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.
Membership in the Bible and History
Is church membership a matter of personal preference or biblical obedience? Matt Chandler says the latter. Read more >
Michael A.G. Haykin
In the earliest days of Christianity, people joined the church through catechism, creed, and baptism—in that order. This professor suggests they still should today. Read more >
How do we formulate a contextually-sensitive doctrine of local church membership? By giving attention to biblical universals and cultural particulars. Read more >
Oh dear. I was asked to review this book as a “friendly dissenter,” but I have struggled to dissent from it. So now I am worried. Read more >
Does Membership Matter?
What do you get when your denomination has 10 million absentee church members? Sadly, a lot of false assurance, a diluted witness, and some really ugly members’ meetings. Read more >
Church membership is a bigger deal than you might think it is. Here are twelve reasons why. Read more >
Membership Instruction for Pastors
When this pastor first arrived at his church, he says, we didn’t know who “we” were. Here are some lessons they learned as they established church membership. Read more >
When should a church plant introduce membership? And why should planters care to institute formal church membership in the first place? Read more >
How should we help people understand the necessity and joy of belonging to a local assembly of believers? Here are six suggestions. Read more >
Since church members are a “captive audience,” church leaders may only require of them what Scripture requires. The regulative principle is not a limiter but the great emancipator of the Christian life. Read more >
Though I hear stories from church leaders around the country almost every day, I was still stunned by the following email from a faithful deacon in a Baptist church: Read more >
Q&A’s, audio resources, free membership class materials, and more on church membership. Read more >
Miscellaneous Book Reviews
Gabe Lyons’s The Next Christians is a bold, fresh piece of evangelical strategy. Lyons is a well-known Christian cultural guru, the creator of the Fermi Project. He’s made the letter Q cool—an impressive accomplishment—through Q Ideas, a kind of TED conference for the post-emergent crowd which looks to Scot McKnight, N. T. Wright, Brian McLaren and others for its theological freight. Those who know Gabe, as I do, consider him to be a gracious, reflective, and forward-thinking man who desires to be faithful to Christ and his call. Read more >
Are evangelicals being distracted by mission creep? That is, are we allowing lots of other good things to creep in and crowd out the central task Jesus sends the church into the world to do? Read more >
If there is one thing we all know that God expects of us as Christians, it’s that we ought to share the gospel with those who don’t know Christ. Evangelical Christians are evangelistic. It’s maybe the only thing self-proclaimed evangelicals agree on: God wants us to tell others about Jesus. Read more >
For many people, reading the Bible can feel like getting lost in the woods, rather than taking a pleasant guided tour along a well-marked trail. Thankfully, Robert Plummer’s new book 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible provides a reliable trail map for understanding and applying all of Scripture. Read more >
In the last several years, many evangelical Christians have begun to take two vital institutions more seriously: the family and the local church.Yet what would happen if, instead of seeing these two institutions as partners, we began to pit one against the other? Hard to imagine. Nevertheless, it is happening. This is the primary reason why John Crotts, pastor of Faith Bible Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia, wrote Loving the Church: God’s People Flourishing in God’s Family. A WINSOME APOLOGETIC FOR THE CHURCH Read more >