Why Church Membership?

Open Church Door

No one needs to be a church member in order to attend the church’s worship services. There are many places where non-members can happily serve and participate outside of Sunday morning. The local church is not like a private golf course where you need to be a member, dress a certain way, and pay your membership dues in order to participate. But does this mean that church membership is unimportant and optional?

The Bible doesn’t contain a verse specifically commanding church membership, but Scripture routinely assumes that the people of God will gather together and be committed to each other. The early Christians did not have the ability to “church shop” or have a casual relationship with their local church. In the same way, Christians who live in the midst of persecution find themselves needing to choose whether or not they’re “in” or they’re “out” of the church, the family of God.

There is a growing trend in American Christianity to minimize church membership. It is certainly possible to be a genuine Christian who is not a member in a local church, but there are many reasons why it is healthy and good for every Christian to be a member in their local church.

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What Does Baptism Mean (and why is it important)?

I didn’t get baptized until I was a Sophomore in college even though I started taking my faith seriously as a teenager. I just didn’t think baptism mattered. At the time, most of the people I knew who were getting baptized were either babies or other peers in youth group who I knew weren’t actively following Jesus outside of Youth Group. So I concluded baptism really wasn’t that important. I was baptized when I was in college after I learned more about the meaning and importance of baptism.

Baptism doesn’t “save” you and you can be a Christian without having ever been baptized. However, the Bible’s pretty clear that we who claim to live for Jesus should be baptized. Time and time again throughout the book of Acts people are getting baptized when they place their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Acts 2:41; 8:12; 8:36; 10:48; and tons more). Even Jesus got baptized to set the example for his disciples.

Baptism

What Does Baptism Mean?
First, baptism symbolizes what has happened between us and God. The Apostle Paul writes, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). Baptism symbolically represents that we “died with Christ” (going under the water is like burying our old way of life without Christ) and we have been “reborn/resurrected in Christ” (coming up from the water is like being born again with Christ). It is a visible demonstration of the new life we have in Jesus Christ.

Second, baptism foreshadows the Christian’s hope that we will be resurrected from the grave when Jesus Christ returns as judge. “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again” (Romans 6:8-9). The Christian’s eternal security comes from their union with Christ, which is made visible through baptism. 

Third, baptism identifies you as a member of the Church. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 makes it clear that every Christian is a member of the Church, the “Body of Christ.” Christians throughout history have seen baptism as the rite of entrance into the Church. It is a way to clearly say, “I am a Christian, and my life isn’t all about me anymore. Instead, I want my life to build up the Church for the glory of God.” This is also why baptism and membership in the local church where you attend naturally go hand-in-hand.

Why Baptism Matters
In the Bible (and in many places today) it was a very dangerous thing to be publicly baptized and identify yourself with Jesus Christ. This act of faith took guts and often brought serious opposition. Sadly, many Americans take their freedom and comfort for granted, and since baptism doesn’t “cost” them anything, they treat getting baptized as a casual and unimportant option.

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved.”
Romans 10:9

Baptism should not be a matter of convenience. Instead, it is a wonderful opportunity to publicly declare your faith to your nonChristian friends and family. Sometimes people put off getting baptized because they don’t like people looking at them or being the center of attention. When we know the sin and judgment from which we have been rescued because of the truth that baptism represents, then we should take the opportunity to put ourselves aside and confess what God has done through Jesus Christ.

If we are too timid to stand for Christ in a church full of people who believe as we do and before our friends and family (even if they aren’t Christians, they still care for us), then I wonder how we will boldly stand for Christ in the midst of persecution.

Baptism is a biblical and meaningful expression of personal faith in Jesus Christ. Whether you grew up attending church or not, being baptized is a turning point you can look to in seasons of doubt or temptation in order to reaffirm, “I have been buried with Christ, and I have risen to new life with him. He is my life and my hope. I am not ashamed of the gospel.”

A Final Word of Caution
Prayerfully consider getting baptized, but please do not get baptized because you feel pressured by people to do so. If you are not compelled to give your life to worship and obey Jesus Christ then you should not be baptized… even if your parents or friends or youth pastor is encouraging you to be baptized. Simply tell them “I’m not ready yet” and trust them to respect your decision.

Two articles I have found helpful regarding children and baptism: 

The Gospel is For the Street

What good is faith if it only survives in a sterile environment? The gospel belongs not only in our pulpits but on the streets .

Faith shapes life, gives meaning, and inspires hope. If the gospel is only good news to those whose lives are middle-class, then is it truly “good news?” The gospel applies to addicts, the homeless, and to the marginalized.

Jesus came to bring life to the hopeless, rescue for the perishing, and dignity for the beggar. If these are the people whom Jesus came to serve and give his life for, shouldn’t they be welcomed in our churches and in our theologizing?

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Should The Church be Attractive or Attractional?

The gospel is good news of great joy for all peoples. This is a compelling message that builds the foundation of the Church. Unfortunately today, it’s become increasingly common to hear Christians lambasting the Church. 

Sadly, many Christians give the impression that speaking well of the Church is like putting lipstick on a pig. Jesus doesn’t need “hair and makeup” before going on stage. 

We must not be ashamed of clearly and confidently holding to what Scripture teaches, and inviting people to repent of their sin in order to follow Jesus Christ. Jesus is compelling. Jesus is good news. 

Consider a beautiful woman. She does not need to dress a certain way or work especially hard to be recognized as beautiful. Her beauty is obvious. Meanwhile, others dress and carry themselves in order to accentuate what they wish others to notice (while also concealing things they want to remain hidden). 

How often is this a parable of our churches? We do things a certain way in order to make God look however we think people will find attractive. We preach on grace but not judgment. We speed up the music but fear silence. And we work diligently to avoid causing offense or controversy. 

Consider Mike Leake’s article, “The Difference Between Attrational and Attractive Ministry,” which provided the above parable of beauty… it’s a great article.  Here is what I believe to be the most vital portion, 

“My point here is that whenever churches start asking those questions and focusing on whether or not we are “attracting,” we’ve moved off center. When we do this we become like the Pharisees, who were more concerned about how they were viewed than who they actually were. Maybe even more pathetically, we are like the teenage boy constantly checking out his budding muscles in the mirror in hopes that maybe this will help him finally get the girl to pay attention to him.

This isn’t to say that churches should be intentionally unattractive. In fact, if churches focus on doing gospel things they will actually be naturally attractive—at least to some. The Bible gives evidence of this. Jesus attracted crowds. The disciples, too, attracted a ton of folks who were filled with questions and wondering what in the world was going on with them. There was something about the way they were living that attracted folks and caused them to wonder why in the world these Christians had such hope. They were attractive.
Though it’s a subtle difference, there is a great chasm between being an attractive church and an attractional church. One intentionally tries to draw a crowd, while the other goes about doing their ministry and the crowds show up, maybe. Jesus didn’t have healing services in hopes that people would show up. He healed people because that is who He is and people showed up as a result. The attractional model, though, draws a crowd and hopes to slip the gospel in the backdoor. One has confidence in who they are and they other is like a junior high boy who doesn’t have enough confidence in his person to drop the frills and just be himself.

The Church is the People of God, Bride of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Christians are the children of God. Let us continue to walk as beloved children of God who have been adopted through Jesus Christ. May our identity as God’s people be the core of the Church rather than a desire to be attractive to the world. 

What is the difference between an attractive gospel and an attractional ministry? One preaches a gospel about Jesus who is truly beautiful, the other feels pressure to portray in him the best possible light. 

Five Reasons Christians Don’t Evangelize

Christians overwhelmingly agree they have a personal responsibility to evangelize: to announce the good news that sinners can be forgiven and adopted as children of God because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. LifeWay Research conducted a study regarding evangelism and reported,

“The study conducted by LifeWay Research found 80 percent of those who attend church one or more times a month, believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but 61 percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.”
LifeWay Research

This got me to ask the question: “Whynot? What is it that keeps us from sharing the gospel with nonChristians?” I could’ve come up with my own reasons, but I wondered if they would match up with the reasons your typical church-going Christian would give. So I asked my Facebook friends for their input and discovered some really great insights that I wouldn’t have considered on my own.

Here are a few of the general themes that emerged from their responses:

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Was Paul a Ministry Hypocrite?

I love getting questions from readers. Here’s the latest question I’ve received (you can submit your questions HERE
question mark on sticky noteThere are many times in Scripture where Paul specifically seems to give conflicting advice. One that always gets me:
  • 1 Corinthians 9:22 – “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”
  • In Acts 21:17-26, Paul goes and joins the four men in their purification rites, so people can see his still observes the old Jewish customs, even though he doesn’t think they’re necessary. This is kind of all the same strain.
  • Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

If I’m allowed to re-ask the question, I’d put it this way: Is Paul a ministry hypocrite who tells one group one thing and then another group another thing? Let’s look at these individually and then tie them together…

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How to Share Your Testimony

Talking

A gospel-centered testimony can be a powerful way to share the good news of Jesus Christ with your nonChristians friends (or with complete strangers, as opportunity arises). Over the last decade I’ve heard some people talk about testimony-sharing as “the key” to good evangelism while others decry testimonies as man-centered rather than God-centered.

What is a Testimony?
Your testimony isn’t your autobiography. It isn’t your life-story or an opportunity to talk about the details of your sinful life before Jesus in order to gain “street cred” with nonChristians.

The word “testimony” comes from the same root word as “martyr.” To be a martyr is to testify and tell about what God has done through Jesus Christ. It isn’t first about you, it is about God. When you share your testimony, you are talking about what God has done and what God has done for you. It is both objective (who God is and what He’s done) and subjective/personal (what he’s done for you). Unfortunately, I’ve heard many testimonies that only emphasize the subjective (what God has done for them).

A testimony that isn’t about Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, and the freedom that comes through confession of sin and repentance isn’t a gospel-centered testimony.

How to Share Your Testimony
Here are a few things I have noticed about gospel-centered testimonies that put God front-and-center.  Continue reading