"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
1 Corinthians 12:27
Dynamics of Church Membership
One of things that Hopewell members committed to early on is dealing with our problems in a biblical way. We didn't want gossip or grudges having any corrosive effect on what God would build.
We desired to see a Reformed and family integrated church firmly established for generations to come. So we pledged to always respectfully and lovingly address the person(s) with whom we had a grievance.
Our goal hasn't changed. We still want to honor God, even in the midst of our sins and shortcomings.
Thankfully, over the years, God has given us a blessed bond and happy unity. The peace and purity of the church has been relatively undisturbed throughout our five and a half years together as a congregation. That's no doubt a testimony to God's great grace and the maturity of our families.
It's always good to go back to those basics though, especially in times like this when there really are no problems of which to speak. As we continue to enjoy the sweet fruits of the Spirit's ties, we should remember what makes these ties of fellowship so great.
This is especially true as the church grows. We want all who are part of our congregation to be acquainted with our founding commitment: Christ is to be praised, even if we would have troubles.
This core commitment is even etched into our membership vows. Each person who stands for membership is asked, "Do you promise to submit to the governance of the church and study its purity and peace?"
When we meet with prospective members I like to point out the implications of this vow. There are two parts. On the one hand this promise means that you won't blow off the leadership if they address an unbiblical pattern of life that you have. You're taking an oath to weigh the admonitions and conform to the Scripture's mandate.
But it's a two way street. This vow also means that if you see us as leaders abusing our power or going against the Scripture's clear commands, you'll take proper action. Instead of running off to another church, you'll seek to maintain the peace, purity and unity by confronting us and calling us to repentance.
Sometimes I joke and say, "I'll even give you a form to do it." While there is some jest in this, there's also some truth. In the PCA we have an official document that members can use to file a formal complaint against their leaders when they take an unbiblical course of action.
Perhaps you can say that I like it when members complain. Of course, I am not talking about the kind of complaining that is petty or is blabbed about publicly; the kind that creates dissention and further destroys the peace, purity, and unity of the church.
I am referring to the kind of godly complaining that Scripture mandates. The kind where you take concerns to the right people with the right attitude and for the right goal. It's the kind of complaint that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 18 when he says, "go to your brother and show him his fault; if he listens to you, you've won your brother."
Granted, this kind of complaining takes a great deal of courage, love, and personal preparation. Yet it is one of those essential building blocks which provides the firm foundation needed for a lasting church body.
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