Meaningful Church Membership Part 1: Assembling Required

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mcm1arthumbBBC, sadly, is in some ways a unique local church. For example, its membership is well-known by the eldership and by one another. When someone is absent from the services for a significant amount of time (like, one or two weeks!) their absence is noticed. It is assumed that church members will be desirous and committed to gathering for corporate worship. And this expectation leads to expectancy of engaging in meaningful worship of our God. Though the Sunday evening service has a lower attendance than the morning service, the difference is not significant. Further, our Sunday evening prayer meeting is attended by, on average, 30–40% of the adult membership. Though this is not nearly what we would like to see ultimately, we are encouraged by this growing commitment to corporate prayer.

We regularly observe the Lord’s Supper (in our case, usually three out of four Sundays per month). Normally this is held in the evening—for a couple of reasons. First, we believe that this ordinance should be prioritised. An effort is therefore called for to participate in this meal. In an age of “drive through” fast food, we are seeking to savour this significant Supper. Second, Communion was instituted as a Supper rather than a breakfast! Our exegesis might need some help, but the meal was instituted “on the same night in which He was betrayed” (1 Corinthians 11:23).

Perhaps another unique practice is that BBC does not acknowledge the category of “adherents.” Rather, we emphasise church membership. And so if one is not undergoing the membership process, then attendees are viewed as visitors. Some have been visiting for decades.

Somewhat recently, we began small group meetings, which take place at various times during the week. The overwhelming majority of our membership is meaningfully committed to these.

All of the above combine as the Scriptural norm for Christians. In other words, the biblical norm for Christians is meaningful church membership. Yes, the biblical instruction to believers highlights that assembling is required. And, unlike the false advertisements of many toys, the Bible makes it clear that much assembling is required.

This is the intentional ethos that, as a congregation, we have for decades sought to inculcate. Jesus, who is the final and the fullest revelation of the Father (Hebrews 1:1–2), commands us to be intentional and committed members of His local church (Hebrew 10:19–25). And those who love Jesus are motivated to keep His commandments (John 14:15). We therefore are committed to gathering with one another.

In Hebrews 10 the writer is simply reiterating the common biblical teaching that the Christian is not a lone ranger. Rather he or she draws near to God corporately as well as individually. To change the metaphor, an isolated sheep is not a declaration of health. When professing sheep separate themselves from the flock then we can legitimately conclude that some disease is at work (Proverbs 18:1).

In an age characterised by individualism, church membership is not a welcomed practice. Some see it as intrusive and legalistic, while others view it as a needless relic of the past. But neither attitude is biblical and therefore neither attitude is healthy. Again, to neglect, or to refuse church membership is not a sign of health; it is rather an indication of spiritual illness. BBC aspires to be healthy. We desire the best for God’s people. A committed and communing congregation is our Christ-driven passion. And this requires assembling.

We are always blessed to hear when someone is considering BBC as their potential church home. But someone desiring to become a member of BBC should understand that we expect nothing less than what Christ expects of His church. The revelation of His expectations is found throughout the New Testament.

Just as under the old covenant God had rules to govern the lives of His people, so He does under the new covenant. The rules are to be individually obeyed in the context of a corporately caring and communing congregation of disciples of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that, among other biblical expectations, the community of faith of BBC assumes that those who become members will behave like members. For instance, they will be characterised by relational connection rather than as an isolated (amputated) appendage of the Body. Let me repeat: It is assumed that church members will assemble with other members.

Members will expectantly assemble for the corporate worship services on the Lord Day—morning and evening. Church members will gladly gather for Family Bible Hour. Church members will be happily committed to intentionally connect their children to the church by various means, including involvement in the various children’s and youth ministries. There is the expectation that church members will purposefully assemble with others in a Grace Group. It is assumed, in other words, that those who profess love for the Lord will love what He loves (Ephesians 5:25). And, like Jesus, they will love the church “to the end” (John 13:1). Through thick and thin, members of BBC will persevere with and in this community of faith.

Does this sound intense? Then you have the biblical sense of what being a church member requires. But this intensity is in the context of being intentional to love and to follow Christ. And there is no greater way to live. So, if BBC is your desired church family, then be encouraged that much assembling is required.

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