What is church discipline?

9Marks
Church discipline is the church’s act of confronting someone’s sin and calling them to repent, which, if the person doesn’t repent, will culminate in excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin.

Why is “discipline” not a negative but a positive thing?

9Marks
Discipline sounds like a negative thing. The word makes us think of waking up at 5 a.m., endless pushups, or spankings. These hardly sound appealing! Yet only the proud person believes he or she is perfect. Humility causes us to realize that we are not finished products. We may need inspiration or healing. We may need to be corrected, challenged, or even broken. In other words, all of us need discipline.

Does being a member of a church mean I’m a Christian?

9Marks

No. Turning from your sin and trusting in Christ makes you a Christian, not being a member of a church.

However, church membership is meant to be a church’s corporate affirmation of your profession of faith in Christ. Membership is supposed to be the church saying, “We’ve looked at your life. We’ve heard your testimony and your explanation of the gospel. You look like a Christian to us, so we’re happy to affirm you as a Christian, welcome you as a brother in Christ, and care for you and watch over you.”

Is a Christian obligated to treat members of his church any differently than he treats other Christians?

9Marks

The apostle Paul urges Christians to do good to all men, especially those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). But the Bible also seems to indicate that Christians have a special responsibility to love, admonish, and care for those who are members of their local church.

What activities in the church should be reserved for members?

9Marks
The Lord’s Supper. If someone has not visibly, publicly identified with the body of Christ they should not be admitted to the family meal. Visiting Christians who are members of other faithful evangelical churches would be an exception to this, for the sake of charitably recognizing the body of Christ at large.

Must someone be a church member before being allowed to serve?

9Marks

Many churches attempt to adopt an inviting and warm posture by allowing both non-Christians and prospective Christian members to serve publicly in the church. Certainly outreach is a good motive. But is this the whole picture? We believe that public acts of service—like serving in the nursery, teaching children, leading music, teaching adult Sunday school, and leading a small group—should be reserved for members of the church. Why?

Is church membership wrongly exclusive?

9Marks

Tolerance and inclusivity are the quintessential postmodern virtues. It seems that the only way to be genuinely wrong in contemporary western society is to ever exclude anyone. Contemporary westerners are born cherishing particular conceptions of diversity, inclusion, and tolerance.

Isn’t the idea of membership just a modern American idea?

9Marks

Hardly.

How does a well-defined membership commend and clarify the gospel?

9Marks

A well-defined membership commends and clarifies the gospel by

What are the benefits of meaningful membership in churches to non-Christians outside the church?

9Marks

Churches that practice meaningful membership by taking care to ensure that only repentant believers belong to the church serve non-Christians outside the church in several ways:

What are the benefits of church membership to the Christian?

9Marks
It commits you, the Christian. It’s good to commit yourself to love and serve others. You will grow as a Christian as you commit to encourage, build up, strengthen, serve, rebuke, and pray for other Christians.

Won’t having a more demanding membership process keep people from joining the church?

9Marks

Maybe. It’s certainly more likely to keep non-Christians who profess to be Christians from joining the church.

But it’s more important to have more attending and submissive members than it is to have more members, since the Scriptures calls Christians to attend and submit to their churches. In the West today, a church will only grow in more attending and submissive members by having a careful membership process.

What questions should be asked in a membership interview?

9Marks

In addition to basic life details (marriage, job, etc), elders or pastors should ask prospective members:

Why is it a good idea for an elder to interview each applicant for membership?

9Marks
In many churches, size will prevent each member from getting to know every single new person who ever comes to a meeting of the church. Yet a church needs to assess the credibility of someone’s profession of faith in Christ (Matt. 18:18). The elders are entrusted with the oversight of the church (1 Pet. 5:2). They are appointed to the office of elder precisely so that they can keep a close watch over the whole flock (Acts 20:28).

How should a church do membership classes?

9Marks

To an extent, that depends on the church’s context and what kind of expectations most people will have. Here are some questions that may be more or less relevant to you depending on what kind of a situation you’re in.