Membership in the Church

The Church of Jesus Christ is made up of believers in Christ, called out from the world of sin, separated unto God, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. Members are those who acknowledge Jesus Christ as their personal savior, Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9. Immediately upon conversion, one becomes a member of the church invisible, Hebrews 12:23. The life of a member of the Church corresponds with his profession in that he ceases the practice of sin, 1 John 3:6, 8.

While the Church is not the Kingdom of Heaven, it is part of the Kingdom of Heaven—the part we can see. Matthew 13 gives a series of parables illustrating the state of the Kingdom of Heaven today.  Even a cursory look at those parables shows us that many members of the visible church are Christians in name only, for they certainly are not living up to their potential as disciples of Christ!

It is the duty of members to gather for worship, spiritual ministry, and exhortation, Hebrews 10:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13.

The spiritual quality of the Church

The spiritual quality of the Church is determined by the spiritual quality of its members. In the very early Church, the spiritual quality was very high, Acts 5:13, and the member’s complete separation from the world and sin made them a powerful witness in Jerusalem, Acts 5:14. The spiritual quality of the early Church was very different from that of the church at Laodicea, which boasted of its wealth and members, but was nauseating to God, Revelation 3:14—18.

The spiritual quality of a church is seen in—

  • The exercise of spiritual gifts often but not to excess, Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 14;
  • The teaching and practice of sound doctrine, 1 Corinthians 1:10;
  • Good and healthy fellowship between members, Ephesians 4:3;
  • The witness the church has in the community, Philippians 1:27;
  • Healthy unity within the congregation, 1 Peter 3:8

Duties of members in spiritual things

The primary duty of church members in spiritual matters is to assemble for worship, Hebrews 10:25; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 3:13. The results of regular fellowship in the Church include: (1) the creation of ideas, for example, of how to reach the lost; (2) accountability to one another; and (3) direction of energies in terms of service. A lopsided church is one that is all worship and no teaching; or all teaching and exhorting but no worship; all ideas and no action. A spiritually healthy church is one where the work of the Spirit is manifested in the work of the saints, Matthew 28:19; Acts 8:4.

Civic duties of members

The work of the Church is primarily spiritual in nature, but its members live and work in the world. Members of the Church are to take what they learn in Church and live lives that testify to Christ’s presence in their hearts. They engage in honest business and politics, have healthy marriages, and so on. A guiding principle is found in Matthew 22:21.

The Work of the Church

The work or the purpose of the Church is frequently misunderstood by its members. Here is what the work of the Church involves:

  • To preach salvation. Technically speaking, it is work of each member of the Church preach salvation; the job of the Church is to teach its members how to do that. Many members think the primary job of the Church is to save sinners. This is not so. The Church is the place where saints come to learn how to save sinners. Christ provided salvation, the Church expounds the Scriptures to its members, and they do the work of the ministry.

  • To provide a means of worship. Israel possessed a divinely appointed system of worship by which they approached God in all the needs and crises of their life. Similarly, the Church is to be the place where Christians gather for prayer, worship and testimony.

  • To provide a place of fellowship. Human beings are social by nature; we crave fellowship and an exchange of fellowship. It is most natural to fellowship with those who share the same interests and values. The Church provides fellowship based on the Fatherhood of God, the Lordship of Christ, in the warmth of the Holy Spirit.

  • To hold up a moral standard. The Church is supposed to be “the light of the world,” to show the world what true morality and ethics look like. The conduct of the members of the Church should expose moral corruption and ethical lapses in the community. The life of a Christian should set the example for others to follow.

Officers of the Church

An organization implies some sort of leadership structure. This leadership structure in the early church was very simple, consisting of three distinct offices.

  • Pastor, elder, bishop, overseer, shepherd. These terms denote essentially the same office in the New Testament. See Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Peter 5; Titus 1; etc. So, episkapos, poimen, didaskalos, presbuteros are Greek terms translated variously as “elder,” “shepherd,” pastor,” or “overseer” but describe the same office within the church. Those who hold this office are concerned with the spiritual well-being of the congregation.

  • Deacons. Coming from the Greek diakonos, the one who is a deacon in the church cares for the physical needs of the church. Interestingly, while their duties are different from those of elders, their qualifications are the same.

  • Deaconess. In the early church, this seems to have been a distinct office. Pheobe is called a deaconess, Romans 16:1.

It doesn’t take a lot study to see how different denominations structure their ecclesiastical bureaucracy from each other.  Hierarchical denominations, like the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, have complicated levels of church leadership while Congregation churches have the simplest.  Somewhere in the middle we find Presbyterian-type bureaucracies which are, arguably, closes to the New Testament pattern.

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