Thursday, May 24, 2012

Christians don't join churches

In his superb little book on church membership simply called Church Membership, Jonathan Leeman shares five 'big ideas' that correspond with his vision of church membership. The fifth big idea is stated this way: "Christian don't join churches; they submit to them." (30) I think most in our society would give a hearty amen to the first half of that sentence. But the awkward silence would come with the second clause. The word submission does not have a lot of traction these days. Nevertheless, submission is an integral concept in the life of the believer on many different fronts. We are to submit to our spouse, to other believers, to governments, to leaders in the church, to the church itself, and ultimately to God. Leeman understands this and unhesitatingly writes,

If Jesus instituted the local church with authority over us, we don't join one like we join clubs or voluntary associations; we submit to them as we do governments ... From the non-Christians viewpoint, a local church is a voluntary association. No one has to join. From the standpoint of the Christian life, however, it's not. Once you choose Christ, you must choose his people, too. It's a package deal. Choose the Father and the Son and you have to choose the whole family-which you do through a local church. (31)

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