Posted by Tim Harrelson

What is a church? Is it a social club? Is it a state-funded entity? How are we to think about church membership? Is it negotiable? Is it optional? Is it necessary? Is it biblical?

In a previous post on “Seven Ways To Distance Yourself From A Local Church,” I laid down some common ways that people approach the topic of church. I think this is in part due to a misunderstanding of what church truly is.

Jonathan Leeman, in his small, yet powerful book entitled Church Membership, addresses these questions in the first few chapters. You need to go buy this book and read through it immediately. It’s incredibly helpful to point us toward a vision of what a church is and how it is to think about the responsibilities of its members and leaders. This book – in fact, this entire series – is a must read for any church member.

Leeman addresses the questions stated above by laying out a vision of the church in five big ideas:

  1. Just as the Bible establishes the government of your nation as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your citizenship in that nation, so the Bible establishes the local church as your highest authority on earth when it comes to your discipleship to Christ and your citizenship in Christ’s present and promised nation.
  2. When you open your Bible, stop looking for signs of a club with its voluntary members. Look instead for a Lord and his bound-together people. Look also for other forms of unity (brothers and sisters in a family, branches on a vine, etc.)
  3. A local church is a real-life embassy, set in the present, that represents Christ’s future kingdom and his coming universal church.
  4. A church member is a person who has been officially and publicly recognized as a Christian before the nations, as well as someone who shares in the same authority of officially affirming and overseeing other Christians in his or her church.
  5. Christians don’t join churches; they submit to them.

If you want to know more about what he means by these things and how they get teased out in a local congregation, pick up his book today on Amazon or a local Christian bookstore. It is an accessible read, taking only a few hours, and it is packed full of solid biblical truth that any church member or church meanderer can greatly benefit from. You can order your copy or Kindle edition from Amazon by clicking here.