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Summary: Message #1 of a series including this, #2: Support through StewardSHIP; #3: Participate through OwnerSHIP (serving in ministry); #4 Grow Deep through fellowSHIP (homegroups and small groups).

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Partner Through Membership

Series: Get on the Ship

Chuck Sligh

January 6, 2013

(A PowerPoint presentation for this message is available by emailing me at chucksligh@hotmail.com.)

TEXT: Acts 9:26 – “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed [attempted] to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.”

INTRODUCTION

This is the first sermon in a series titled, “Get on the Ship” that focuses on important local church issues and our responses to them. The titles of the messages are:

• Partner with GBC through MEMBERSHIP, today’s sermon.

• Support GBC through STEWARDSHIP next Sunday.

• Participate with GBC through OWNERSHIP the following week.

• And ending the series with Grow deep at GBC through FELLOWSHIP

Today I want us to look at what the Bible says about church membership. When Paul moved to Jerusalem for an extended stay, our text tells us that he attempted to join the church in Jerusalem. I believe this is teaching that when Paul moved to Jerusalem, he joined the church there.

Illus. – When I was a teen, there was a man in our church who would drop by church, then be gone for weeks on end, then show up again, over and over again. My dad encouraged him to be faithful and join the church. He said he would never join a particular local church because he was a member of the universal church. So he visited around different churches, wherever his whim took him.

This was pretty convenient, since there was no one from the universal church asking him to serve in a ministry and he didn’t have to tithe to the universal church. But when he went into the hospital, do you think the pastor of the universal church came to visit him? Were members of the universal church available to provide meals when he returned home?

No, it was a visible, local church that would have ministered in these areas were he united with one.

This morning I’d like to talk to you about uniting in fellowship with Grace Baptist Church through church membership. My hope is that if you’ve been one of those on the outside looking in, you’ll become a partner with us through membership in Grace Baptist Church. To help you here, I want to answer two critical questions about church membership:

I. FIRST, LET’S ANSWER THE QUESTION: WHY JOIN A CHURCH?

Some people don’t see the need to be united in the membership of a local church. They’re happy just attending and soaking up what a church has to offer. I can think of three reasons a believer should unite with a local church.

1) First, because it’s BIBLICAL.

If you’re looking for a verse that says, “Thou shalt join a church,” it’s not there. However, the New Testament clearly implies the CONCEPT of church membership, even if the word itself is not used. Some of this is outlined in one of the bulletin inserts, but very quickly, let me emphasize four biblical proofs of the idea of church membership:

• First, the whole New Testament concept of “church” implies the idea of membership.

The Greek word translated “church” is found 113 times in the New Testament. Only a few times does it categorically mean the “universal church”—that is, the body of Christ consisting of all believers in the New Testament age, including all those of all denominations alive today. About 90 percent of the references refer clearly to the LOCAL church—the VISIBLE manifestation of God’s people gathered in local assemblies for worship, witness, fellowship and service—like Grace Baptist Church.

Like Paul, throughout the New Testament, it’s just assumed that believers will unite themselves with local assemblies where they can interact with other believers, grow in faith, worship God and hear His Word taught.

• Second, the institution of church government in local New Testament churches implies they had some form of definite local church membership.

The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament was that each local body of believers was to be overseen by pastors or elders with specific tasks to shepherd God’s people (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), labor diligently among them (1 Thessalonians 5:12), oversee them (1 Thessalonians 5:12; 1 Timothy 5:17), and watch over their souls (Hebrews 13:17). – These responsibilities presuppose a membership in the local church.

I should surely minister to all; but I have spiritual authority only over those who have submitted themselves to church membership.

On the other side of the coin, Scripture teaches that believers are to submit to their spiritual leaders. Hebrews 13:17a says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves…” The idea is that every believer should be under the spiritual authority of church elders, or pastors. Tell me how you can be under accountability without being a member? What authority do I have over the visitors to our church this morning?—None, but I DO have spiritual authority over our members.

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