When I relocate to a new geographic area one of the first items on my “to do list” is to establish membership in a local church. I begin the search with prayer, asking for recommendations from my current Pastor, and examining my heart to affirm that I am focused on biblical criteria for church selection. Questions that I ask myself include:
- Does this church challenge me to daily exemplify a godly lifestyle in the community? (Matt. 5:13-16)
- Am I motivated to contribute financially to the work of this ministry? (2 Cor. 9:7)
- Will I accept and receive admonishment with meekness and in love in this environment? (Rom. 15:14; Col. 3:16).
- Is faithful participation in corporate worship expected? (Heb. 10:24-25)
- How am I able to use my Spiritual Gifts in this assembly of believers? (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; 1 Pet. 4:10-11)
- Will I live up to my calling as Christ’s representative on earth by aligning with this church? (Eph. 4:1-6)
- Am I focused on serving rather than seeking to have “my needs” fulfilled? (Ps. 1002; Mark 10:35-45)
- Is church membership really necessary? Perhaps it will be helpful for me to share my response with you. (Heb. 13:17)
When I was saved I became a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Because I am united to Christ and the other members of the body, I am qualified to become a member of a local member church. This is a special privilege, not an option.
When I become a member of a church, I formally commit myself to an identifiable, local body of believers who have joined together for specific, divinely ordained purposes. These purposes involve:
- Receiving instruction from God’s Word (1Tim.4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2).
- Serving and edifying one another through the proper use of Spiritual Gifts (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; 1 Pet. 4:10-11).
- Participating in the Ordinances (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38-42).
- Proclaiming the Gospel to those who are lacking a relationship with Christ (Matt. 28:18-20).
- Submitting to the care and authority of the biblically qualified leadership that God has placed in that assembly (Heb. 13:17).
Since Scripture teaches that believers are to submit to their elders (Heb. 13:17), the response to the question raised by this Blog Post is “yes.” Joining a local church allows me to entrust myself to the care and authority of its leadership. Hebrews 13:17 implies that every believer knows to whom he or she must submit, which in turn, assumes membership in a local church.
Two years ago I was seeking an Administrative Assistant and pursued Kelsey because of her training under the Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum model I developed. As the interview process continued, I contacted the church she and her husband attended during their college years. Interestingly I attended the same church when I taught at The Master’s University. I knew that the man who was her reference for church involvement was not given to flowery affirmation so I was prepared to filter the recommendation he provided. I was blessed to learn that he had the highest praise for Kelsey and her then fiancé, Jacob. While reading her “Korner” keep focused that she and Jacob began their service for the Lord while college students—a solid foundation for using one’s Spiritual Gifts throughout the life cycle (Col. 3:17).
The church. If we ran a poll on what “the church” is or means or what its purpose is, the answers would likely be diverse and numerous. The church is not a building. It is not a country club or a ritual. It is not just the habit we keep for Sundays or the place we visit on Easter. The church is the chief institution established and used by Christ to embody God’s will and witness to the watching world! Put another way, the church, “…finds its purpose as it lives out and displays the Word of God. The church’s job is to listen and then echo. That’s it” (Dever, 55). Too often, we become fixated on God’s service to us, what we can get out of the sermon, or how a worship service makes us “feel”. We often forget church is not about us! It’s about worshiping and serving the God who forgave our sins and made a way for us to have eternal life with Him. Picking a church, then, should not be done flippantly, but with much prayer, caution, and understanding. When I became a member of my current church, the elders had us use Mark Dever’s, What is a Healthy Church? as our checklist. This book establishes 9 marks to look for and is an incredible guide when it comes to nailing down exactly what should characterize a thriving, New Testament congregation. I will give a brief summary of his first three points, but for the full scope and for the remaining 6 marks, please consider purchasing this short, helpful book.
Dever begins by establishing 3 “Essential Marks”—the marks that absolutely must be in place for a church to function.
1. Expositional Preaching: Since the Word of God is the lifeblood of the church, sermons must aim to preach the Bible in its entirety, seeking to understand the intended purpose of the writing and to apply it correctly. Expositional preaching walks though Scripture book by book, section by section, as opposed to topically, and basically says “thus says the Lord”. When done properly, this method rests the authority of the message not with the preacher but with the Scriptures themselves. Expositional preaching affirms and believes that the Bible in its entirety is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Without the practice of regularly expositing God’s Word, a church cannot stand firm in God’s will.
2. Biblical Theology: Although error occurs much less often when expositional preaching is properly practiced, it can still occur. Look for a church that “is faithful to the teaching of the entire Bible” (Dever, 70). There may be some disagreements, but overall, the church should uphold a teaching that accords with sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1).
3. A Biblical Understanding of Good News: The gospel is the wellspring of the New Testament church. Without an accurate understanding of it, our springs dry up, our churches die, and nothing flows from the pulpits and into the world. As put by Dever, “The gospel is not the news that we’re okay. It’s not the news that God is love. It’s not that Jesus wants to be our friend. It’s not the news that he has a wonderful plan or purpose for our life…the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died on the cross as a sacrificial substitute for sinners and rose again, making a way for us to be reconciled to God” (Dever, 76). This is the truth that the church must cling to and proclaim boldly and frequently. A church missing a biblical understanding of the gospel is not a church at all.
With these three “Essential Marks” in place, a church will be on the road to correction if they are neglecting any of the remaining 6 “Important Marks”. Although we don’t have time to delve into each, these points are vital yet often missing from churches. Dever explains that a healthy church will have a biblical understanding of conversion, evangelism, membership, church discipline, discipleship and growth, and finally, leadership. Personal preferences for music and style do have a time and place and should be considered, but these 9 marks should be at the top of our “church hunt” list.
THE EVERYDAY HOMEMAKER’S MONTHLY MEDITATION THOUGHT
God has said, “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Therefore, I may boldly say, “Jesus’ humanity enabled Him to relate to my challenges, while His divinity gave Him the power to help me overcome them.”
Blessings on your day as you focus on making your house a home!