- Series: 9Marks: Building Healthy Churches (Book 2)
- Hardcover: 144 pages
- Publisher: Crossway; 1 edition (April 30, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1433532379
- ISBN-13: 978-1433532375
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 7.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 57 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches) Hardcover – April 30, 2012
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“Church leaders across many denominations will find this little book filled with practical ideas and good arguments that will help us cure Christians in our culture today of their allergy to church membership, pastoral authority, life accountability, and any limits to their personal freedom.”
—Timothy J. Keller, Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City; best-selling author, The Reason for God
“Brief, fresh, entertaining, and, above all, biblical. This is the explanation and defense of church membership you’ve been looking for.”
—Mark Dever, Senior Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; President, 9Marks
“Practical. Convicting. Biblically faithful. Leeman reminds us that church membership is not a choice but a demand. The book is punchy and provocative, but at the same time it is permeated with the gospel of grace.”
—Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
About the Author
Jonathan Leeman (PhD, University of Wales) is the editorial director for 9Marks. He has written for a number of publications and is the author or editor of several books. He is also an occasional lecturer at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and adjunct professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jonathan lives with his wife and four daughters in a suburb of Washington, DC.
Michael Horton (PhD, University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary in California. In addition to being the author of many popular and academic books, he is also the editor in chief of Modern Reformation magazine, a host of the White Horse Inn radio broadcast, and a minister in the United Reformed Churches.
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I think some difficulty could arise for someone who holds to a theological position that doesn't match that of any local congregations, and if those congregations require doctrinal agreement for membership, as could be the case in rural areas. A conversation should therefore be had between the prospective member and the leaders of the local church of his/her choice, to see if they could permit membership despite their differences. If that fails, the person may have to sacrifice a little extra time on the road, or potentially relocate, to become a member of a suitable congregation.
Leeman begins by arguing that the church is the highest kingdom authority on earth: "The local church is the authority on earth that Jesus has instituted to officially affirm and give shape to my Christian life and yours." So when God's people gather together, they do so under the kingly authority of Jesus.
Additionally, the author maintains that the church is an embassy : "A local church is a real-life embassy, set in the present that represents Christ's future kingdom and his coming universal church." Leeman continues, "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."
And the author presents a principle that really emerges as the theme of the book, namely - "Christians don't join churches; they submit to them." This theme is developed later in the book as Leeman carefully develops the rationale for biblical submission.
Church Membership is a welcome addition to the 9Marks Series. The arguments are clear and biblical. The importance of church membership is emphasized in gracious tones that will captivate readers and spur them to action.
I want to give some testimony here to an effective tool our church has begun to use. We recently formalized membership at our church, a move that I am emphatically for as a pastor. This book pinpointed a lot of reasons to support this move which I was already seeing intuitively. Here are some of the items this movement is helping us grapple with as a congregation:
- How do we enforce church discipline when the need arises?
- Can we have any impact on the hypocrisy of people in our midst who profess Jesus with their mouth but their hearts are undeniably far from him?
- How do we be clear about the expectations of what it means to be a part of our church, and thereby draw people into defined discipleship?
- How is it that someone could disavow our most central values (like belief in Jesus as the Savior and son of God) but be a "member" of our church simply by attending it?
There are a variety of Scriptures that point to the need for a church to have an answer to these issues and as this book points out, church membership, while in and of itself is not a biblical mandate, is a functional construct by which we are able to carry out many biblical mandates that need some kind of "cutting board" to hold our issues against and deal with them. Membership has traditionally been an abused tradition, and churches have absolutely committed the crime of bludgeoning people with "belonging" as a measure to stroke their own egos as church leaders. Just don't judge a philosophy by its abusers.
And, don't judge the book by it's cover (if that's what is turning you off.) Perhaps not everyone needs to read this, but if your church has need to consider formalizing membership, this will be a helpful tool for you. And if you're frustrated that churches formalize membership, I think actually reading this might give some insight to the values we're trying to pursue by setting a clear path in front of our congregations as to what it looks like to follow Jesus here.
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