In my sermon last Sunday, I invited people to consider becoming a member of Jericho Road Church. I wanted to follow that up with some further explanation about what that means and why that would be important. I want to begin by quoting a passage that appears in our church byelaws regarding expectations for every member. It is written by Philip Graham Ryken in a book entitled, 'The Communion of Saints: Living in Fellowship with the People of God';
"The same might be said of regular attendees who never join the church. They lack an unbreakable commitment to the church and its ministry. Non-members, however active they may be in the life of the church, are outside the covenant relationship with the body of Christ that God requires. They reserve the right to pick and choose their doctrine, lifestyle, and ministry. In effect they become their own elders denying the authority of the church to carry out its mandate of gathering and perfecting the saints. To put this in theological terms, they separate union with Christ, the head of the church, from union with his body. As a result, they confuse themselves and others - outside as well as inside the church - about what it means to be a Christian. This is a costly mistake to make because membership has its privileges. Martin Lloyd-Jones went so far as to describe church membership as 'the biggest honor that can come a man's way in this world.' There is no union with Christ apart from the communion of the saints. Nor can the saints have true communion without belonging to one another by belonging to Christ in his church."
Sometimes we can be nervous of making such a commitment in case rules are imposed upon us that we do not like or agree with. It is not something explicitly stated in Scripture as necessary for salvation, so why should I? Well, firstly I would just want to reassure you that membership does not mean that rules are now in place, rather we share specific expectations as "ideals and tangible goals that we are encouraging one another to grow toward."
I shared on Sunday Paul's words about our having been "called into fellowship with God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Cor 1:9). This is both a spiritual reality which means we are at once connected to all believers throughout the world and history, the One Body of Christ. But equally we are invited to belong to a local community of believers in a particular location, charged with a particular mission. This is what we call the local church, a community where we are invited to grow, to serve, to submit and to share, all for the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This cuts against the spirit of the age in which we live and the way in which people around us generally live their lives. Membership is something which parallels God's way of relating through covenant commitment. It is God's faithfulness and lovingkindness expressed through covenant love, that that helps to create a context for our being transformed into his likeness, to live like Jesus did knowing that we are children of God, we belong to a family in which everyone matters and everyone is meant to be known and cared for as well as seeking to know and give care. We are secure and graciously accepted and loved by God in order that we would express his life and love by fulfilling his purposes where we are "planted".
That is a tall order, but an impossible one without being a committed part of a local community, a family where we are never meant to feel alone ... or leave others feeling alone. The discipline of membership, though it doesn't guarantee that these ideals become reality, does give us more of an opportunity to collectively make this a reality, as each one of us plays our part.
If you would like to know more about the specifics of membership here at Jericho Road church, please click here.
Grace, Mercy & Peace,