“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
(1 Cor. 12:27)
I recently started reading Mark Dever’s, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible. I am particularly interested in how we can encourage and continue to develop in our congregation a Christ-centered, loving community that loves to worship and serve together. I found Dever’s chapter on The Membership of the Church informative, and thought I’d share some of the highlights with you.*
Each year, our session asks the members of the congregation to prayerfully evaluate their standing in the Church, and to consider how they can be “better members of the body.” Usually, though, there is very little explanation as to what a “better member” would look like. Dever identifies three specific areas of responsibility of the member: 1) Responsibility as an Individual Christian, 2) Responsibility toward the Congregation, and 3) Responsibility toward the Pastor. I share these with you for your consideration.
Responsibility as an Individual Christian:
Church members are to be baptized and regularly to attend the Lord’s Supper. They are to hear God’s Word and obey it. They are regularly to fellowship together for mutual edification. They are to love God, one another, and those outside their fellowship; and they are to evidence the fruit of the Spirit. They are to worship God in all the activities of their home, work, community, and life.
Responsibility toward the Congregation:
As followers of Jesus Christ, Christians are obliged to love one another. Christians are members of one family, even of one another. Absent a life of love for one another, what other duty of Church members is satisfying or worthwhile.
Church members are obliged to seek peace and unity within their congregation. Given the sin which remains in believers in this life, however, unity often requires effort.
Love is expressed and unity is cultivated when Church members actively sympathize with one another. Other duties follow: to care for one another physically and spiritually; to watch over one another and hold one another accountable; to work to edify one another; to bear with one another, including not suing one another; to pray for one another; to keep away from those who would destroy the church; to reject evaluating one another by worldly standards; to contend together for the gospel; and to be examples to one another.
Responsibilities towards the Pastor:
If Christians expect their pastor to fulfill his biblical responsibilities, church members must make themselves known to him. They must regard him as a gift from Christ sent to the church for their good. The ministry of the Word is a steward of God’s household and an under-shepherd of God’s flock. His reputation can and should be defended, his word believed, and his instructions obeyed unless Scripture is contradicted or facts are plainly distorted. The faithful minister should be so regarded simply because he brings God’s Word to his people; he does not replace it with his own.
Church members should give themselves both to praying for their ministers and to assisting them in every way they can.
In every church I’ve encountered, there are aspects of these responsibilities that the Church and her members do well. There are also areas where every church can grow in grace and love. I encourage you today to ask yourself, “How am I doing as a member of my congregation?” and pray for God’s grace as you grow, in and with your church, in the likeness of Christ.