Note: In short, read the book Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney for a popular yet fuller treatment of Humility.
This is a short treatment of why I believe church membership is a biblical practice. Yes, Scripture does not explicitly command membership. However, implications of the five reasons addressed leave no other conclusion but church membership. This is a rough draft and certainly not complete in thought, but the intent and conclusion should be evident. The overarching question to consider while reading is, “Am I truly living humbly before God as He desires me to live? Am I humiliating myself as Christ humiliated Himself even to the extent of becoming a member of humanity and ultimately dying for all who believe in Him- even the death on the cross?”
My simple aim is to demonstrate the biblical necessity for church membership. The details regarding church membership are beyond the scope of this tiny series. Once we have established the biblical necessity for church membership, we must then deal with the details- which is something I do not want to take the time to go through at this time.
Let me say right out, there is no perfect church. There can’t be. Every local body of believers is FILLED only with fallen people- in need of a Savior, in need of fellowship and breaking of bread and the constant reminder we are not Lone Ranger Christians. We are a BODY of believers – not a group of individuals. Like the eye can not take the place of the rest of the body, neither can we being a part of the body substitute the whole.
Like you, I once (and still do at times) resent the idea of church membership. However, I began to realize, this hard grace of God is necessary for our edification and sanctification.
With this said, please read this in the spirit in which it is intended- to share the necessity of this grace in which we live.
“Contrary to popular and false belief, it’s not ‘those who help themselves’ whom God helps; it’s those who humble themselves.” ~ C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 21.
“It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.” ~ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 38 via C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 21.
“Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” ~ C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 22.
“If you were to speak to any of my friends, they would confirm how I continually surprise them with fresh discoveries of my inadequacies. I even provide them a certain degree of entertainment, especially when it comes to the hands-on and the mechanical.
One day my daughter informed me that our car was making a strange noise, so I went out to investigate. She tired to prepare me, but in no way did I anticipate the violent shrieking that assaulted my ears upon starting the car. I immediately turned off the engine.
In such a moment, wisdom demands one course of action only: Get out of the car, walk back into the house, and call a trustworthy auto-repair service.
That would have been the appropriate and prudent response. Instead, I followed the arrogant male instinct, which requires at bare minimum that the male lift the hood and stare intently at the engine. After all, neighbors might be watching, and we want to at least give the appearance that we have some mechanical knowledge.” C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 25-26.
So often “church” is giving the appearance that we have some spiritual knowledge and awakening, yet we often do not want to humbly place ourselves under the Leadership and Lordship of Christ over our lives in and through the church as members.
“At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” ~ John Stott, “Pride, Humility & God,” Sovereign Grace Online, September/October 2000, http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/sgo/v18no5/prt_pride.html (accessed August 3, 2005) via C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 29.
If we have not placed ourselves in covenantal membership in a local assembly, can we say we are truly living humbly before God?
“As I sat with my family at a local breakfast establishment, I noticed a finely dressed man at an adjacent table. His Armani suit and stiffly pressed shirt coordinated perfectly with a power tie. His wing-tip shoes sparkled from a recent shine, every hair was in place, including his perfectly groomed moustache.
The man sat alone eating a bagel as he prrepared for a meeting. As he reviewed the papers before him, he appeared nervous, glancing frequently at his Rolex watch. It was obvious he had an important meeting ahead.
The man stood up and I watched as he straightened his tie and prepared to leave.
Immediately I noticed a blob of cream cheese attached to his finely groomed moustache. He was about to go into the world, dressed in his finest, with cream cheese on his face.
I thought of the business meeting he was about to attend. Who would tell him? Should I? What if no one did?” ~ Attributed to Pastor James R. Needham in a 2004 illustration from www.preachingtoday.com via C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 123-124.
My Own Cream Cheese Moment
“Let me tell you about a cream cheese moment in my life, one of many such experiences that have helped convince me that no sin is more deceptive than pride.
I’m in an accountability group with men who care for and watch over my soul. In a meeting with these brothers, I was telling them of a specific pattern of sin I had noticed in my life in the past week. I’d become aware of this sin and been convicted about it, and I’d confessed it to God and received His forgiveness. Now I wanted to inform these men about it as well–then move on, because there was another particular issue I was more concerned about and wanted to discuss with them.
But as I described in detail my sin from the previous week, my friends started to ask caring and insightful questions about the root issue behind the sin. I assured them the root issue was obvious: It was pride. I even transitioned into a brief teaching on pride, then let the guys know I wanted to move o n to something else I thought was more important and more serious. I’m sure there was mild irritation in my voice.
But the men had more questions. They had observations. And they began to challenge me to look deeper at the pattern of sin I had shown in the previous week.
Again I felt irritation. I assumed I understood that particular sin completely. Why were we spending so much time on something I’d already figured out?
In essence, there was cream cheese all over my face, and I didn’t know it. My underlying sin had decieved me. I was blind. I didn’t see it and couldn’t see it. But they saw it clearly.
In my pride, I thought no one understood my heart as well as I did. But Scripture doesn’t support such a conclusion. Actually, God’s Word tells me, ‘No, C. J., sin is subtle, sin is deceitful, and sin blinds you. And you need feedback from others in order to understand your heart.’
By God’s grace, because the men seated around me in that room are true friends who care for me and aren’t afraid of me, they persevered. Though I was arrogant–not only in assuming I fully understood my sin and its root issue, but also in my relunctance to explore it more deeply–those men persevered in kindness. And only by their kindness and perseverence, and only by God’s grace, did I finally begin to perceive how much my sin had indeed deceived me. I saw that my confidence about fully knowing my soul in this situation, and in assuming I needed no one else’s eyes upon it, was actuallyy the hieight of arrogance.
They were guarding my heart and helping me to see the true extent of my sin. I thought I’d already wiped the cream cheese from my face and it was gone, but they were faithfully telling me, ‘It’s not gone; we’re staring at it! And were telling you this because we love you.'” ~ C. J. Mahaney, Humility: True Greatness (Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2005), 125-127.
Again, are we truly humiliating ourselves to such a degree that we truly demonstrate the humility of Christ to others?