “We are preaching the true biblical Gospel.” BUT - they ALL disagree about something. Take your time and see what the Lord will show you. I didn’t - and paid the price. Ouch!! :-(

It also takes time to see if folks “Walk” according to their “Talk.”
Jesus warns us in Mat 23:3, “but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:5, says...
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light
**the hidden things of darkness,** and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts...

In my experience... it takes time for **the hidden things of darkness,** to be revealed. Sometimes years.

--------------

And this is very important - Before an - “individual *formally submits* his or her discipleship to the service and *authority* of this body and its *leaders.*”

Before you give up your liberty - You should check out the leaders/elders to see
“How they Exercise Authority.” And - If they qualify to be an “Leader/Overseer.”

Believers have this privilege to check out those who say the are leaders in 1 Thessalonians 5:12 KJV.
“And we beseech you, brethren, *to know them* which labour among you,
and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;”

Jesus taught His Disciples, in Mark 10:42, NOT to be like the rulers of the Gentiles and how they
“Exercised Authority” But His Disciples would be *Servants.* And - Peter, in 1 Peter 5, exhorts elders,
“Neither as being *lords over* God's heritage” but being examples to the flock.

Once again, WAIT, it takes time to see if those who say they are Leaders/Elders/Overseers are “Servants.”
And - If they qualify? Here are some things to look at to see if they qualify.
1 - Are they living examples of - NOT lording it over God’s heritage?” You and me. 1 Pet 5:3 KJV
2 - Are they living examples of - lowliness of mind? Phil 2:3 KJV
3 - Are they living examples of - esteeming others “better” than themselves? Phil 2:3 KJV
4 - Are they living examples of - submitting “One to Another?” Eph 5:21 KJV, 1 Pet 5:5. KJV
5 - Are they living examples of - prefering others before themselves? Rom 12:10. KJV
6 - Are they living examples of - being clothed with humility? 1 Pet 5:5. KJV
7 - Are they living examples of - NOT “Exercising Authority” like the Gentiles?” Mark 10:42-43. KJV

I’ve experienced “Spiritual Abuse” from those I trusted.
Those who said they were God Ordained Authority - And were NOT.
So, Take your time - Before applying for “Church Membership.”
Learn to Hear His Voice and ask Jesus what you should do.

Jesus said - My Sheep Hear My Voice - and Follow me.

I disagreed with many of your other posts, but this one is helpful in many ways. Especially in the identification of qualified elders, you are correct. Just wanted to let you know.

I do think the NT has much to say about what we call "membership" whatever you may call it.

God Bless

Oh - One more thing...

If they ask you to sign anything...

If they ask you to fill out a "Church Membership" form... A contract...

The first recommendation is - Don’t sign anything... Do NOT swear or make an oath...

James 5:12 NASB
But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath;
but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

And if you feel you have to sign something - You’re signing a legal contract...

Go directly to a lawyer... For your future protection...

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
John 10:16

One Fold - One Shepherd - One Voice

{{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

Four questions for the previous commenters...

1. How would you exercise church discipline in a modern context without some sort of formal church membership?

2. How do we determine who has a voice in the affirmation of elders and deacons without some sort of formal church membership?

3. How do you decide which widows to enroll for care without some sort of formal church membership?

4. Have any of you ever served as elders in a local church?

I have watched those with a casual view of church membership, or worse yet who deny the existence of church membership, destroy churches through their refusal to submit to local church leadership and to join with their fellow saints in partnership for the gospel.

I do not believe the author gave biblically convincing evidence for church membership.

Matthew 18 cannot be practiced without some formal recognition of who's a member and who's not. When the church has to vote to remove a Christian from fellowship, which believers do we gather together to make this decision? Do we gather all the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptist, and other Christian in the area to help? Do we gather beleivers from around the world if only universal membership matters? If we only stick to a local church, then who's part of the consensus and who's not? Whether or not a signature on a document is needed is really a moot point. But the fact remains that the church in the Scripture knew who belonged to Christ and who belonged to their local felllowship. Even Paul's affirmation of Philemon's faith was so that the church would receive him as one of them. that's membership...doc signed or not.

you are correct sir in your correction of some fluffy ecclesiology. I serve as an elder and for those of you who disagree with formal membership you have not understood what is right on the surface of the NT. It is so obvious that you have to work hard not to see it.

"where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name" -you may make decisions regarding church discipline as leaders. check the context.

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suppose its ok to use {some of|a few of} your ideas!!\

"Previously, men had looked to the Church for all the trustworthy knowledge of God obtainable, and as well for all the communications of grace accessible. Calvin taught them that neither function has been committed to the Church, but God the Holy Spirit has retained both in His own hands and confers both knowledge of God and communion with God on whom He will."

- B. B. Warfield

Confused Old Apostolic Member: I praise God for your inriuqing mind. This is exactly how I found out that this doctrine contradicts the Bible.Regarding the role of women in the church you can also refer to 1 Corinthians 14:33-35. I would like to ask them the same question. How do you interpret that spiritually? I wonder how they decide when and which scriptures should be translated spiritually or physically?O .and about the creation . It is physical. God spoke this world into existence, and there is proof that this happened.On the confirmation, I agree with you 200%. The Bible does not mention anything about confirmation at the age of 16. God's Words says that only those that hear the Gospel, BELIEVES, confess, repent and be baptized will be saved. When I was confirmed, I can remember that more than 50% of us did'nt have a clue what they were doing there. Many did'nt even BELIEVE. All of us were forced to comply, because it's tradition.While we on the topic of confirmation, let's also look at the baptism of infants. How can an infant hear and believe the Gospel? Does the scriptures give us a command to baptize infants?I compliment your opinion. In fact I would say that it is a fact and not just an opinion. I believe that you and many others have many more questions about the OA doctrine. It would be a privilege for me to assist you and guide you to the Scriptures that will answer your questions.

i now agree that the true gospel cnanot be preached through the net. all i see is people throwing verses at each other as if to induce fear and to gain pride that i can read the bible . i think this thread was made in order to share understanding not confusion. i still ask this question, how can a man be baptised while he rests on a camel back? if people dont humble themselves, they cnanot listen to others.there's been a question directed to oac concerning their origin. now interested reader, former oac and the rest, please answer this question.who formed your church?(please dont say christ because he formed his church in Matthew16:13 not later than that).if you are part of jesus' church, do you still visit the brothers in jerusalem as paul and other apostles did?do you still belong to the one catholic and apostolic church formed by jesus christ?if not, where do you get your authority of preaching the gospel?hell is looming on all imposters who create their own ways of which our lord does not approve.

Hi Justin - And Joshua

Thanks for the questions.
Yes - I was ordained. I was in leadership. And - Even when I was a part of “The Abusive Religious System” of today... The fellowship I was apart of saw Mat 18:15-17, quite differently then most today who are promoting “Church Membership” so they can have *the power* to “Exercise Church Discipline.” We wanted to “Restore.”

Discipline could mean correction with punishment. BUT - Discipline also means training - teaching.
1- to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
2- to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
3- to punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct; chastise.

Joshua writes...
Matthew 18 cannot be practiced without some formal recognition of who's a member and who's not.
When the church has *to vote* to remove *a Christian* from fellowship...

When you believe the lie you start to die...

I don’t recall seeing in Mat 18, or the Bible, about *the church* “Voting.” - About anything - Ever.
Much less “Voting” to remove a “Christian.” IMO - If they are a Christian, they are brethren... Restore...

Kinda like Gal 6:1-3, is a reminder to “Love” and “Restore.”
*Brethren,* if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, *restore such an one*
in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, *lest thou also be tempted.*
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

I also see Mat 18:15:17, as a reminder to “Love” and “Restore” because the trespasser is “Thy brother.”
15 Moreover if *thy brother* shall trespass against thee...
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto *the church:* but if he neglect to hear **the church,**
**let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.**

Seems to me - Jesus went out of His way - to spend time with - the heathens and publicans. Yes?
Jesus “Loved” the heathen and the publican. Died for them. Laid down His life for them. Loved them. Yes?
Don’t you all go into the highways and by-ways to reach out to the heathen and publican?
Why would you “Vote” to remove a Christian” if they are already in your midst?
Maybe this means the process of preaching the Gospel can begin all over again?
Maybe we need to practice “Loving them?” NOT excommunicating them?

NOPE - If signing “Church Membership” forms are so I can “Vote” to remove someone for their sin
It won’ be long before someone is “Voting” to remove me.

Romans 2:1
Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest:
for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself;
for thou that judgest doest the same things.

Oh - Just one more thing...

If some are still seeing Mat 18:15-17, as scriptural evidence that so-called church-leadership have some sort of authority to “exercise church discipline“ and “Vote” to “Remove” a Christian from fellowship...

You might want to take a look at what Jesus says a few verses later in Mat 18:21-35...

21 Then Peter came up and said to him,
“Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and *I forgive him?* As many as seven times?”
22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but *seventy-seven times.* (That’s a lot. Yes?)

...You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you,
if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Seems to me “Mercy” and “Forgiveness” is important to Jesus...

NOT “Voting” to “Remove” a Christian, a fellow “Servant,” Thy brother, from fellowship...

Matthew 5:7
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Luke 6:36
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

Luke 18:13
And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven,
but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Hebrews 8:12
For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness,
and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Think I’ll stick with Jesus and His example.

Yeah Amos those verses in Matthew 18 are about removing an *unrepentant* brother from fellowship. Paul frequently talks about handing people over to Satan in order that they may be convicted of their sins if they refuse to repent.

As much as you may not like it, excommunication is very clearly a Biblical practice for the unrepentant sinner, not only so that the church may not be shamed in the eyes of the world by his unrepentant sin, but also that he himself may recognise his sin and repent.

Obviously if someone repents then we are to forgive him, viz. Luke 17:3 but notice how forgiving our brother is conditional on his repentance. He who does not rebuke his brother does not truly love him. You cannot restore a man who will not repent of his sins to full communion.

The most important element of excommunication is that the offender cannot receive communion- he should not, whilst living in unrepentant sin, receive assurance of forgiveness. And this is completely consistent with Paul's instructions in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11.

Thanks, this was helpful and I am going to
Actively pursue church membership.

I really adore the manlte! We passed the church many, many times going back and forth to Texas. That was our first rest (walk) stop for the very long trip. It is also quite stunning in winter with icicles hanging from the roof. Thanks for your inspiration!

Joining a church to me in some ways is like marriage. It's a big commitment and as long as you stay "married" to this church, you have to live with their quarks and idiosyncrasies.

Tom K

You write...
“Yeah Amos those verses in Matthew 18 are about removing an *unrepentant* brother from fellowship.”

Well, maybe you’re correct. Could you please explain how “you” come to that conclusion. Because...

When I read Mat 18, I find nothing about an Assembly “Voting to Remove” anyone from fellowship.

But - I cudda missed that. ;-)

Mat 18:12-13
12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray,
doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains,
and *seeketh that which is gone astray?*
13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep,
than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

----------------

And Mat 18:15-17 is about “two brothers,” one brother trying to gain the other brother.
And - “if *he* (The brother who trespassed - NO sin is mentioned.) neglect to hear the church,
let him be unto “thee” (the brother trying to gain his brother) as an heathen man and a publican.

Does anyone really know what that means? - “let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
I don’t really know what that means. Questionable at best.
BUT - NO “Voting” by an Assembly. NO “Voting” to Punish. NO “Voting” to Remove.

Mat 18:15-17
15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee,
go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone:
if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more,
that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church:
but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Tom K

I agree when you write...
“Paul frequently talks about handing people over to Satan in order that they may be convicted of their sins”

1 Cor 5:5
To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh...

1 Tim 1:20
Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan...

BUT - I never figured out - “How” to do that? Or, “Who” has the authority to do that?
I can only recall Apostles, who walked with Jesus, doing that. And Paul. Do you know of any others?

And - I never figured out “Who” determines which “unrepentant sin” gets you an audience with Satan?
All “unrepentant sin?” Some “unrepentant sin?” Which “unrepentant sin” gets you an audience with Satan?

In my experience... There’s lots of *unrepentent sins* in most Assemblys. And in most “Elder / Overseers.”
There won’t be many folks left in the pews and a whole bunch of empty pulpits.

And - Could you please explain how “you” go “about handing people over to Satan?”
“that they may be convicted of their sins?”

Or, how the “Elder / Overseers” go “about handing people over to Satan?”

Or, how “The Assembly, The Ekklesia” goes “about handing *unrepentant Overseers* over to Satan?”

For me, I think it’s God’s mercy on me, and others, that I never figured out how to do that...
To “Hand people over to Satan.”

That’s a heavy duty responsibility for a “mere fallible human” to assume.

I’ve made some mistakes when I was in leadership in “The Religious System,” big mistakes.

I think I’ll leave “Handing people over to Satan” and “Removing unrepentent sinners” to Jesus.

Unless, of course, these “unrepentent sinners” are NOT agreeing with me, and my theology.

A. Amos

How do you define or not church membership?

You don't answer Justin K about the widow care.

Some has compared the church membership with marriage, but as much people today that don't want to sign the marriage contract saying is only a paper; we can say that church membership could be carry like concubinate?

How we deal with false teachers as John warns us if we don't know who is member, who do we care ones for others if we don't know who is committed to the assembly?

I understand the leadership issues of today, we are not of this world and we are trying to lead the church with today's theories and not with Christ's example.

With whom I will search the Scriptures to know if the teaching is according to if no bondage is visible?

How can we select elders among us if we don't know who is us?

Tell you conclusion about churhc membership and not only question others conclusions.

Church leaders...hmm... They need to be servants *with real understanding.* They tend to be seminary educated individuals with all the shallowness of secular academia and all the silly intellectual vanity of secular academia. Not to mention the practice of 'respecting of persons' they carry out of the silly 'club.'

They get angry when they're challenged. People who have understanding don't get angry when challenged. People with understanding don't even consider themselves teachers. They teach, yes, but like apple trees grow apples. They know how to talk to people. Interact. A sign of the immaturity of church 'leaders' is they don't know how to talk to people.

Now let's talk about the *fear of man* environment that develops in churches and is policed by the hierarchy (hierarchy? in Protestant churches? how did that happen?). An individual who fears God alone and not man will inevitably be seen as an unwanted presence. A 'challenge' to 'leadership.'

Can I just go to a church to find a quiet place to read and meditate (Puritan style) and pray? No, apparently. That's not on the schedule. No sanctuary there. Bookstores seem to be the Christian's sanctuary. Interesting that nobody at the bookstores thinks I'm there to kidnap children or hit on wives. It's obvious that I'm there for books. It's obvious who is there for books and who is causing trouble. The troublemakers are obvious and asked to leave. They didn't have to sign anything.

Hi Jose - Thanks for asking.

You ask me...
“How do you *define* or not church membership?”
“Tell you *conclusion* about churhc membership and not only question others conclusions.”

As I wrote above 5.12.2012 - “Church Membership” is a challenging concept. Not much about it in the Bible.
IMO - The early “Ekklesia” trusted God and the Spirit of Discernment, to show them who true believers are.

Today I *Define* “church membership” as - “NOT in the Bible.” (Isn’t “The Bible” our best guide.)
So it’s NOT required if you’re a “Disciple of Christ.” But - You’re free to sign away your liberty in Jesus.

My *Conclusion* is...
“Church Membership” is a “Tradition of man” that makes void “The Word of God.” Mark 7:13.
It should NOT be a part of “His Disciples” vocabulary. IMO - It is a unacceptable attempt to control folks.
“Church Membership” has been a cause of much “Spiritual Abuse” to His Body, His called out ones.

-------------------

My *Recommendation* is for “His Disciples” to “hear His Voice” and follow Jesus - into Liberty.
And to remain on guard to those who would bring you into bondage.

In Luke 4:18, Jesus said...
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me... to set at “liberty” them that are bruised...

In my experience... Lots of folks being brusied and abused in “Todays Religious System.”

Paul in 2 Cor 3:17,
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is “liberty.”

Gal 2:4
And that because of *false brethren* unawares brought in,
who came in privily to spy out “our liberty” which we have in Christ Jesus,
that they might bring us into bondage:

Gal 5:1
Stand fast therefore in the “liberty” wherewith Christ hath made us free,
and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

If you feel you’re being forced in any way to sign a “Church Membership” Contract? That states anything
about giving money on a regular basis and to submit to “mere fallible humans?” You do NOT really know?
Wait... then wait some more... Seek to hear His Voice - and follow Jesus...

Out of heaven he made thee to “hear His voice,”
that “He might instruct thee.”
Deut 4:36

My sheep “hear My voice,” and I know them, and they follow me:
John 10:27

“Church Membership” is a “Tradition of man” that makes void “The Word of God.”

you are incorrect on many levels. Firstly by repeatedly accusing your brothers on this forum of being legalistic and part of an abusive system(which you said you were a part of before). Secondly you set up numerous straw men when folks ask questions. And to answer this one incorrect statement you made, here it is in the Bible:

Rom 12:4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

1 Cor 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Eph 5:29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

Did you think that somebody just made up the term "member"? "Membership" is "to be a member" of Christs body. I hope that this gives you an understanding of all of us non-liberated people and why we are not offended by the term.

Jose

You’re correct when you say...
“You don't answer Justin K about the widow care.”

Justin K asked...
“3. How do you “decide” which widows to enroll for care without some sort of formal church membership?”

Well, the normal way I “decide” - about caring about my neighbor - loving my neighbor as myself...
Is to ask Jesus what I should do.

I always “Recommend” hearing His voice and obeying Jesus. There is NO formular. Each case is different.

I’ve worked with a couple of ministries that worked with the homeless, widows and orphans among them.
We gave them lots of love, food, clothing, blankets, etc... and lots of Jesus. Did that, off an on, over 20 years.
If they had a need we did our best to meet that need. We served them.

And NOT once did we ask them if they had signed on the dotted line first. A “Church Membership Form.”
Didn’t even ask if they were believers. And - we always shared the love of Jesus.

So, I “decided” NOT to answer Justin’s question.
If Justin can’t figure out how to ““decide” which widows to enroll for care”.... Well... I’m about to sin...
Lets just say - Justin needs to “hear His voice” and follow Jesus...
NOT invent some “sort of formal church membership” - which does NOT exist in the Bible...

Jose - Do you *only* have “Widow Care” if they are official “Church Members” who sign a contract?

How many other qualifications must a widow - who needs care NOW - have to meet
before you ask Jesus what you should do.

Sounds like, and I could be wrong, your neigbhors are only “Church Members” who have signed a contract?
I hope you and Justin are NOT like the lawyer in Luke 10:25-37, when it comes to helping someone in need.

29 But he, (the lawyer) willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

Then Jesus tells a story about a Priest, a levite, a “Religious Leader” who was too busy...
and a lowly Samaritan who had compassion...

NO, I think you and Justin can read the story for your selves...

And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
them also I must bring, and they shall **hear MY voice;**
and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
John 10:16

One Fold - One Shepherd - One Voice - One Leader

{{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

Does a member of a chruch which has gone "seeker sensitive" and adopted no church discipline (church has changed from being conservative and enforcing church discipline) have a Biblical mandate to give notice to that church when they have made the very difficult decison to change churches (after twelve years)?

Show me where membership is a requirement in the Bible. I'm a Bible believer and follower. I've now come to terms that membership is a man-thing not a God-thing.

cozy, firstly to be a member of Christs body is a huge blessing, and something to be desired, not only a requirement.

1Cor 12:18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.

this whole section of Corinthians gives us a good idea of the blessing of being in unity amongst the body of Christ. It also shows us that Membership is something arranged by God. so it is a very spiritual thing. It is not to be taken lightly, but it is a great blessing to have Godly authority over you, and to be able to trust that you are being guided in your discipleship by men who are qualified, gifted and commissioned by God for the task.

In fact the greatest spiritual freedom you will ever experience will be under proper authority. If you want a full understanding you should check out this article writers book or wayne grudem on the subject. They have a deep understanding, unlike many cotton candy-ish theologians talking about our "freedom" from authority, we should be seeking the true freedom that comes from being under authority. Christs first, and then within the family, and then the leaders God appoints all over the world to lead his church. Freedom from authority is slavery to yourself.

Amos Love: I think it's futile to converse with you at all because I don't think that you are able to interpret any of this out side of the bitter orb that controls the way you see everything concerning this subject. You see things through your experiential glasses and you at this point are unable to interact with well meaning questions.

Having said that, Justin K's question is legit. You need to read 1 Timothy 5 or at least brush up on it. Because you are not considering this passage when you answer. Your argument about loving your neighbor as your self and just asking Jesus about what you should do is a good practice. But we don't have to ask Jesus what we should do if he has already told us what we should do. And in this passage Paul is not talking about random people. He's being real specific. So the question is, "who are these widows?". The answer is they are women that have been formally committed to a local assembly. James tells us to take care of all widows. So Paul would be contradicting James, unless, there is a dynamic here that tells us who...could that be membership?

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