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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

Twelve Reasons Why Membership Matters

(The following is excerpted from Jonathan Leeman’s forthcoming book Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus from Crossway, 2012).

1) It’s biblical. Jesus established the local church and all the apostles did their ministry through it. The Christian life in the New Testament is church life. Christians today should expect and desire the same.

2) The church is its members. To be “a church” in the New Testament is to be one of its members (read through Acts). And you want to be part of the church because that’s who Jesus came to rescue and reconcile to himself.

3) It’s a pre-requisite for the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a meal for the gathered church, that is, for members (see 1 Cor. 11:20, 33). And you want to take the Lord’s Supper. It’s the team “jersey” which makes the church team visible to the nations.

4) It’s how to officially represent Jesus. Membership is the church’s affirmation that you are a citizen of Christ’s kingdom and therefore a card-carrying Jesus Representative before the nations. And you want to be an official Jesus Representative. Closely related to this…

5) It’s how to declare one’s highest allegiance. Your membership on the team, which becomes visible when you wear the “jersey,” is a public testimony that your highest allegiance belongs to Jesus. Trials and persecution may come, but your only words are, “I am with Jesus.”

6) It’s how to embody and experience biblical images. It’s within the accountability structures of the local church that Christians live out or embody what it means to be the “body of Christ,” the “temple of the Spirit,” the “family of God,” and so on for all the biblical metaphors (see 1 Cor. 12). And you want to experience the interconnectivity of his body, the spiritual fullness of his temple, and the safety and intimacy and shared identity of his family.

7) It’s how to serve other Christians. Membership helps you to know which Christians on Planet Earth you are specifically responsible to love, serve, warn, and encourage. It enables you to fulfill your biblical responsibilities to Christ’s body (for example, see Eph. 4:11-16; 25-32).

8) It’s how to follow Christian leaders. Membership helps you to know which Christian leaders on Planet Earth you are called to obey and follow. Again, it allows you to fulfill your biblical responsibility to them (see Heb. 13:7; 17).

9) It helps Christian leaders lead. Membership lets Christian leaders know which Christians on Planet Earth they will “give an account” for (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2).

10) It enables church discipline. It gives you the biblically prescribed place to participate in the work of church discipline responsibly, wisely, and lovingly (1 Cor. 5).

11) It gives structure to the Christian life. It places an individual Christian’s claim to “obey” and “follow” Jesus into a real-life setting where authority is actually exercised over us (see John 14:15; 1 John 2:19; 4:20-21).

12) It builds a witness and invites the nations. Membership puts the alternative rule of Christ on display for the watching universe (see Matt. 5:13; John 13:34-35; Eph. 3:10; 1 Peter 2:9-12). The very boundaries which are drawn around the membership of a church yields a society of people which invites the nations to something better.

Jonathan Leeman is the author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing Church Membership and Discipline (Crossway, 2010) and is the editorial director for 9Marks.

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Topics: Membership

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Oh it is great that you agree with this. I know that its hard to belive on this but u did and wrote a good post.

Thanks to www.9marks.org :)
It's interesting

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts
and I am waiting for your further post thanks once again.

I am thinking that Jonathan is borderline emergent with his language in this article. When I read scripture about the cost of being a 'member' or a disciple this article pales in comparison. With that the biblical statement in the article must be thrown out. So since it is not biblical we must look at the true biblical answers to 'membership'.

I think you first have to establish your first point, that formal church membership is biblical. That is an easy claim to make. Every Evangelical thinks what they believe is "biblical". I chuckled when I read that point. It's like having a post entitled "Twelve Reasons Why Believer's Baptism Matters" and the first reason is "It's biblical". Very compelling and convincing stuff :-)

Anyway, formal church membership isn't required for any of your "reasons". That's simply "name on the list" Christianity

I believe you have some good points. The first one is by far the best. Church membership is biblical. As Christians we should be following the Holy Word of God first and foremost. Biblical standards are essential to a Christian walk. If we aren't following the Bible we are living in disobedience. Church membership also gets us around fellow believers and good Bible preaching that helps us grow in our walk with God. May we never make church just a hang out or club. The base line of ministry in the church are the souls of men. We can treat church like a club where only certain people feel welcome or we can treat it like a hospital were everyone is welcome to get help and help others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Would like the author to answer please. I see what you are saying...but not sure you are establishing that God expects us to "be a member" in order to prove or show that we belong to Him. I thought it was our lives that proved we belong to Him and not our affiliations? Again, your points sound good...but fall very short of proving that "membership" is biblical...waaaay short. I mean...thou shalt not lie...I can pretty much tell you God doesn't want you lying from that verse...Thou shalt be a "on the roll" member....verse, passage???

What's up, of course this article is truly pleasant and I have learned lot of
things from it about blogging. thanks.

I agree with all in the discussion that Church Membership is important, but it seems to me, that in this article, you have mistaken Church membership with Christian identity. Thoughts?

With a great deal of respect and gratitude for the sentiments and beliefs expressed here about the importance of church membership, I humbly offer the following insights as to why at least two Christians "out here" are no longer members of an established church, why we have started our own home Bible study with others of like mind, i.e., wanting to get back to studying the Scriptures. And we know we are not the only ones who have experienced what I will share with you, below.

My sister and I, both Christians for over thirty years each, have been on what we call an "odyssey" for about three years, trying to find a church home. The reason for this is that during a service in a denomination we had attended for nearly the entire thirty years, we began to notice words and practices here and there from our own childhood religion: Catholicism. (It had taken each of us some time, once we became Christians, to overcome many of the false doctrines of that religion, so we were especially sensitive to its influence elsewhere.) After speaking with the leadership and sharing our testimonies coming OUT of Catholicism and why, we were politely dismissed and ignored. In time, our search for another church home began, as we realized there was no stopping the Roman Catholic influence in that church and its affiliates. And so we began the search in our immediate area wherein we found the following:
-A church of kindly and intelligent people who nevertheless regard women as unable to receive inspiration and instruction from the Holy Spirit. It is necessary that their men interpret Scripture for their women, explained the leadership.
- A church involved in visions of gold dust, feathers, golden orbs they believe to be angles (!), and trinkets in people's front yards.
-Churches involved in medieval Roman Catholic mysticism.
-Other churches involved in New Age practices, yoga, etc..
-Several churches involved in Rick Warrenism/Emergent Church/seeker-friendly-ism/Universalism/Open Theism.
-One church where, on asking a woman greeter if the church believed in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, she nearly hit us with her Bible in her anger and insistence that that church TAUGHT THE TRUTH...

So, after about three years, and 13 churches, we have recently come to a decision: that's enough. It's time to have our own bible study with others tired of the fakery, sham, and apostasy going on in so many places. We know there must be some church somewhere around here that still teaches the truth, but we are weary of the search. It's time to shake the dust off of our feet and get down to business.

So, although many of us "out here" would love to find a church that still teaches from the Scriptures, such a church seems to be harder and harder to find. And Jesus said it only takes two...

Best of luck to you and Godspeed,
P.M. Nissila