What Does it Mean to be “On Mission”?
To be on mission means that you’re a Christian, that you’re identity is found in Jesus, by living a life of worship to Jesus, a life of fellowship with other Christians, and a life of mission to non-Christians (Matt. 28:18-20).
Some churches do membership, but we long to find partners. The reason why we use the term “partner” is that we believe the church is a partnership of Spirit-led disciples who follow Jesus.
The church is not a social club bound by exclusive membership; it’s a community on-mission, bound together by the gospel. We believe that the Scripture teaches that everyone who is part of the body of Christ is a minister of the gospel. The role of elders, pastors, teachers, and other leaders is to help partners become prepared to be all God intends them to be. Because of this, we call our members “partners”, to emphasize the fact that we hope and expect they’ll be more than spectators. The modern idea of being a “church attender” is completely foreign to the New Testament. The church is the body of Christ sent to be Jesus’ people in the world. Our partners use their unique gifts and talents to help fulfill our vision at The Compass Church. Together, we are becoming a New Testament Church existing for the supremacy of the name and purpose of Jesus Christ.
We ask people to be a partner on mission with the church. And as partners, to take responsibility in serving the church, supporting the church, submitting to authority, and fighting to protect the unity of the church.
“For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” - Ephesians 2:18-19
Jesus lived and died for the church (Eph. 5:25). In Christ, you are a member of the invisible church. (The invisible church consists of those who have been regenerated. God is the only One at the end of the day who knows if someone is or is not a Christian (2 Tim. 2:19). Only Jesus permits access to this membership – not the local church.) In Christ, you are called to become a member of a local church.
The following is direct and indirect evidence from the New Testament on why we believe you should become a member (or in our case, a “partner”) of a local church (i.e. The Compass Church).
Direct Evidence from the Early Church
Unless you have an agenda to disprove otherwise, observing that the early church had some level of membership is not hard to do. The following are seven evidences that the early church had a notion of membership.
- They kept numerical records (Acts 2:37–47)
- They kept records of widows (1 Tim. 5:3–16)
- They held elections to appoint deacons (Acts 6:1–6)
- They exercised church discipline (Matt. 18:15–20; 1 Cor. 5; Gal. 6:1)
- Their leaders were responsible for giving an account of their leadership and the church was asked to submit to their leaders (Heb. 13:17)
- They had an awareness of who was a church member (Rom. 16:1–16)
- Most of the epistles were written “to the church” in given places (1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 2:1; Gal. 1:2; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:1 2 Thess. 1:1; Rev. 1:4)
To be capable of fulfilling any of these functions, the church had to be organized with some sort of membership.
Not only do we observe these direct evidences, but we can also glean indirect evidence from the letters of the New Testament.
Indirect Evidence from the New Testament
- Salvation is an individual experience that leads to involvement with a new community, the church. The church in the New Testament is likened to a human body and a family. When you are saved, the Holy Spirit integrates you into the Body of Christ. This means that you are now a part of Jesus’ body on earth, which is the church (1 Cor. 12:12–17).
- Your work within the church is also compared to working together as a family (1 Tim. 3:15; 5:1–2). In Christ, you are adopted into God’s family. You are now his son or daughter and have a multitude of new brothers and sisters in Christ. In Christ, you are a member of a new family (Rom. 12:4–5; Eph. 2:18–19).
For the New Testament authors to use such metaphors to describe the church indicates that we should know who are the members of the body and family.
“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.” - Hebrews 13:17
According to this verse in Hebrews and other verses found in Scripture, as Christians we are to submit and honour church leaders (1 Tim. 5:17). If there is no biblical requirement to be a member to a local church, then which church leaders are you to submit to? Is it any pastor or elder from a church? Any crazy church with bad theology or wacky leaders?
A second issues arises from this Hebrews text. As a leader, who do you have to give account for? As a leader, the Bible clearly states that you must care for specific people (1 Pet. 5:1-5; Acts 20:29-30). Is the leadership of The Compass Church going to give an account for all of the churches in Regina for how they handle theology, resources and what they teach their people? With church membership, we find answers to these two issues.
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” - 1 Corinthians 5:1
If there is no church membership, how does a church carry out biblical church discipline? The Bible is very clear on this subject, but Paul makes it crystal clear in 1 Corinthians 5. In this passage, Paul addresses an issue of a man living in sexual sin. He is not repenting at all and is even boastful about it. In fact, the whole church is celebrating in it. Paul rebukes them and then instructs them not to associate with this man at all (1 Cor. 5:11-12).
Church discipline will not work in the local church if membership does not exist.
Matt Chandler asked this question regarding this text:
“How can you kick someone “out” if there isn’t an “in”? If there is no local commitment to a covenant community of faith, then how do you remove someone from that community of faith? Church discipline won’t work if local church membership doesn’t exist.”
Through Scripture, we can see there is a case for biblical membership.
God calls His people into covenant, not only to Himself but also to each other. He calls us to a life of sacrifice, generosity, service and radical commitment to the good of the body. And this happy obligation is most readily pursued within the context of a particular body—a local church.
So, why wouldn’t you formally join a local church? What is holding you back from covenanting with a particular people to live out the gospel together?