Church - God's Wonderful Idea
Tan Yee Kiat provides a biblical perspective of what it means to be a member of a local church, and the significance of this in building up the body of Christ.
If I am already saved, then why do I need to go to church? What is the point of belonging to one? Is it not possible to believe in the gospel yet not attend a church? Wait, did Jesus Himself attend a church?
To really understand what God desires to say about the church, we need to pay careful attention to what the New Testament (NT) says in its totality and not ‘pick and choose’ our favourite texts.
Church – Shepherded By Elders
There are in fact a lot of terms used to describe the church in the NT. Apart from a gathering (ekklesia – a word that means assembly), it is also called a flock (Acts 20:28), a household (1 Tim 3:15), the body of Christ (Col 1:18), the new holy temple (Eph 2:21-22), and so on. The richness of each description probably deserves a reflection in its own right.
God has specific instructions of how the church should be run. After Paul laid out the qualifications for elders and deacons to Timothy, he also wrote, “I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth (1 Tim 3:14-15).”
A similar instruction was written to Titus: “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you… (Titus 1:5)” Luke also noted Paul’s parting words to the Ephesian elders: “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood (Acts 20:28).”
Hence, we come to membership. It is true that the word 'membership' is difficult to find in the Bible, but it is a way for the overseers of Christ to identify and know His flock. The members are people of the particular gathering of Christ in any church – for this article, the people at GBC.
To be a member then is no different from stating a willingness to be shepherded by overseers. God designed His church to be shepherded by overseers called elders, whose main role is to impart truth and live out truth as an example to members, so that they may be transformed into Christlikeness. Furthermore, Hebrews 13:17 lays down the weightiness of this task: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
Church – Built Up By Saints
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… " (Eph 4:11)
Did Jesus say in Matthew 16 that He will build the church? But how? Remarkably Ephesians 4:11 tells us the saints are equipped for the work of ministry to build up the body. That is how Jesus intends to use people like you and me for this work. And that is why it is so important for us to belong. We participate in the work Christ has left us on earth to do. The shepherds (and many others) are given to equip the saints to do Christ’s work.
Given all that the NT has to say about church, will we still treat this special gathering that we have been called to so casually?
We have been called out to gather and belong. Some of us struggle with gathering and attending. Some of us perhaps struggle with giving up our time to participate. Some of us struggle with subjecting ourselves to another. Therefore, let us ask God for help in this matter.