Many churches this time of year hold membership or partnership classes. In fact, Evident Grace Fellowship, will be hosting one soon. Culturally, however, one notion that continues to gain popularity is whether or not church membership, affiliation, or partnership is biblical.
There is a popular notion that church membership is an option for the believer. So, is it?
I bump into this idea that the structured, organized church is broken and can sufficiently be discarded for such reasons as style. So then, is the organized church antiquated and out of date? Can we just discard it and live more “robust, spiritual” lives?
I would answer “no” and not just because I’m a pastor. Many will say that you can’t find the context of church in any organized, structured way in scripture and that living church is simply living out Christ’s commands. But that is hard to do without the organized church.
How do you obey Christ and rebuke a brother and eventually take him to the church if it is not organized (Matthew 18)?
How do you appoint elders and deacons if the church is not organized (I Timothy 3 and Titus 1)?
How do leaders care for your soul and how do you submit to those leaders if you are not organized (Hebrews 13:17)?
How are pastors ordained to ministry if the church isn’t organized (I Timothy 5)?
Why would Paul warn the Corinthians to eat at home so as not to make pigs of themselves during the Lord’s Supper if the church is not organized (I Corinthians 11)?
These are all direct commands of scripture. Obedience and thus loving Christ is living out these commands. The church, however flawed she may be, is a wonderful gracious gift of God intended to nurture and care for souls while glorifying Jesus.
I agree that the church has structures that are traditional and formal by very nature of an organization that has met for 2000 years, but that does not mean the the organism as it exists today is non-biblical. Being a Christian does make you part of the church. But declaring to live a life outside the commands of scripture (which include the commands to organize the church) is an inherently non-biblical and non-Christian attitude.
My urging for folks who want to abandon the church? Don’t. Biblically challenge the structures that frustrate you. Love her, but don’t leave her. Love that does not desire Godly change will just become empty criticism. Love that desires Godly change is effectual love.