A few fellow pastors and I recently visited a new church plant in Reykjavik, Iceland to encourage the saints and provide, among other things, some helpful resources and training. We offered a short course on the marks of a healthy church, largely influenced by and adopted from the ministry of 9Marks (you may recognize certain phrases and arguments below. I credit this ministry for the bulk my own articulation of these ideas). While there, I presented a brief case for church membership and church discipline, both of which I believe to be practices of a healthy church. I wanted to share my notes with you as a sort of primer to these topics in hopes that it might serve as a brief apologetic for church membership and discipline as you serve in your local church. I’ll divide the teaching into two parts, one on church membership, and one on church discipline, the latter also including several ways Christians can practice radical allegiance and Christian discipleship in the context of the local church. I hope you find it informative and helpful.
In an age where the consumer mindset is often catered to, even (or especially) in the church, the idea of commitment can be a very scary thing. But this need not be the case. In fact, what I hope for us to understand is that the practice of meaningful church membership is a necessary and essential aspect of a healthy church. Church membership, including discipline, helps the church be what it is meant to be and function the way it is meant to function. Briefly consider what is at stake:
- A healthy and consistent communication of the gospel
- Overall church health, unity, and effectiveness
- The care and nourishment of your own soul
- Obedience to God and the fulfillment of his design