Monthly Archives: July 2022

Is Church Membership Biblical?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

First, what is Church Membership?

When people think about membership in a local church, they often confuse it with membership in a local gym. But membership in a gym or country club is usually just a ticket to use the facilities – so, you can pay and never show up – and in fact, many do. The gym owner may have sincere hopes for the health of members, but fitness clubs usually have no problem taking the monthly check of members who never drop by.

On the other hand, church membership is marked by a different word – covenant – meaning a sacred promise before God. Church members promise to live holy lives and play an integral part in their local church. In country club or gym membership, it’s up to the individual member to determine whether he or she participates in events or in the life of the organization, but the Apostle Paul says that members of a church are more like members of the human body – so a non-participating member is an oxymoron, like an eye that refuses to open or a nose that refuses to smell.

Members at Edgewood Community Church (where I’m a pastor) make a sacred covenant or promise to be a part in five ways…

…by coming faithfully to weekly worship services. (Hebrews 10:24, 25)

…by giving generously according to biblical standards (2 Corinthians 9:6 – 8)

…by refraining from gossip and thus confronting sin in a biblical manner (Matthew 18:15)

…by submitting to the elders (Hebrews 13:17)

…by praying for the church faithfully (John 16:24)

But is it in the Bible?

It’s true that the word membership is never found in the Bible, but another important word is – submission. It’s probably wiser to think not so much of joining a church, but of submitting or even committing yourself to a church.

For instance, Hebrews 13:17 calls believers to submit to their leaders.

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)

All Christians, therefore, are called to submit to their spiritual leaders and even more, to respect and honor them – 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13 (And yes, as a pastor, I know this certainly sounds self-serving, but it’s what Scripture teaches). On a related note, this is one of the challenges to claiming to be a committed follower of Christ and yet (let alone membership), even refusing to attend and be a part of a local church – who then, are your spiritual leaders? The “Lone Ranger” Christian has none. This truth, along with the many “one-another” passages (“Love one another”, “Forgive one another,” “Bear one another’s burdens”, etc.), make it clear that New Testament writers assumed all Christians would be a part of a local church.

Two practical considerations make the need for church membership clear:

  1. Spiritual leaders like pastors and elders need to know whom they will be responsible for when those leaders one day stand before God.
  2. A congregationally governed local church requires members for decision-making. (See for instance Acts 6:3).

A little thought experiment goes along with the two scenarios above: what is the other option besides membership? Will God hold spiritual leaders responsible for everyone who has dropped by on a Sunday morning? Or everyone who has “dropped by” for the last two months? I hope not! Similarly, who gets to vote? Someone who considers herself a committed Christian and says she loves the church…and who simply has shown up for the first time on the Sunday of the church’s annual meeting?

Finally, church membership is certainly not necessary for salvation, but it is meant to be helpful toward assurance of salvation. This is because local churches have been entrusted with the “keys of the Kingdom” (see Matthew 16:19; 18:18). In giving the keys of the Kingdom to local church leaders, the Lord gives them power to govern and to bind and loose; therefore, when church membership is conferred on an individual, the local church is declaring (to the best of their admittedly fallible spiritual understanding) that the person is a true follower of Christ.

Membership is an important part of Christian discipleship. If you’re not a member of your local church, I hope you’ll give serious thought to becoming one!

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 20, 2022 in Church


Tags: ,

The Kind of Praying that Changes the World

I saw a prayer motto in a church years ago that struck me as right…and WRONG: “Prayer changes me.”

OK…sure. Of course, praying changes me. And for the record, I need to be changed. But the sign seemed to suggest something else – that I shouldn’t expect answers to my prayers – I should just expect to be personally changed. 

Meh. Sounds a bit like eating your vegetables. Of course, I should do it, and of course I need to do it, but will I? If I’m honest, that’s not a motto that will get me on my knees every day.

But then…I read the Bible: Hebrews 13:18, 19 for instance – where we see that prayer does much more than change me. It connects me with God who changes my circumstances:

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

Hebrews 13:18, 19 (ESV)

Do you see it?…The more earnestly they prayed, the sooner he would be restored.

Yes, prayer changes me, but what gets me on my knees is that prayer changes circumstances, at least earnest prayer does. Earnest prayer advances the Kingdom of God in a visible and tangible way. So there’s a cause and effect. That’s what I need to know about prayer. If…then. 

 “You do not have because you do not ask.” James 4:2 (ESV)

There are many important aspects of prayer to understand, but maybe this one is where we should start – it’s the heart of everything: God answers earnest prayer.

When we pray earnestly, He moves. He responds. He does things. The writer of Hebrews asks his readers to pray for him to be restored. Released from prison? From other pressing duties? We are not told the circumstances keeping him, because the circumstances don’t matter. All we need to know is all they needed to know – the motivating part: the more earnestly they pray, the sooner he will be restored. That’s what the Word of God says. 

If they gave themselves to heartfelt prayer regarding this circumstance, they would see an answer.

Whatever it was that kept him from seeing them, if they were to pray in a tepid, unbelieving, “whenever I feel like it” manner, they shouldn’t expect to see him soon. But if they would give themselves to intense and earnest prayer, then they should hang a welcome banner out – he would be coming.

It’s a theme the author of Hebrews also writes about in chapter 11, verse 6: And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (ESV)

If you seek God, he will reward you. But…do you believe it? If you do, it will show in a life of earnest prayer.

Better get the guest room ready.

1 Comment

Posted by on July 12, 2022 in Prayer, Uncategorized



“That’s Just Your Interpretation!”

We’ve just come to the end of June, nowadays considered in our culture, “Pride month”. Now, suppose that tomorrow at work you get into a conversation on a hot-button cultural topic like LGBTQ+ issues or the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade. As a Christian, you state your thinking on the subject from Scripture, only to hear what many of us have heard before, “That’s just your interpretation!”

Hmmm…now what do you say?

It’s a common refrain nowadays, because of the influence of postmodernism, the spirit of the age. In fact, those in the church are often so steeped in this thinking that the comment sometimes comes from those who consider themselves Christians. 

No matter who it comes from, it can leave us dumbfounded; and we tend to easily throw up the white flag, with, “Yeah, I guess so.” 

Postmodernism is a way of thinking which leads to doubt about most everything. Terry Eagleton says postmodernism produces a “paralyzing skepticism”, and so we begin to wonder, “Can we know anything?”

For Christians, this gets especially dangerous regarding Scripture; if we can’t know what the Bible says about clear matters like the topics above, how can we know about equally clear topics like…how to get to heaven? 

So…what answer should you give?

Well, first it’s important to know what the person is really saying, and then in fact to point it out to them. As D.A. Carson shows in his excellent little piece, “But That’s Just Your Interpretation!”, what they are claiming in the moment is that you cannot have a sure interpretation because you do not have perfect knowledge, and thus to really know something requires God-like knowledge.

But intuitively, you and I know that’s wrong, because no one has perfect knowledge about anything – only our Creator does. And we don’t need perfect knowledge to know that David is claiming that there was true human life in the womb (Psalm 139:13, 14). 

Nor do we need perfect knowledge to understand what the Apostle Paul was saying about sexuality (Though progressive Christians allege Paul was only talking about same-sex relations outside of “gay marriage”, or that he was only speaking against pederasty, it’s telling that non-Christian Greek scholars don’t agree. Such scholars will likely say they have no personal opposition to an LGBTQ+ lifestyle, but still they know from Paul’s writings that he thought differently. See Romans 1:26, 27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Who’s your mama?

So… next time you hear “That’s just your interpretation!” from someone, suggest that their mother might be a Russian spy. 

Of course, they will laugh and say, “Are you kidding?” 

To which you should reply, “Well, she might be. For instance, do you know what she is doing every morning at 3 a.m.? That’s when she’s probably getting her communiques.” 

An honest response will be along these lines: “No way, I know my mom – and though I tend to be sleeping at 3 a.m., I know she’s a tried and true American, a lover of our country. She’s certainly no spy for Putin!”

In other words, they admittedly do not have perfect knowledge about Mom, but still, they know your interpretation about her…is wrong. 


Postmodernism thinking dominates much of our life in the West, and many are tempted to subconsciously believe they can’t know anything with certainty. But believers should know differently, and we need to articulate this if we are to serve the Lord Jesus well. For He is the One who prayed…

“And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3 (ESV)

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 5, 2022 in Apologetics, The Bible


Tags: ,

%d bloggers like this: