Marks of a Faithful Church Member
He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:10–16)
For an annual fee, you can be a member of your community recreational centre, where you have access to its exercise equipment and swimming pool. If you choose never to visit the building, it’s no problem. You can sit at home and eat ice cream all day and never get your membership revoked. So long as you pay your dues, you are a member.
Similarly, you can be a member of a book club or a music club that offers great deals on books or CDs. Club mailings say you are under no obligation to buy anything; you can return a book or CD at any time and cancel your membership.
In such a cultural setting, it is not surprising that membership in a local church has also become non-demanding. One congregation discovered that, on average, only 70 of its 233 members attended church worship.1 The church leadership is partly responsible for this easy membership by not upholding biblical standards and discipline. So are people’s views of the church. Some people treat the church like a museum that preserves memories and artifacts from the past, to be revisited from time to time. Others go to church as if it were a shopping mall, where you can find programmes and services that meet the needs of you or your family.
Perhaps in reaction to this shopping-mall image, some people have redefined the church as a community outreach programme. Some groups occasionally cancel Sunday worship services to rake leaves, wash cars, distribute food to needy people, or have a picnic in a nearby park. Worshipping God on the Lord’s Day is replaced by social service programmes, missionary outreach, or recreation and entertainment.
To correct a faulty view of the church, we must go back to the biblical concept of the church. The Bible tells us the church is the body of Christ. A Christian, then, is a living part of a larger body of people. That is the essence of Ephesians 4:10–16, which says the church is a living organism. It is a spiritual and relational body; each Christian is a member much as a hand or foot is a body part. Christ is the head of this body. He and all his members are bound together by the Holy Spirit and the bond of true faith. That is amazing because Christ is the Son of God, and we are fallen human beings. It is also amazing because Christians in the church are so different from each other; they are Jews and Gentiles, men and women of all countries and ethnicities, old and young, rich and poor. These diverse people are nonetheless bound together all over the world as a living organism of which Christ is the head.
This truth has profound implications for what it means to be a member of the church of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4:10–16 that his person, his people, his cause, and his image. We will examine what it means to be a faithful member of the body of Christ in each of these areas in the (1) personal, (2) public, and (3) practical dimensions of our lives. Thus, we will take a look at fifteen characteristics of a faithful church member.