Is placing membership with a congregation Biblical. Is it necessary? Please explain.
Certainly the words “placing membership” are not found in any translation of the New Testament, yet there is an implication that, in some way, we should allow the elders of a local church the means of identifying the members over which they have authority and for which they must be responsible. Consider I Peter 5:2:
Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind…
This passage, addressed to elders requires their knowledge of which sheep are in the flock, since they are to take oversight of those sheep. Some system is needed whereby they may identify those in their charge. Can you imagine shepherds doing guesswork about which sheep are theirs? That’s a very biblical and relevant analogy when considering the practice of placing membership. Some system of identification is required.
Consider Hebrew 13:17:
Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
This is a very grave responsibility exacted of elders. Put yourself in their shoes and just imagine how daunting it would be to know that you had to give an account before God for the state of eternal souls, but you had no clear way to identify which souls those were! Some system of identification is required.
Finally Consider the biblical injunction of withdrawal of fellowship from I Corinthians 5 and II Thessalonians 3 (some of the most direct and authoritative commands of the entire New Testament). There would be absolutely no way to consistently carry out these commands if local elders could not know, for a surety, who it is that they are required to try to win back by a diligent effort in leading congregational discipline. (I am married to an elder and, believe me, it’s hard enough to get that right even when you have a system in place of knowing who the members are!) This system is for the benefit of both the church, in maintaining purity, and of the lost individual in a difficult process of doing all possible to restore him to faithfulness. But it would be thwarted if there were no system of identifying the members of a local church. In fact, there is ultimately no authority at all if there are no identifiable subjects, sheep, or members. It would be similar to a government attempting to enforce laws when there is no registry of citizenship. While the analogy is not a perfect one, since God, for sure, knows who is in the book of life, it is quite similar in the chaos of the outcome. There simply must be a system of identification.
Have you ever considered what kinds of decisions are in the purview of elderships? It’s certainly not those matters of faith–explicitly stated or implied injunctions. The matters that elders are to decide are those of judgement. Since some system of identification is absolutely essential for elders and churches to carry out the expressed will of God, then should not elders decide exactly how to identify members of the local body? Is that not a matter of judgement? Of course, they are right in doing so. Whether people walk down an aisle and fill out a card, ask an elder if they might speak with the eldership, or write a letter with a statement of intent, people must place themselves under the authority of elders, when an eldership exists, in order to be pleasing to God. Thus elders are most efficient when they choose some system by which this is accomplished. It is imperative to our submission and to the elders’ shepherding of the flock.
We should pray for godly leaders and we should welcome the opportunity to be led by righteous men who are willing to take responsibility for giving account for our souls. What a blessing faithful elders have been in my life! Many women reading would love to be able to place their souls under the watchful eyes of faithful men of God! –cc
Next, I want to publicly express sympathy to the good family of Tate Williams, our young and faithful brother who lost his life as a result of an automobile accident last week. I cannot fathom the pain of his mother and dad as they try to go on with life in these dark days. His younger brother, Thad, will also benefit from encouragement and prayers. Many of you may know them from PTP or Horizons or other Christian gatherings. Tate was a fine young preacher of the Word. Will you join me in prayer for them? Cards may be sent to: Gary, Jamie, and Thad Williams, 3186 Carrollton HWY, Temple, GA 30179
Cards may also be sent to Jodie Belknap, the young lady who was driving the car that veered into the lane of Tate’s vehicle. She is not a member of the church of Christ and it’s an opportunity to reach into her heart at a time when it may be most needed and welcomed. Sam Pace, the driver of Tate’s vehicle, along with other friends have requested that we reach out to her. Her address is: Jodie Belknap, 15089 FM 729, Avinger, TX. 75630-8459
And…The Digging Deep podcast is tonight! at 7 pm. CST. It’s been a great month for learning about God’s amazing separation of Israel and Egypt. Tons of nuggets have been found by so many of you and I am truly honored to get to talk about this dig with you. Please join us. Be brave and call in! Most of all, please pray for the discussion that it will reach many, that it will do nothing but good, and that it will do the maximum amount of good. May we all hide behind the cross!