“The Integrity of the Local Church”

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The great British preacher of the last century, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, once said, “The greatest privilege that a Christian can experience in this life is to be a member of a local evangelical church” [sic]. Do you consider yourself blessed to be a member of Christ’s visible body?

Well, if church attendance statistics mean anything, most professing Christians would beg to differ with the old Doctor. However, they would not disagree with his statement so much as that their lives would emphatically so. In our own region, the year 2000 census revealed that two-thirds of our county’s population of sixty-five Thousand people was church members and only one-third admitted to attending church on a weekly basis. This tells us that most church members keep their commitment barely legible as long as their names are visible on their church’s “active” roll. Further, why also have so many professing Christians grown shamelessly comfortable with their commitment to either faithful sporadic church attendance or faithful church-visiting? I blame, primarily, the leaders of most of our local churches for allowing this phenomenon to exist. Why? Firstly, because they are obviously so concerned that they might offend their members by asking them to keep their membership-commitment to Christ’s church that they reward them with full-membership privileges for their unfaithfulness to our Lord (Ephesians 4:15). Secondly, they have taught their members so deficiently about the meaning of church membership, that most of their members believe that if their church asks them to fulfill their membership vows, they are unloving and legalistic for asking them to be committed (2 Timothy 4:2-5). Thirdly, they have not been good fathers in disciplining their erring children (Galatians 4:19; 1 Thessalonians 2:11; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; Hebrews 12:5-11). Is there a remedy to this mess? Yes! After first repenting, these leaders must then arise and teach their members faithfully that church membership is not a badge to be worn, but a life to be lived. It is a faithful marriage to Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:17; James 4:4). It involves “active” and “joyful” service within this family (Acts 2:41; 1 Thessalonians 1:6, 1 Corinthians 12:11; 1 Peter 4:10), and it comes with a three-fold responsibility: (1) of the members to one another (Romans 12:10, (2) of the leaders to the members (1 Peter 5:1-4), and (3) of the members to the leaders (Hebrews 13:17). May God cause us all to be diligent to preserve this responsible unity (Ephesians 4:3) and to be vigilant to make sure that it is not demeaned and blatantly disregarded (Ecclesiastes 4:12, “a cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart”). Then, and only then, will God bring back meaning to a church’s membership roll. Just listen to the great evangelist, Vance Havner, who said, “I believe in loyalty to the local church. I don’t believe in that view of the invisible church that makes you invisible at church.” Therefore, let us draw near to God, by taking heed to our heart preparation today, for encountering the living God tomorrow morning; in our public Worship, both through the praises and prayers of His people; and through the reading and preaching of His Holy inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word! … Soli Deo Gloria!

 

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