Monday, June 16, 2014

Beyond Membership - Part 1

I often hear comments from people stating they are a member of this or that church. I often ask how things are going, and then find myself in shock when the reply is something like, "Well, I haven't been there in 3 (or 10, or even 20) years. But I was born there, and I have been a lifelong member." It can be really difficult to respond to that on the spot, but (hopefully) I am learning to respond tactfully and lovingly.

The reality is that all of us justify some type of sin in our life. And while not going to church is not a sin, claiming to be a member of something without any involvement is duping ourselves into believing something that is not true. Most people are members of some organization. Try not participating in, or paying dues to that organization and see how long you remain a member. But somehow we feel church is different. Well, largely it is because we have a false impression of what church is, and therefore what church membership is. It is not about going to church, or giving money to church, etc. It is even more.

Over the next several weeks, I will be touching on certain aspects of church membership. This series has been in my mind for quite some time. However, last year Thom Rainer published a book entitled, I Am A Church Member, which will serve as a guide and has given me some added direction for how to best (tactfully) present this topic.

This first entry is to consider three questions: What is church? What did Jesus say? How will we respond?

What is church?

It surprises most people to learn the word church was only used three times in the gospels (once in Mt 16, and twice in Mt 18). Certainly, the word is used more commonly by Paul in many of his letters as well as in Hebrews, James, John's letters, and Revelation. The word itself is “ekklessia” which means “called out ones”. While the work originally meant people called out in a gathering (such as a public assembly), the double entendre certainly applies to Christians being called to live in, but not of, the world.

A detailed look at church history is far too much for this entry (or even this blog), but shortly after the Protestant Reformation in 1517, a confessional statement known as the Augsburg Confession was created (in 1530). Article 7 defined the church as “the congregation of the saints in which the gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered.” This type of sentiment has been echoed for centuries. In summary, and in part, the current Baptist Faith and Message (2000) says this of the church in Article 6. A church consists of believers who:

  • come together because of their faith
  • to share in fellowship of the gospel
  • observing both baptism and the Lord's Supper in a respectful manner.

Yet, in our day, we have turned church into a place instead of a people. There is a history to this (largely based on the German word kirche), but again, that is too much for this entry.

So, church is not a place, it is a people gathered for a purpose. If that is the case, what is the purpose? In Part 2, three of Jesus' statements about His church will be briefly examined.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.