Church membership

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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I need some help. I am soon to preach a sermon on the importance of church membership. It is not my intention to begin a debate between the governmental differences between Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Calvinistic Methodist or Anglican denoms. (I hope I did not leave anyone out)

I would assume, being a reformed discussion board, that everyone believes the Bible teaches a plurality of church leadership. As I have been meditating on the scriptures and the confessions I have come to this conclusion:

If you believe in plurality of leadership, then by necessity you must also believe in church membership. If you are going to have a plurality of leaders in one church, those leaders would be decided upon/recognized/appointed/ordained etc. by the church itself. If a church does not have a membership, how will this happen? Do you have a vote and anyone who happens to show up on that particular Lord's Day gets to vote? That couple that left the church a year ago that happens to show up has as much say as the couple that are setting up the chairs every week? How do you decide who has a say in who the leaders are without some kind of membership?

Out here in CA, most people have been at one time or another a part of a Calvary Chapel. Chuck Smith does not believe in membership. Because of this, Calvary Chapels look like corporations in their governmental configuration. The Senior Pastor is like the CEO who chooses the Asst Pastors who act as Vice Presidents. If there is an elder board they are relegated to duties similar to what deacons would do in other churches.

My question is...

Is it possible to have a plurality of leadership without a church membership? How would that work? :candle:
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Is it possible to have a plurality of leadership without a church membership? How would that work?

Theoretically? Yes. An established church or ecclesiastical body could appoint elders. Pratically? No. Even if an a larer ecclesiastical body appointed elders, eventually it would have to filter down to the local church. Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders (Titus 1:4), but this is probably due to the fact that elders did not exist. Once the office of elder is established, it is proper for additional elders to come from within the local church. 1 Timothy 3 addresses those men who desire to be overseers. The overseer would be the same as an elder. The office of deacon is also covered. Where do the men come from who aspire to these offices? From the local church, where else? Instead of viewing a plurality of elders as evidence of church membership, I believe church membership necessitates elders.
 

etexas

Puritan Board Doctor
I need some help. I am soon to preach a sermon on the importance of church membership. It is not my intention to begin a debate between the governmental differences between Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Calvinistic Methodist or Anglican denoms. (I hope I did not leave anyone out)

I would assume, being a reformed discussion board, that everyone believes the Bible teaches a plurality of church leadership. As I have been meditating on the scriptures and the confessions I have come to this conclusion:

If you believe in plurality of leadership, then by necessity you must also believe in church membership. If you are going to have a plurality of leaders in one church, those leaders would be decided upon/recognized/appointed/ordained etc. by the church itself. If a church does not have a membership, how will this happen? Do you have a vote and anyone who happens to show up on that particular Lord's Day gets to vote? That couple that left the church a year ago that happens to show up has as much say as the couple that are setting up the chairs every week? How do you decide who has a say in who the leaders are without some kind of membership?

Out here in CA, most people have been at one time or another a part of a Calvary Chapel. Chuck Smith does not believe in membership. Because of this, Calvary Chapels look like corporations in their governmental configuration. The Senior Pastor is like the CEO who chooses the Asst Pastors who act as Vice Presidents. If there is an elder board they are relegated to duties similar to what deacons would do in other churches.

My question is...

Is it possible to have a plurality of leadership without a church membership? How would that work? :candle:

Not the Biblical ideal. Let me try something before passing judgment, here goes: Chief Executive Officer St. Peter..........nope....doesn't cut it for me. :2cents:
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Where do the men come from who aspire to these offices? From the local church, where else? Instead of viewing a plurality of elders as evidence of church membership, I believe church membership necessitates elders.

That is the point my line of reasoning is coming to also. In the long run, you can't have a plurality of equals leading together without membership, nor can you have these leaders without membership.

The difficulty in this region of the country is people by and large stand opposed to church membership. I think it might be the Calvary Chapel influence. They have no problem becoming members of secular groups but never a church. It is definitely a stronghold.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
That is the point my line of reasoning is coming to also. In the long run, you can't have a plurality of equals leading together without membership, nor can you have these leaders without membership.

The difficulty in this region of the country is people by and large stand opposed to church membership. I think it might be the Calvary Chapel influence. They have no problem becoming members of secular groups but never a church. It is definitely a stronghold.

Ken - I'm not sure that California is much different than New Jersey in regards to church membership. If a person is truly a child of God, he will want to be part of the body. Those that are diametrically opposed to church may not be part of the body to begin with. Others may need to be educated, especially if they have come out of a bad experience in another church.

Our church has struggled with growth since our inception six years ago. We hover in the 50-70 range on any given Lord's Day. Trying to diagnosis the reason isn't easy. Are we stagnant because of sin? Are we not reaching out the community enough? Is it because we lack a teen program? We've scratched our heads and haven't come to a definitive reason why. We look around us and the seeker-sensitive-type churches are growing. It's possible that the real "problem" is that we teach the whole counsel of God. When a church embraces sola scriptura, I mean really embraces it, it will not be embraced by certain types of people. It drives people away.

Hebrews 4:12 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.


This is not a California problem, it's an American problem. The word of God exposes, therefore it is to be avoided by some people. Funny, the same people who will avoid a sola scriptura church will still carry their bibles into a church they find more accommodating. Ironic.

Ken - I know...I've veered a little off course. Thank God I'm not an airline pilot! But somewhere in my post, I believe there is a point to be made.
 

Blueridge Believer

Puritan Board Professor
How can a church "attendee" be responsible to, or be disciplined by a fellowship if there is no membership? in my opinion, if there is no membership then there is no responsiblilty to the elders.
 

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
How can a church "attendee" be responsible to, or be disciplined by a fellowship if there is no membership? in my opinion, if there is no membership then there is no responsiblilty to the elders.

Technically, no. There could, however, be a case where an "attender" who'd be under discipline (were he a member) has a good relationship with the elders, wants to join, but can't because of the sin he's made peace with. The elders can use his desire to join and be restored to God's people as a sort of "informal" form of discipline to push him toward repentance.

(It's happened to me.)
(Not at my current church.)
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
How can a church "attendee" be responsible to, or be disciplined by a fellowship if there is no membership? in my opinion, if there is no membership then there is no responsiblilty to the elders.

:amen: But if you argue in favor of membership from this angle you must first convince the flock that it is in their best interest to be under the discipline of elders. This does not go over well in SoCal. I was hoping to argue from this angle instead:

If you want a church that has a plurality of elders, where one man is not CEO of the church, and everyone has some influence on who the elders are and how the church is run (as any true baptist would) then membership is in their best interest.

You have had a great deal of experience in churches round about... Have you ever encountered one that had a biblical eldership but no membership?
 
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