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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever
May-Jun 2011 | Subscribe Free!

Church Membership: Holding the Body Together

Evangelicals are good and maybe getting better at talking about the Christian mind, the Christian heart, even the Christian hands and feet. We want to think, feel, and act as Christians.

But what about the skeleton? No one really talks about that. If a skeleton holds things together, what is the structure that holds the Christian life together and gives it its shape?

The thing is, you can (sort of) exercise the Christian head, heart, and hands all by yourself. But when you start to consider what the Bible says about the structure of the Christian life—what I’m calling the skeleton—you find that it necessarily involves other people. And I mean other people in an authoritative capacity.

Christ has authorized the congregation and its leaders to act with authority in our lives. That’s not a popular idea among Westerners, but this is the skeleton which keeps the body, otherwise healthy, from slouching to the floor. It’s the bowl which keeps the soup from spilling everywhere. Looking across the evangelical landscape, do you know what I see? A lot of splattered soup. Oh, it’s tasty soup, but it has nothing to contain it and the dogs have been licking it up for years.

One illustration of this: consider the stereotypical evangelical youth group. You get gospel teaching. Sometimes gospel worldview formation. Sincere professions. And heart-felt worship. But there’s little formal accountability, structure, and discipline because the group is not a part of the church. Result: the kids go to college and the majority abandon the faith or at least live like they have. You can see the splatter.

The real problem is, how many churches operate this way?

That brings us to this episode of the 9Marks’ “Polity is Kool Show.” Today we turn to the theme of church membership. And, boy, do we have a show for you. Several brothers give us a biblical, historical, and sociological look. Several more of us consider the importance of membership. And then a few more offer wise pastoral advice on implementing membership in your church.

Also, watch out early next year for a new 9Marks book on membership for your leaders and members.



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