Greg Gilbert of 9marks ministries and Capital Hill Baptist Church gae the fourth message in the conference on Building Healthy Churches. HIs topic was church membership & church discipline. To be honest I wasn’t too thrilled to hear about church membership as I was to hear about church discipline. Much too my surprise I was fascinated with his thoughts on church membership and had my thinking opened in areas that I once thought were insignificant.
He openeed with statistics:
There are 16 million “members” of Southern Baptist Churches. Of those 16 million, 6 million are actual attending members. That leaves 10 million “members” who cannot be found anywhere, or 3% of America’s population that professes to be a member of the church that is not part of the church in any way.
When it comes to church membership our front doors are wide open. There is little, if no requirement for someone to become a member. What we are called to do and must do, is guard our front door.
There are 6 things to understand to make membership to our church meaningful
1. There has to be commitment
2. There has to be a powerful witness to the Gospel
3. There must be an affirmation of faith
4. There must be a teaching of the nature of love for God & others
5. There must be obedience
6. It ust glorify God
In churches today, the lack of guarding the front door has lead to
1. Lack of meaningful membership
2. Giving status (member/Christian) to anyone who asks
3. Becoming comfortable “yoking” ourselves to non- believers
So in guarding our front door we must open the back door. We do this through Church discipline.
The guidelines for church discipline are set forth in Matthew 18.
There are 5 positive reasons for Church Discipline
1. We obey Jesus & it shows love for the good of the believers
2. It shows love for other Christians as to the danger of the sinful life
3. It shows love for the health of the church
4. It shows love for the health of the community
5. It shows love for the glory of God
12 guidelines for cultivating healthy membership in your Church
1. Regularly proclaim the gospel in your sermon
2. Have a Congregational statement of faith and covenant
3. Require membership classes
4. Require an interview of member prospects
5. Stop, think, & consider the child before allowing membership
6. realize church membership is the church
7. Publish a membership directory
8. Have active pastoral oversight
9.Have a culture of discipline – don’t sweep sinful behavior under the rug
10. Limit some church activities to members only
11. Recover membership from other churches before allowing membership into your church
12. Recover & teach the grandness of God’s plan to avoid becoming a social club.
I had not considered the seriousness of church membership, but Gilbert made valid points for the necessity of requirements as well as for the necessity of discipline. By allowing everyone to join without adhering to the Christian belief allows the world to take precedence in the church, and with that we have lost our salt and light.