“The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother.” - Cyprian, "Treatise on the Unity of the Church
When I first began to pastor, I was in many ways an idealist when it came to people and the church. I naively believed that a church could be built naturally with the right people that would love each other, support each other, participate and grow in discipleship, and they would build that church through fierce loyalty to each other and toward God Himself. I thought such a journey would be very organic and natural, and I shunned the bureaucracy that I grew up under, including that of church membership. I thought of such as unnecessary and frankly, I believed that the premise had little or no biblical support. I believed rather it was a manmade device invented for control and status.
So when I began to broach this subject of "Covenant Membership" I had to seriously seek the Lord and scripture, and I did so rather skeptically. Over time however, I had to come to the conclusion that church membership was not simply a throwback to dogma and denominationalism, but rather a testimony of both a church body as well as the individuals within it that make it up. In truth, it is also a often necessary dynamic, especially when a church reaches a certain size and a certain missional reach insomuch that there needs to be the ability to plan and organize if we truly want to viable in the kingdom battle and not waste time and resources.
So in brief today, why are we pursuing the practice of Covenant Membership?
have been in any of the three classes that take place every week at JFB, you no doubt over the last year have received
a far more in depth discussion on this issue, but for our purposes today, I
will attempt to be succinct and brief. Firstly, I must say that Jesus loves the
church. Not just this church, but the
church as a whole...the church as a premise, a practice, a vehicle from which
to launch the battle and a home for which to nurture the troops. Paul strongly
teaches that living out the faithful Christian life is virtually impossible
outside of a local church.
But the church today is undeniably in crisis. From the outside and from within. The onslaught from the outside is to be expected and warrants little comment as we all know it comes today, has come for hundreds of years and will only increase until the coming again of the Messiah. But the cancer from within has caught the loving local church by surprise because many that call themselves Christian today...even "faithful evangelical," appear through many colors and stripes. The title has lost its punch, its credibility, it’s criteria and now even it’s very meaning.
Thus, it is even more critical today to ask questions, seeking clarity, and calling for transparency and testimony...both verbal and physical, of the nature of one's beliefs and level of commitment. Jesus spoke of "building His church" in Matthew 16:18, and spoke of the churches power and duty of church discipline (Mathew 18:17)over those who call themselves Christian and righteously and correctly seek to be participate in a corporate local body of believers. Paul speaks in great length on the issue of the church: what it should be, how it should act, what it should do, and how it is to operate.
So many folks, whether they have sat down and concretely considered the matter, still see the church as here to give to them. To ‘do for them’, to ‘accommodate them’. But the church is clearly and scripturally not that at all, but a place for individual gifts to come together in unity to be a “body” in which to greater serve both the lost world and each other.
Thus at its core…at its simplest dynamic, the question comes down to this: can we count on you? It’s not a difficult question. Even Jesus asked it. When things got hard after a lengthy period of ministry together , and the message became difficult to swallow, John 6:66 says that “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.”