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Is Church Membership Biblical?
This week on the Straight Truth Podcast, the subject discussed by Dr. Richard Caldwell and host Dr. Josh Philpot regards church membership. Searching for the words church membership in the New Testament of the Bible will not yield an answer, much like searching for the word Trinity. So though the New Testament does not explicitly use the words: church membership, the concept is very much implied. For evidence of church government and leadership, there is more than just the concept. There are specific texts that speak of these things. Dr. Caldwell believes that there is much evidence for both church membership and church government. He will take us to the New Testament Scriptures to present some of this evidence.
Dr. Caldwell tells us that the processes for joining a church in the days of the New Testament may not exactly match what we do today in terms of becoming a member of a local church. Conceptually, however, you do find all the same things you find in church membership today. He shares some examples from 1 Corinthians 16, the letter written to the Philippian church, and one from 3rd John. These congregations, and others like them that received these letters, were made up of individual believers.
Carry Out Ministry
These examples speak of church congregations that gather, that are known to themselves, and known to others; they can be identified. These congregations have individual people identified who are trustworthy to carry out ministry. They have those identified in leadership who are called elders/overseers and deacons. There is also a church membership identifiable enough to be able to identify those who are put out of the fellowship or congregation. Dr. Caldwell reminds us as well of Matthew 18, which speaks of the process of church discipline. He tells us that the church would not be able to carry out discipline if the members are not identifiable. If you don’t know who is in and who is out, how would discipline be done?
So the concepts that belong to the membership processes that we practice today are all found in the New Testament. Yet how each local church goes about the membership process will be slightly different. For example, how someone becomes a member of Founders Baptist Church where Dr. Caldwell serves will not be identical to becoming a member of a Presbyterian church, or even of another Baptist church for that matter. To better help us understand this, Dr. Caldwell gives a brief explanation of what church membership looks like for anyone who expresses interest in joining the congregation at Founders.
Dr. Caldwell shares that someone does not have to be a member of Founders Baptist Church to participate in communion (the Lord’s Supper) with them. He tells us that Founders practices an open communion (the Lord’s Supper). Open communion is available to those who have professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, have been scripturally baptized, and are not out of fellowship with their local congregation. These individuals are invited to participate in communion with our congregation. So at Founders, you do not have to be a member to participate, but you do need to be a Christian to do so.
Individuals professing Christ as Savior and Lord ought to be able to identify with a particular body of believers and be identified by that body. Followers of Christ should be in a church where they are submitted to biblical church leadership, accountable to that local body of believers where church discipline can be, and is, practiced for our good and for God’s glory. Not walking according to these standards is living contrary to the pattern and teaching of the New Testament.
About The Straight Truth Podcast
The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net
The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo. The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.
The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
answering any and all questions.
The Straight Truth Podcast is the perfect podcast for those seeking to strengthen their faith, to be informed on how to broach difficult topics with a Christian point of view, to share their faith with unbelieving friends, to challenge the status quo of their own beliefs by viewing them under the lens of the Scriptures, to interpret current news events from a Biblical point of view, and more.
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