Ecclesiology

Why Be a Faithful Member of a Local Church?

From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission. Related: “De-Churching” Trends.

It is my conviction that every Christian should be an active member of a Bible-teaching local church. As believers in Christ, we are members of His body and must discipline ourselves to be actively involved in ministry as a way of life. Here are some specific reasons why you should be a committed member of a solid, Bible-teaching local church.

You follow the pattern set forth in the New Testament. Although the word “membership” itself is not used in the New Testament, the principle is present nonetheless. For example, most of our New Testament books are letters that were written to specific groups of people who had chosen to identify themselves with Christ and each other. The word “church” is almost always used to refer to a specific group of people who in some way had committed themselves to serving the Lord and one another in the same ministry location. Numbers were known (Acts 1:15, 2:41, 4:4), rolls were kept (1 Timothy 5:9), servants were selected (Acts 6:2-5), discipline was practiced (1 Corinthians 5:12-13), worship was corporate (1 Corinthians 14:23), and shepherds knew for whom they were responsible (Hebrews 13:17). If you are a part of the body of Christ by virtue of repentant faith in Jesus Christ then you should want to make that association visibly known through church membership.

You have a greater opportunity to use your spiritual gifts. At the moment of your conversion the Holy Spirit came to live inside of your body (1 Corinthians 6:19). When He did this, He brought along the spiritual gift(s) that He sovereignly chose for you to possess for the blessing of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11). As we use our gifts, we are being good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10). Can you use your spiritual gift without joining a church? Yes, but in most churches many ministry opportunities are limited to church members only. This is as it should be. Unity in doctrine, purity of life, and submissive accountability to one another and leaders are necessary for a healthy Christian life. The process of becoming a member also gives the existing leadership the opportunity to discern one’s agreement in doctrine, ministry purpose, and goals; thus enabling them to know where best you may serve. Read more about Why Be a Faithful Member of a Local Church?

"De-Churching" Trends

From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission.

One of the least obvious—and yet most tragic—changes that American Evangelicalism has experienced in the past fifty years is the diminishment of the centrality of the local church in the life of many Christians. The Lord’s Day, once considered a special day dedicated to the worship and service of God, is now treated like any other day by many professing believers. And local church life, once considered the center of indispensable relationships within our spiritual family whom we love, encourage, and to whom we remain accountable, is now treated like an extra-curricular activity rather than an essential ingredient of the Christian life.

The signs of the diminishing priority of the church are many. However, I will only mention the six trends that Kent Hughes highlights in his book Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003).

Hitchhiker Christians

Hughes writes:

The hitchhiker’s thumb says, “You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas—and I’ll ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own! And I’ll probably sue.” So it is with the credo of many of today’s church attendees: “You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills—and I’ll come along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I’ll criticize and complain and probably bail out. My thumb is always out for a better ride.” (128)

Read more about "De-Churching" Trends

The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 2)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

Chapter Two

The Prima Facie Case

Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), an expert in rabbinic and other early Jewish literature, asserted that, “The outward form of the Church was in great measure derived from the synagogue.”1 Nineteenth century Baptist historian David Benedict similarly affirmed, after studying the matter in detail, “I have settled down in the belief, that the ecclesiastical polity of the Jewish synagogues was very closely copied by the apostles and primitive Christians, in the organization of their assemblies.”2 Additional authors could be quoted in support of this thesis.3 The question that must be asked is, is this conclusion a valid one? Is it in truth supported by the facts of the case? Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 2)

The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 1)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

Chapter One

Introduction

The purpose of this study is to compare the practical functioning of the ancient Jewish synagogue and the New Testament church,1 to determine if and to what degree the structure and workings of the church are patterned after the synagogue. While the origin and historical development of the synagogue in the period before the coming of Christ is a subject of considerable interest, as is its development in the post-New Testament era, these are outside the parameters of this present study.

The chief source of information for both synagogue and church practices will be the New Testament Scriptures, supplemented by post-New Testament literature. For the synagogue, this will be primarily the Mishnah (ca. AD 200) and the Babylonian Talmud (completed ca. AD 500), while for the church, the writings of the early church fathers will be the most accessible and valuable source. Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 1)

What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 2)

From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission. Read Part 1.

Biblically independent churches strive to be loyal to Christ and His Word rather than to any organization. However, the First Century apostles of Christ also encouraged cooperative interdependence between local churches.

  • Greetings were extended throughout all the New Testament between independent churches, indicating a relationship with other churches in other regions (example in Romans 16:23).
  • Paul instructed the church at Rome to assist Phoebe in her visit from Corinth (Romans 16:1-2).
  • Paul instructed the churches of Galatia, Macedonia, and Achaia to collect offerings for the poor believers in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8:1; 9:1-2; Romans 15:25).
  • Barnabas was sent by the Jews of the church of Jerusalem to be an encouragement to the Gentiles of the church at Antioch (Acts 11:22-24).
  • The Gentiles in Antioch sent an offering to help the Jewish believers in Jerusalem during a famine (Acts 11:28-30).
  • An inter-church conference was held in Jerusalem in order to clarify doctrinal teaching regarding what is to be the true understanding of salvation (Acts 15:1-21).
  • After the inter-church conference in Jerusalem, Paul and others were sent to inform the new churches in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of the resultant teaching (Acts 15:22-23).
Read more about What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 2)

What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 1)

From Voice, May/June 2014. Used by permission.

Let’s face it: American pastors are constantly being asked questions about whether the local church is important and why church attendance is necessary. There are those who advocate that the modern American church is broken: why not fix it with a Starbucks-style makeover?

Some people are saying “the typical Sunday morning service of half lecture and half sing-along isn’t a useful way for me to connect with God. What if, instead of the church being like a theater, a police station, or a seminary, it was more like a coffeehouse?”1

Those are definitely questions that need to be answered, especially when asked sincerely. But those are really questions about form and methodology when there’s an even more basic question that needs to be asked first: what’s so important about the local church? Can we ditch it altogether? With technology offering Bible teaching through the Internet on your laptop or iPad or iPhone, what’s wrong with virtual, web-based Christian communities? Can your iPad serve as your pastor and your friends serve as the source of your fellowship and accountability?

What’s so important about the local church? Read more about What's So Important About the Local Church? (Part 1)

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