What is a Church NOT?

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Church Membership at Faith
Topical – Matthew 16:16-18
1/8/23
Faith Baptist Church Sunday
I learned a word this week – IMPERIUM – it means absolute authority or power
In the old days, a king would have imperium – he could do as he pleased, and no one could argue – he had complete power
Today, the nation (the state) has imperium
There is no high law in the land than that of the federal government
This is by God’s design
Paul writes in Romans 13, “let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that have been instituted by God… for he is God’s servant for your good
If someone wants to start a soccer club, labor union, or business, you will need permission from the state – the state has imperium over the nation
If a church desire non-profit status, they go to the state for approval – But is that what Makes a church?
Does the church exist by permission of the state or someone else?
Looking at Matthew 16
In Matthew 16:16, Peter makes the confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus replies, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
The catholic church has taken Jesus’ words “on this rock I will build my church” as Peter – Peter is the rock on which Jesus will build the church – Peter is the first Pope – the Pope is the head of the church – DISAGREE
Rather, “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” is the rock on which the church is built – it’s not the person, it’s the proclamation
The church is unlike anything else in the world
In Ephesians, we remember that Paul wrote in chapter 3, “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.”
In chapter 2, as we read earlier, he wrote, “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
Today begins a 6-week journey through church membership
It will be our focus for both Sundays and Wednesdays
Sundays – major topics surrounding church membership (Discipleship, Gifts, Ordinances, Giving, and Discipline)
Wednesdays – we dive into What is a Healthy Church Member?
Instruction and discussion on the kind of member YOU are called to be
As we begin this journey, I want to think through two questions today. The first – what is a church NOT?

What is a Church NOT?

It is not…
a club it’s not a voluntary organization where membership is optional for you
When I sign up to play soccer for Claremore Soccer Club, I agree to abide by their rules and regulations – I pay my dues and receive the benefits
But if I’m sick or busy, I can let my team know I won’t be there and miss – NO BIG DEAL
a friendly group of people who share an interest in religious things
the church is undoubtedly a place where you find and make friends, but it is more than that
if church is only “friends,” you are missing the point of church
a service provider where the customer has authority (irony of calling the gathering a church “Service”)
it functions more as a service provide – like a mechanic who services your soul or a gas station that fills up your spiritual tank
Most people in our culture lump churches into one of these categories (a soccer club or charity organizations) – a voluntary association
But are local churches supposed to be clubs or service providers?
According to Matthew 16, the church finds its identity, purpose and authority in a higher power than the state – it finds it in Christ Jesus
If we view the church incorrectly, the church will operate incorrectly
What are the symptoms of a wrong view and eparation of the church?
Christians can think its fine to attend a church indefinitely without joining
Christians assume they can make a perpetual habit of being absent from the church’s gathering a few Sundays a month or more
Christians make major life decisions (moving, accepting a promotion, choosing a spouse) without considering the effects of those decisions on the family of relationships in the church or without consulting the wisdom of the church’s pastors and members
Christians by homes or rent apartments with scant regard for how factors such as distance and cost will affect their abilities to serve the church
Christians don’t realize they are partly responsible for the spiritual welfare and physical livelihood of the members, even members they have not met. When one mourns, one mourns by himself, When one rejoices, one rejoices by herself.
These are all symptoms of the disease that is the wrong view of church membership
So, what is the correct view of a church?
To answer this question, we need to understand the local church
The universal church (the bride of Christ) of which all believers belong
The local church – the small gatherings of that larger Church

What is the church?

As we begin, understand this – there is not church without members; the church’s members are the church.
There is a danger in Western societies to misunderstand the church and how you are connected – we often belittle the church; we misshape the church
We think about the church and its membership as one thing, but its really another.
It’s like we’ve been looking at our families (dad, mom, brother, and sister) and calling them businesses.
Again, The church isn’t a club, charity, organization, or service provider
To answer our question, “what is the church?” let us consider our text from last week, 2 Corinthians 5, we are all ambassadors for Christ – our church functions as an embassy
An embassy represents one nation inside another – it declares the home nation’s interests to the host nation
Upon conversion and regeneration, Christ makes you an ambassador, and you are now commanded to find an embassy (a local church)
The church doesn’t make you an ambassador, but they affirm who you are
All of these ambassadors for Christ are commanded to work together to be the flock, body, household, building, and family of Christ
But one sheep doesn’t make a flock
One limb part doesn’t make a body
One brick doesn’t make a building
One individual doesn’t make a family
Christians are called to be a part of a local church – but there are those who would resist (common objections)
Debaters – these individuals would debate the necessity of the local church
“As long as I love God and love people, I’m good. I don’t need all that stuff in Sunday”
Scripture would prove them wrong
Drifters – those who drift in and out of different churches
“I’m looking for a church that fits my needs.”
They stay while they are comfortable and leave when it’s convenient
Doonesbury comic.
Deniers – (greatly risen over the last two years) – they deny that God’s people gathering in this way is unnecessary
“all you need is a good church stream. I can sit on my couch and do church just fine”
Let me show you (briefly) why we need local church membership
[read] Matthew 16:13-19
on this rock I will build my church” – the rock is not Peter, but rather, his proclamation
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; what you bind will be bound, whatever you loose will be loosed
The power is not in Peter, but in the church (that which is built on the rock)
The church has authority on earth, not the individual
Christ’s authority lies in the church (the body of believers)
Matthew 18:15-20 – This is the practice of church discipline – how to treat a brother or sister in sin
One goes to them and confronts their sin
if they refuse, two or three more go with them
if they refuse still, the matter is taken before the church
if they refuse still, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector
do not treat him like a brother in Christ anymore (must not be a believer)
Notice, verse 18 – his words to Peter from two chapter previously are repeated – “the church has the power to bind and loose”
Jesus has given power over the believer to the body of believers.
The fact of Jesus’s imperium should raise our view of the church. The local church is Jesus’s agent, and he gave it an authority that you and I, as individual Christians, do not have. And this has radical implications for what the local church is and what it means to be a member
If Jesus instituted the local church with authority over us, we don’t just join one like we join a club or voluntary association – we submit to them as we do governments – you don’t join a church, you submit to a church.
All of Paul’s letters to a body are written to “the church” or “the saints”
In Greek, the word church is ekklesia (called out ones)
The church is made up of those that are called out by God
Believers, saints, the elect
The New Testament knows nothing of unattached members
If you were to cut off my hand and place it at my home, it would still be a hand, but it would no longer be a part of my body
We would need help to put things back how they are supposed to be
The idea of being an “unattached limb” is foreign to the Bible
Consider how Paul addresses his recipients at the beginning of his letters
1 Corinthians – “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours
Paul writes specifically to this local church in Corinth
The people in Corinth know who they are, Paul knows who they are, and when he writes to them, he knows to whom he is writing
They know that this letter to the church in Corinth is to them
If we were to receive a letter (to Faith Baptist Church and to the saints of Faith Baptist Church), we could go and say, “now, who amongst the congregation that attend Faith Baptist has committed themselves as members of Faith Baptist?” This letter is written to them. It is not to anyone who happens to attend on a Sunday. It is written to those who are in membership at Faith Baptist.
In the same way, when we think of Members’ Meetings or make decisions together, these things are important
Now, I know some of you may be sitting here today thinking, “can’t all of this be achieved without a formal membership process? I’m not going in a class, I’m not filling out a form, I’m not doing any of that”
WHY NOT?
There is no good answer
In order for any group or family to function, people have to know who is in the family and who is not in the family
I have heard the argument, “well, I could never find a local church I could join. we just haven’t found the perfect church yet”
In response to this comment, Alistair Begg says, “if you find a perfect one, don’t join it. You’ll make a mess of the place.”
There are no perfect churches – the church is full of human beings who struggle with sin – you will always find struggles, hardships, and frustrations – but that’s okay
Let us finally think about the church in this way
Christopher Ash – “The ordinary local church is a mixed and motley gathering of strange men and women. The ordinary local church, with all its imperfections, weaknesses, oddities, and problems, has within it the seeds of the spiritual and relational blueprint of a broken world remade.”
Break it down in this way
The story of the Bible is the story of God creating a world in all its beauty and perfection
The story of Man is that he enters God’s story and ruins everything
When you get to the end of the Bible, God, from all of eternity, has purposed an entirely new heaven and new earth (a perfect world with him)
The story of the Bible is how God takes what is scattered and broken and fixes it
What Ash is saying is this “as imperfect, weak, ordinary and messed up as it is, the local church is there to serve as a concrete expression in time of that which one ultimately be there at the end of time”
The church is a picture of eternity
Where people from all types of backgrounds, cultures, and lives come together for one purpose, to glorify God
[Conclusion]
The church is something FANTASTIC – it is here, that the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling
Not in ministries run by Christians, not in families of godly people – but in the full body of the church
The local church is the ONE PLACE in our society where the barriers of race, culture, and class are trampled on by grace
The thing that unites us is not a hobby, an interest, or an activity – it is a Savior
Will you join the local church? NO, WILL YOU SUBMIT TO THE AUTHORITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH? WILL YOU SUBMIT TO THIS LOCAL CHURCH
If you do not have a church home, I would ask that you join THIS local church
We are committed to the gospel, to community, and to God’s mission of saving the lost
We are committed to Biblical teaching and godly discipline
Though, there are requirements
There is a progression in the New Testament – CONVERTED, BAPTIZED, JOINED WITH THE FAMILY
When the apostle Paul met Jesus, we saw this
He was CONVERTED
He went to Damascus, where he was BAPTIZED
Then he went to Jerusalem, where he JOINED the believers
Where are you today?
Converted – have you trusted in Christ alone for salvation? Has your sin been forgiven?
Baptized – the next step of obedience for a believer – the outward proclamation of an inward decision
Joined – have you joined the body of believers and submitted to the authority of the church?
At the end of each of our services, we have an invitation ((time of response))
Today, I am asking each of you to pray about where you are in that progression
Are you converted? Have you been baptized? Have you joined?
Many of you today are members of this local church – are you submitting to the authority of this church? Will you submit to this local church?
Let me conclude our time in the Word Paul’s words to the church in Romans 12
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