Summary: The first sermon in this series on Church Membership is designed to help believers understand the necessity of membership in a Bible-believing church. (See also "Which Church Should You Join?" by the same preacher.)
In May 1855, an eighteen-year-old boy went to the elders of a church in Boston. He had been raised in a Unitarian church, in almost total ignorance of the gospel, but when he moved to Boston to make his fortune, he began to attend a Bible-preaching church.
Then, in April of 1855, his Sunday school teacher had come into the store where he was working and simply and persuasively shared the gospel and urged the young man to trust in the Lord Jesus. He did, and now he was applying to join the church.
One fact quickly became obvious. This young man was almost totally ignorant of biblical truth. One of the deacons asked him, “Son, what has Christ done for us all – for you – which entitles him to our love?”
His response was, “I don’t know. I think Christ has done a great deal for us, but I don’t think of anything in particular as I know of.”
Hardly an impressive start. Years later his Sunday school teacher said of him: “I can truly say that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday school class. I think the committee of the church seldom met an applicant for membership who seemed more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of gospel truth, still less to fill any space of public or extended usefulness.”
Nothing happened very quickly to change their minds. The elders decided to put him on a year-long instruction program to teach him basic Christian truths. Perhaps they wanted to work on some of his other rough spots as well. Not only was he ignorant of spiritual truths, he was only barely literate, and his spoken grammar was atrocious.
The year-long probation did not help very much. At his second interview, there was only a minimal improvement in the quality of his answers, but since it was obvious that he was a sincere and committed (if ignorant) Christian, they accepted him as a church member.
Over the next years, I am sure that many people looked at that young man and, convinced that God would never use a person like that, they wrote off Dwight L. Moody. But God did not. By God’s infinite grace and persevering love, D. L. Moody was transformed into one of the most effective servants of God in church history, a man whose impact is still with us today.
The next two weeks I would like to address the subject of church membership. I would like to help you understand why church membership is important. D. L. Moody was effective in no small part, I am convinced, because he became a member of a local church and submitted himself to the pastoral care and shepherding oversight of the elders. That is what I would like to discuss this week.
Then, next week, I would like to help you understand which church you should join. I believe there are almost 300,000 churches in the USA today. How should a Christian decide which church to join? That is what we will discuss next week.
My approach to this subject is necessarily topical. Therefore, I will not be expounding a single text. Rather, I shall be looking at several different texts in the Bible.
Let me, however, turn your attention to Acts 2:42-47, where we read about the New Testament church in action. One thing that is noticeable is that church membership is simply assumed in the New Testament. Let’s read Acts 2:42-47:
"They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
I regularly talk to people about church membership.
Sometimes the person has just become a Christian and wants to know what the next step in his spiritual growth should be.
At other times the person has just moved into the area and wants to know about membership in our church.
I always exhort members who have relocated to another area to find a new church to join.
I talk to covenant children about their membership responsibilities.
And I also talk to people for whom church membership does not seem to be a priority.
If you have been converted to Christ, you are responsible to become a communicant member of a true church of Jesus Christ. Church membership is a very serious issue for the Christian who wants to be obedient to Christ.