+27 (11) 867 3505 church@bbcmail.co.za

Now there is a provocative title. And it is meant to be, because I want to helpfully provoke our thinking concerning what we should increasingly be as a local church. I also want to helpfully provoke those looking for a local church to know what they can expect in the Brackenhurst Baptist Church (BBC).

The apostle Paul, more than once, expected the Corinthian church to “judge for themselves” about matters (e.g. 1 Corinthians 11:13). That is, he wanted them to use their noggins to think and then decide a right course of action. This is what Christians should do when considering church membership. Somewhat like marriage, the decision concerning church membership is akin to the decision whom to marry. Like marriage, church membership is a relational choice with covenantal implications which are both vertical (one’s relationship with God) and horizontal (one’s relationship with other Christians). For this reason, we have spent nine Family Bible Hour classes reviewing our church covenant in order to help us in our affections, attitudes, and actions as members of BBC.

However, what are some reasons for not making such a covenant and not becoming a member? Here are ten of them. Yet, when rightly considered, they point to why one shouldbecome a member.

First, you shouldn’t join BBC if you want to be left alone. We just can’t do that. When someone joins BBC, the existing membership covenants to come alongside to help the sister or brother to follow Jesus Christ as a faithful disciple. This means that we will watch over each other to guard, assist, and hold to account when necessary. If you are content to be alone as a Christian, well—think again—for love refuses to leave its loved ones alone.

Second, you shouldn’t join BBC if you want effortless Christianity. You shouldn’t join BBC if you don’t want to apply the effort that is sometimes needed to regularly gather with fellow Christians for worship, edification, evangelism, and fellowship. Relationships require investment of energy, time, and resources. If you want an effortless Christian life, then—well, I don’t have any idea where you will find that.

Third, you shouldn’t join BBC if you want a pain-free experience with other Christians. Christians can say awful things and can display ugly attitudes and can commit unpleasant actions. Regrettably, Christians can be nasty. Ask any member who has been around for a few years. We aren’t proud of this, but we should be honest about it. Yet remarkably, God uses such pain to make us more like his suffering Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ. Pain comes with the partnership. But it is far less painful than living as an amputated member of the body of Christ.

Fourth, you shouldn’t join BBC if you want a shepherdless existence. With all of our imperfections, the elders of BBC are better than the elders you don’t have. Christians who reject church membership reject the blessing of spiritual oversight. That never goes well for, as Jesus lamented, those without shepherds are spiritually scattered and harassed (Matthew 9:36–38).

Fifth, you shouldn’t join BBC if you want to raise your children apart from godly instruction and influences. I seriously doubt that my children would be serving Jesus Christ if it was not for God’s gracious means of BBC in helping Jill and I to raise our children for him. BBC provided us with godly examples and godly instruction. Despite some hard knocks along the way, my children love BBC. I wouldn’t exchange that for anything in this world. Sadly, many do. Don’t be one of them.

Sixth, you shouldn’t join BBC if you are offended by grace. I’ve been blessed with a short memory. I have forgotten most of the sinful deeds witnessed over the years as a member of BBC. And thankfully, most have forgotten those of mine; they have forgotten because they have forgiven. If you are committed to holding a grudge, then look elsewhere for a church home. We aim to be a church where holiness is pursued and where grace is applied when we fail.

Seventh, you shouldn’t join BBC if you want to live a double life. Though BBC is a place of grace, at the same time it is not a haven for hypocrites. Love for the triune God and concern for the eternal state of people prohibit us from treating sin lightly. If someone refuses to live in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ as instructed in his word, such spiritual darkness will be exposed and, through God’s appointed process (e.g. Matthew 18:15–20), it will eventually be expelled. And if this offends you, see the previous point. For though discipline is painful, ultimately it is an act of grace.

Eighth, you shouldn’t join BBC if you want a superficial Christianity. Michael Horton uses the term “Christ-less Christianity” to describe churches that are silent about the demands of Jesus to take up one’s cross if they will truly follow him. Christianity calls for invasive self-examination and more than skin-deep righteousness. Being a member of BBC will expose the Christian to a Christianity that is chock-full of sacrifice, service, and, yes, suffering. But in doing so it provides the existential experience of knowing the Saviour in the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10–14). And there is nothing superficial about that.

Ninth, you shouldn’t join BBC if you want man-centred worship and a cultural-conforming ecclesiology. A visiting preacher last Sunday said to me, “Wow, this congregation sings!” There is a reason for this. We are committed to worshipping God in spirit and truth (John 4:23), which compels us towards Spirit-filled worship (Ephesians 5:18–21). Of course, to some observers, our music is tame, even boring. After all, we sing some very old hymns and our drummer is not in a cage! But we believe singing truth is more important than being trendy. We believe the word of God is to remain central. We believe that corporate prayer is vital. BBC offers no bells or whistles because the structure of our corporate worship and church is as old as, well, the Scriptures!

Tenth, you shouldn’t join BBC if you only want a preaching centre. That is, you shouldn’t join BBC unless you want a job. We take seriously the exhortation to wrap the belt of truth around the waist of our congregation (Ephesians 6:10–17). We take seriously the mandate to preach God’s word (2 Timothy 4:1–2). We take seriously the mandate to expound God’s word to the whole flock of God (1 Peter 5:1–4). But there is far more to church life than a pulpit ministry. If someone wants to join BBC to merely “sit and soak,” they will find themselves eventually merely souring rather than spiritually soaring.

God designs and establishes the local church to be made up with willing and working members. Each member is to use their God-given gifts to fulfil their job and assignment of building up the church. Therefore, the purpose of the pulpit ministry is so church members will be fed up with God’s word so they can get up, and grow up, and offer up their bodies as living sacrifices. In this way the body of Christ is built up (Ephesians 4:11–16). If someone merely wants their weekly sermon, BBC is probably not for them.

Though BBC is not necessarily the church for every Christian in our area, nevertheless, if you want its biblical efforts towards growing up into Jesus Christ, then, by all means, pursue membership. And to those of us who are members: For Jesus’ sake, and by Jesus’ gracious power, let us behave like the covenanted members that we are.

Pastorally pondering,