I'm A Member. Now What?
by John MacArthur
Faithful participation in a local body of believers is a vital part of the Christian life. It brings us into fellowship with other believers, submits us to the authority of the Lord through His church, makes us useful to God and His people, and shapes our identity in Christ and our testimony to the outside world.
Of course, church membership is not just a personal matter. Clearly, the issues are corporate as well. The ordinances given to the local church—baptism, communion—lose their significance outside the group setting. As believers pull away from participating in local, corporate worship, they miss out on profound blessings that can be experienced only in that setting.
There are many people today who would call themselves Christians who have never been baptized; many others have little to no interest in celebrating the Lord’s Table. And for the countless professing believers who have adopted the consumer mindset regarding church, it’s likely that neither baptism nor communion will ever be a priority for them.
It’s become such a problem that many churches have deprioritized the biblical ordinances, relegating them to unpopular midweek services or ignoring them altogether. They would rather reject the clear commands of Scripture than risk offending an unbeliever or making anyone uncomfortable with unfamiliar church practices.
That’s tragic. Baptism is perhaps the clearest expression and testimony we have to the life-changing power of Christ. And communion unites the church in celebration of the sacrifice He made on our behalf. They’re not optional rituals—they’re vivid examples to the power and work of the Lord, ordained and instituted by God for the growth, unity, and testimony of His church.
And even in churches where baptism and communion are administered, they’re often directed as expressions of personal faith rather than corporate identity. They don’t celebrate the commonality of the church, as we’re baptized into one body and gathered at the foot of the cross to share in Christ’s sacrifice. They’re erroneously observed as individual acts, with individual significance and individual results.
Just as believers need to fight against the temptation to withdraw from the church, we also need to fight the tendency to isolate ourselves within the congregation. We can’t reject our corporate identity in Christ—we’re united in love, faith, and purpose. Baptism and communion are public expressions of that unity.
Over the next few days, we’re going to examine the ordinances of the church, both what they mean and why they matter.
#1 Posted by
Moses M | Monday, January 28, 2013at
Shalom I was listening to Bible Questions & Answers, Part 60 on juvenile church and membership. I hope John macarthur can get to read this.
I am in baptist church but it very charismatic with a spiritual pastor and pastor with out solid theological training, any training they had will have been watered down.
As John macarthur was saying and I agree, the church I use to go too was very emotionaly driven and very visual stimulating, its not wrong it has its place. But this is the primary focus of attracting people into the church not God's Word.
Its very juvenile! But the way they tackle someone with suffering is they read things on timothy Keller, rob bell, make the sermon funny and very exciting and encouraging. Very water down sermons but its Like a therapy secular conferences. Just go to joel osteen or hillsong church and you know what I mean!
So the people seem to find comfort in that and well when they should be graving adult spiritual churches like GTY, they are not. Cause all these self help theray sprinkle with bible terminology is taking that place and they don't know any better. It works so they accept it cause they find comfort in these uplifting messages. But messages not design to grow them deeply in God's Truth. :(
So really they are just blind sheep not knowing what should be best for them spiritually. :( And their gurus timothy keller a catholic reformer and Rick warren is given them such big inspirtation so they fellow blindly. :(
So the issue is why don't the pastors care about this and why they flock to these water down teachers? Pastor who say they love the Lord? Perhaps no one from Biblical churches are going out their way to be friends with them and try and help them see? Anyone join their home group and became friends with these churches who say they love the Lord? So perhaps they just dont have proper biblical role models and just going on what they know works. And what works is Rick warren, Rob bell, Brian Mclaren, TImothy keller, etc
They seem to be atttracting many mega churches many like to follow them! And why don't many churches follow biblical churches like gty? And the answer is many travel the wide way and love it more then the narrow way. We who love truth will always be a minority hence why America will never be fix until Jesus arrives! We will always be a minority among the majority of churches just like in the New testament. As it was with the inquistion so it will be in the end of times much suffering.
Most charismatic pastors do not understand this or just can't see it cause Rick warren and the prophetic movement is saying that the church will be the one to purify and bring order to the world.
But I do urge to those who can too reach out to their churches who are blind! As Horton said the evangelist needs to be re evangelise!
#2 Posted by
Tom Moore | Monday, January 28, 2013at
Brother John, thanks for the comments and the series on the church. Very timely for our local congregation. You are correct about people that diminish the significance of baptism by immersion and the Lord's Supper. Every conversion in Acts had an immediate response of water baptism. It was not a "scheduled" event, it was instead the reaction of the Ethiopian eunuch who stated "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" I am troubled by those who say they don't need to be baptized. Occasionally, I run into folks who are embarrassed about being baptized in front of the assembly, and would rather do it in private. That is OK, except I try to encourage them that this is something that blesses the whole congregation and introduces them into the family. It also calls out those who have not been baptized.
Regarding the Lord's Supper, we try to do it every Sunday. Too often, however, I find myself focused on my own sin and my own responsibility for putting the Lord on the cross and not on the fellowship and community aspect of it. This series has been very good for me in emphasizing "family" and "sharing" and "community".
Bless you, brother John, and keep challenging us.
#3 Posted by
Jonathan Albert | Monday, January 28, 2013at
Two weeks ago I went to an "Evangelical Lutheran" church on my haphazard and half-hearted search for a church home. I put those words in quotations because in actuality the "preacher" professed the forgiveness of the sins of the congregation after a garbled hymn, and then proceeded to deny the Holy Spirit's work of conviction of sin by saying, in effect, that Jesus only wants to make us happy.
Needless to say, I was outraged, and I only lasted thirty minutes there before walking out the door. Yesterday, I attempted to sleep in after that failed attempt, thinking I would get some extra rest.
Be not deceived: God is not mocked. He requited me well for my slothfulness, and I realize that, being a new believer, I absolutely must find a church home in which I can be baptized.
However (and I realize there are no if's, and's, or but's about it), I am discouraged to see that there is a sparse amount of biblical teaching in my area. The closest TMS graduate is at least two hours or so away from me, and all the local congregations are some form of Catholicism or quasi-expository, questionable places. Granted, I haven't done responsible research, and I have only partially listened to some sermons online of local congregations to check their doctrine.
One close to me seems to be stressing the "relationship" with Christ rather than submission to the Lord of the Celestial Country, to use the expression. Also, he speaks almost constantly about discipleship, including in his teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. Are these red flags, or am I being superstitious?
Another assembly that seemed promising was a so-called Berean fellowship, which after further investigation seems to be partially Pentecostal. In their doctrinal statement, they affirm the standard aspects of the Bible and its inerrancy, along with the deity of Christ, however, they stress the necessity of a new convert speaking in tongues whenever they are baptized, and they also believe in the constant continuance of miracle working passed down by the apostles. Moreover, some photos they have online show many things that appeal to the flesh; it seems to gaudy to be sincere. Am I exercising good judgement in avoiding this place, or am I simply creating causes in my own mind to avoid church membership?
I'll be frank: if Paul is the chief of sinners, and Vernon McGee is second chief, then I'd have to claim third chief. I love the Lord, but I am a failure. I want to obey Him, and I hate my self and my sin, but I am so prone to wander. I hope in His Word, that He is the author and perfecter of my faith, but I grow so slowly!
Unto God belongs council and wisdom, but unto me, confusion of face. All I have left to say is this:
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen
1 Timothy 1:17
#4 Posted by
Rudi Jensen | Tuesday, January 29, 2013at
Home Sweet Home - That is what I was thinking when I arrived here and read this topic and the previous ones.
In my country, the Church (mostly Liberal Lutherans) is by no means, in a Biblical sense, a Christian Church.
Here the public debate is with questions as: Is it a necessity for a priest to be a believer?
And the Gospel preached, (if not entirely replaced with the preachers own philosophy) is another Gospel, not according to the Gospel given to the Apostle Paul, where homosexuality now is given same rights as ordinary marriage.
We are a few fighting for the truth, but who am I? Just a little lonely light in a sea of darkness, without a home – in this world.
#5 Posted by
Jennifer Mc Farland | Sunday, February 03, 2013at
This may sound funny, but I'm afraid to participate in the Lord's Supper/Communion for a couple of reasons. The first and foremost reason is because it is such a serious thing and the consequences of not being prepared properly is just too heavy of a thing for me to carry. The second reason which might sound weird to others is, well, isn't it a little unsanitary for 400 people to be dipping their hands in and touching all the little breads in the plate? I've watched how people take the breads - they are touching all of them! For real, there MUST be a better way to do this now. I don't have the solution but really, there must be a better way.
#6 Posted by
Cameron Buettel | Monday, February 11, 2013at
Hi Jennifer, it is encouraging that you have such reverence for the Lord's Table. It is true that many today take Paul's warnings (1 Corinthians 11:27-32) far too lightly or ignore them altogether. While we certainly do not want to eat or drink judgment upon ourselves by approaching communion in an irreverent manner, we also need to beware of the other extreme. It is something my football coach called paralysis by analysis. It is the danger of analyzing our lives to such a deep level of unworthiness that we become passive bystanders in the Body of Christ with an obscured view of why we needed Christ in the first place. If Jesus demanded sinless worthiness at communion, then He would have taken communion on our behalf as well.
Jennifer, your intention to obey Paul's warning in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 is causing you to disobey Christ's command just two verses earlier to "Do this... in remembrance of me". If there is sin that you are aware of, repent of it and eat and drink with a heart of thankfulness for the imputed righteousness given by Christ and counting towards your own justification.
I would apply the same principle to your sanitary concerns.