What the Work of Christ Means for Your Church Membership Directory
Heaven has a membership directory.
In Revelation, John often refers to the book of life (Rev. 3:5; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27), the registry of saints chosen by God to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Later, John calls this heavenly directory “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 13:8). In other words, heaven’s membership directory is a registry of all those for whom Christ died. Every name on the roll bears witness to the fact that there is, as the old song goes, “power in the blood.”
Does your church’s membership directory do that?
PUTTING TOGETHER A MEMBERSHIP DIRECTORY? START BY STUDYING THE WORK OF CHRIST
Your church’s membership directory should be an excerpt from the book of life. Like that heavenly book, it says something about what you believe about the work of Christ.
Let me explain.
The author of Hebrews spills a good deal of ink explaining how Christ’s priestly work on the cross is superior to the Old Covenant priests’ work. In a word, the Old Covenant priests were ineffectual. Their sacrificial work could not create real, lasting purity in the hearts of the members of the Old Covenant—nor could they effect a lasting, eternal forgiveness of sins.
Why? The author of Hebrews explains. Old Covenant priests couldn’t continue in office because they died (Heb. 7:23). Before they could offer sacrifices for the sins of the people, they had to offer sacrifices for their own sins (Heb. 7:27). The high priest could only enter God’s presence once a year, and at great personal risk (Heb. 9:7). Their sacrifices couldn’t make the worshipers “perfect” (Heb. 10:1) and could “never take away sins” (Heb. 10:11).
As a result of this ineffectual priesthood, the Old Covenant community was “mixed”—some members knew the Lord, some didn’t. For every Samuel and David, you’d find a Saul and an Ahab.
But Christ’s priestly work is superior. That’s the take-home lesson of Hebrews. “He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever” (Heb. 7:24). He didn’t need to offer sacrifices for his own sins because he was “holy, innocent, unstained” (Heb 7:26). He wasn’t restricted to the Holy of Holies once a year; instead “he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). By his one sacrifice “he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). As a result, “he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him” (Heb 7:25).
In a word, Christ’s priesthood is effectual. It accomplishes the salvation it sets out to achieve. This change in the priesthood changes the nature of the covenant itself and the covenant community (Heb. 7:12). Because Christ achieves salvation for everyone in the covenant, the covenant community is no longer mixed. Instead, everyone knows the Lord (Heb. 8:11). From the least to the greatest, each man and woman has the law of God written on their heart (Heb. 8:10).
CONNECTING THE CROSS WITH YOUR MEMBERSHIP DIRECTORY
What does any of this have to do with your church’s membership directory?
Well, scroll through the pages of your directory. Does each name and picture reflect someone who has the law of God written on their heart? Do they all know the Lord from the least to the greatest? Do these people give clear evidence that they are recipients of Christ’s priestly work? Have they been made clean by the blood of the Lamb?
If your membership directory is chock-full of people you haven’t seen in years or folks whose lives don’t reflect the heart change Jesus promises, then your directory is saying something untrue about the work of Christ. You’re declaring to the world and to your church that Jesus is a priest no better than Aaron and no better than the thousands of other nameless priests who offered ineffectual sacrifices.
Of course, our membership rosters aren’t infallible. Sometimes members, who by all appearances showed evidence of grace when they first joined, don’t persevere to the end (1 Jn 2:19). Sometimes the self-deceived find their way into membership and eventually prove themselves false professors. But your church should aspire to make sure that everyone who belongs to it evidences a credible profession of faith. That’s why church discipline exists. Jesus instituted church discipline so that the church can regularly be about the work of making sure its membership reflects the regenerate nature of the New Covenant community. He wants local churches on earth to reflect the truth about his priestly work.
Your membership directory is more than a list of addresses and phone numbers. Each picture should represent Christ’s work, his priestly service of purification and redemption. Each name should bear witness to the covenant his priesthood inaugurated. Your directory should be a page out of the Lamb’s book of life. It should preach the message “there’s power in the blood.”