Church Membership, Biblical? Helpful? Part 4

This past Monday marked the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation. If you listen carefully, you can still hear the strikes of Luther’s hammer echo through the hallways of Church history. When Luther’s nail drove into the heart of gospel obfuscating theology, it also pierced the abuses of church authority rife within the Roman Church. Roman Catholicism, throughout the centuries, had allowed church tradition to exalt itself as an authority over even the Bible, leaving Christians at the errant whimsy of church leadership, leadership, that at times, stood in direct contradiction to the Bible. The Protestant Reformation was as much a return to the Bible as it was a return to the gospel.

Aside from being an interesting church history lesson, Luther’s Reformation speaks to our ongoing conversation about the importance of church membership. How would you feel if you stood alongside Luther 500 years ago? You’d, no doubt, feel a fury and distrust toward all church authority. You’d, hopefully, return to a more diligent study of the Bible on the themes of biblical church leadership and authority. And you’d seek to bring about the reform that your fury, distrust, and study prompted. But this creates a severe tension, peculiar to Protestantism. Christians should be angry at and refuse unbiblical church authority. At the same time the Bible Christians use to ferret out unbiblical church authority doesn’t allow the rejection of all church authority. How can a biblically informed Christian conscience be safeguarded while also asserting the necessity of being under biblical church leadership?

This is where church membership resolves the tension. The Christian conscience is free from the commands of men but bound by the commandments of God. As we’ve seen in previous posts, God has created and redeemed Christians to be members of local churches, these accountable communities governed by God’s covenant of grace. Church membership is not an option for a Christian. But at the same time, Christians are also responsible for studying God's word about what constitutes biblical church leadership and only pursuing membership in that kind of church. The process of finding a church home and entering into formal membership is the way of protecting both Christian conscience and biblical church leadership.

Membership in a local church is at the heart of what it means to live as a Christian. The abuses of church power in unbiblical church leadership can’t negate its importance. The radical individualism that amounts to, “Just me and my Bible,” can’t deny the place of church membership in health Christian discipleship. Church membership is God’s way of guarding the freedom of the Christian conscience, the authority of Bible, and God-instituted church leadership.

Updates

  1. Congregational Meeting - Our annual congregational meeting will be held this Sunday, November 6th, at Culpeper Christian School at 6:00 PM. At this point we do not have nursery staff available for the nursery but the nursery will be open if you’d like to use that space for you and your child.
  2. The Joy of Repentance - The Sunday we’ll take a look at Psalm 32 and the joy that comes from living a transparent life before God and men.