Pastor’s Blog Wk 3.4.19: Is Church Membership Biblical?
The content of this subject is controversial. Reader discretion is advised. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I AM THE CHURCH?
Okay, this one is going to be a doozy. For the record, I make no apologies for what I’m about to say here, because it is birthed from scripture. This topic has become the thorn of controversy in today’s casual complacent culture. Many Churches and Pastors are flailing like fish out of water trying to figure out how to address it. There is a movement that has picked up traction over the years of whether or not you should be an active member of a local church. It resembles much of what has happened in Europe within the last 100 years.
There was a time when Pastors and anyone called out of the fivefold ministry was held in high esteem by virtue of this position and the church was seen as an institution of respect. Those days are gone like the wind. The church has fallen on difficult times. The scripture calls it perilous times, a bit more on that later. Unfortunately, some of that has been self-inflicted. Media coverage of sexual abuse and mismanaging of money by laymen has only fueled the critical perception of the church. The failures of a few have made the job of many goodhearted and God-fearing leaders much more difficult, creating a deeply antagonistic and defiant culture towards those of authority within the church.
IS THE CHURCH RELEVANT?
Many on the outskirts perceive the church as being more preoccupied and concerned with buildings and budgets, nickels and noses, piety and pretense, than people and their problems. People are still in search for the meaning of life but under their own terms, and while spirituality is “in,” church is definitely “out.” There is another group who goes even further, claiming that they needed to escape the claws of the church as to not commit spiritual suicide. The church for these individuals is seen as an institution that puts form before substance, tradition before truth, conformity before creativity, and seems more concerned about holding to constitution and by-laws than the leading of the Holy Spirit – even though they have no idea what that actually means in real life application. A Barna poll stated that large numbers of American Christians are disillusioned with the church. They even label these church dropouts as “revolutionaries.” Incredibly, many of these professing Christians see themselves as part of the universal church of Christ, but do not participate or belong to a local body. Others outright openly discredit the idea of formal membership in a congregation.
While many have given up on the church, I assure you that Jesus Christ has not. The bride of Christ, the church, is still the center of God’s work in this world, and if you belong to His kingdom you must belong to His church. Remember that the church is the bride of Christ and just as it would be very difficult for you to have a good relationship with me, while bad mouthing my wife, I fear many will come to that sobering reality when it is too late.
WHAT IS THE CHURCH?
The word church is first mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 16:18, where Jesus asks Peter the question, “who do you say that I am”, and Peter responds, “you are the Messiah”. Jesus in verse 17 says, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my father in heaven” and in verse 18 is where we see the word church first mentioned. V18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” The word church here in the Greek is ekklesia, which literally means,“called out ones, a popular meeting place, especially a religious congregation, a synagogue, Christian community of members.” So, by Jesus’s own mention of the word “church”, it means a congregation of believers devoted to community and worship. Church and Kingdom is used in tandem, which leads to the next question…
WHAT IS KINGDOM?
In the very next verse, we see Jesus giving Peter the keys to the Kingdom. V19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Jesus’s mention of keys here speaks of authority and the word Kingdom can literally be translated as government. In essence, Jesus is saying I will give you the keys or, “authority”, of my Kingdom or, “government”, and you will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail…
What we must understand about Kingdoms is that a Kingdom must have a King; and a King must have Institutional Laws that govern that Kingdom. No legitimate nation on earth exists today without laws and government. Even a bad government is better than no government, otherwise, you will have nothing but anarchy and chaos. The Kingdom of God is governed by Ephesians 4:11-12, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” This is what I call the Five Fold Fingers of Gods managing hand on earth. It was Christ Jesus that appointed these offices to govern the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry and the edifying of the body. Let me put it this way: “Without God man cannot, without man God will not.” It begins to make sense of why Satan would sow a doctrine that would indirectly call into question the fivefold ministry and its authority. I was born in Brazil and have lived in the U.S. since 1980. After almost 38 years of legal permanent residence here, I finally overcame my procrastination and filed for my Citizenship. Although I enjoyed the benefits of living in the U.S. as a legal permanent resident, I have never been recognized as a citizen of this great country. After a series of complex applications and in-depth background checks, including written and verbal tests to determine my eligibility for citizenship, I was granted approval. Once I met all of the requirements, which I did, they then sent me a notice regarding my swear-in date, which is set for March 13, 2019. This entire process was used to determine my loyalty to this Country of which I sought citizenship. It prodded, probed and pricked every aspect of my life to make sure I was ready, committed and prepared to swear an oath of allegiance to love and protect the country and the Constitution by which it is defined.
In much of the same way, the Kingdom of God functions on earth. In heaven, there is a King who governs a Kingdom, on earth, there are Presidents and Kings who govern their Countries and Kingdoms, and in the spiritual realm we too have to make our loyalty known by the spiritual laws we abide under. Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20 “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
A Christian that’s not plugged into a local body is like a television that is not plugged into an outlet; it has no power. Although it has a purpose, it serves none, because it is not connected to the power source. Ever wonder why Jesus chose to identify His children with sheep and His leaders as Shepherds? A single sheep is called a lost sheep because sheep are natured to flock together and each flock needs a shepherd. And again, Satan knew that if you strike the shepherd out of the picture the sheep will scatter, and scattered they have. Just this past weekend I had a gentleman walk in right before Sunday morning service and ask to speak with me. I didn’t know this man from Adam. After a series of strange questions, he then presumptuously began to tell me that he is a watchman on the tower and starts railing against our church body claiming we were 90% dead and 10% alive. Mind you, he had no exposure to our church or its members. I then responded by asking what church do you belong to, which he replied, I belong to God and don’t fellowship with any local body; “I am the church” type of response. I thought, “well that’s obvious,” then politely said, “if you’re not under any authority you’re not in authority, certainly not here.” I went on to explain the governmental order of God’s kingdom, from Jesus saying, “I only say and do what my father says and does,” to the Roman centurion approaching Jesus and saying, “I also am a man under authority, I say to this one go and he goes and this one come and he comes.” The centurion was not only in authority but under it. Anyone can put a police uniform on but it doesn’t make you an officer until you have been deputized by the power you claim to represent. There is a record number of rogue Christians today claiming Kingdom authority, but in reality, have none. They refuse and are defiant to leadership and have made it a mission to destroy and bring down the authoritative government of the local church. Good luck with that one. You’re not fighting man or an institution, you’re fighting God. Aaron had Moses and Moses had God, Elisha had Elijah, Samuel had Eli, David and Saul had Samuel, Timothy had the Apostle Paul, the disciples had Jesus and Jesus had the father. Do you see the pattern?
It quickly becomes clear why such an attack has been levied against the church. In the New Testament they met in homes but if you keep reading they also never neglected to meet in the temple or synagogues. In fact, the New Testament is riddled with letters that were sent to specific church bodies. In Matthew 18 Jesus is instructing their leaders how to deal with a person who is unrepentant of sin in a church body and he says in v17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. In Revelations, there are letters sent to the seven churches… “plural,” not a universal church but seven individual local bodies, because they each had their own distinct issues that the Lord was addressing. This is just scratching the surface of scripture regarding the Biblical commandment of being connected to a community of believers and submitted under a Shepherd of that church body. And we can’t leave out Hebrews 10:24-25 when apostle Paul had to deal with the same trend we are seeing right now at the birthing of the New Testament church. “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
I once heard a story about a believer who was completely and utterly deaf. Despite him not being able to hear, he faithfully attended and participated in the local church of which he was a faithful member. When asked why he bothered, his response was: “I want everyone to know whose side I’m on.” You see, Christians are like individual snowflakes, alone they are frail, but when they stick together they can stop traffic. Before you can ever be an avalanche for God, you must first be a snowflake. Scripture declares that “one man can chase a thousand and two, ten thousand”. (Deut. 32:30) Another scripter says, “a three strand cord is not easily broken”. (Ecc. 4:12)
AND FINALLY… THE ANTI-CHURCH MOVEMENT IN PROPHECY!
I will save you a lot of time by not flooding this blog with biblical prophecy explaining why I believe this trend is taking place in our time. There are hundreds of scriptures unmasking this repulsive lie about Christians not having to be a part of a local body to be effective in the Kingdom, but let me just give you this one and final passage.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” In verse 3, it states that before the coming of our Lord, one of the main signs would be the great falling away from the faith. The falling away is translated from the Greek word Apostasy which means; defection from state, falling away or forsake. Watch this!
Here is the English definition of defection: a defector is a person who gives up allegiance to one state in exchange for allegiance to another, in a way which is considered illegitimate by the first state. More broadly, it involves abandoning a person, cause, or doctrine to which one is bound by some tie, as of allegiance or duty. In other words, you have abandoned your loyalty/defected, and in doing so, have surrendered your allegiance to a state and although you claim authority, it is illegitimate by the very state you defected from.
I implore you if you are reading this and you are not connected to a spirit-filled church, or you have been hurt in church, or you are disillusioned and discouraged with the church, or whatever the reason may be, find your way back to the body of Christ. Get connected, get rooted and get plugged back in. A severed limb is not considered a body but a corpse. I am the body! (1 Cor 12:27-28