Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Polity Matters (Part 8): Bait and Switch

Last weekend was one of the most encouraging weekends in my memory, as I had the opportunity to spend it in D.C. at a 9Marks Weekender. I'll develop some more thoughts on this later, but one theme seemed to run through the observations of the 45-50 attendees. We went because we were committed to reformed soteriology and a church polity that includes plural elder leadership and congregational rule. When we introduced ourselves to one another formally and informally this trend was clear.

By Thursday morning it seemed that our "groupthink" had changed. Although we went thinking about elders, we left musing on church membership. This essentially means that we saw how crucial it is to show that membership means something in our churches. This happens through our requirements for entrance into membership, through genuine commitment to a church covenant, and through a vibrant body life in which members give of themselves to build up one another.

So "Bait and Switch" sounds like an underhanded agenda, but I don't think anyone left complaining. For me, at least, it had a great deal more to do with my personal misperception than anything. I hope to develop these thoughts a little more, but I do not want to try to do it all. It will be utterly impossible for me to transfer a Weekender to you in a blog. If I have gained any credibility with you at all, I will gladly spend it all if I can convince you to make attending a future weekender a priority. Go this September so you can make it to Together for the Gospel next spring.


Paul said...

Sounds like a great time; I look forward to hearing more about what you learned there. Church membership is definitely something that many people in our culture shun. Recently our assistant Pastor spoke on reasons why it is important/necessary. What biblical support/reasons were discussed at CHBC for this? From what I know, most are more implied than explicit.

Ben said...


Dever has written on this in A Display of God's Glory: Basics of Church Structure, downloadable at,,PTID314526|CHID598028|CIID,00.html.

In a nutshell, he sees an implied need for church membership in the church discipline passages of Matthew 18 and 2 Corinthians 2:6, particularly the latter in which the "majority" administered discipline. Also, the congregation selected deacons in Acts 6.

Was there an official membership list in the early church? Impossible to say. But in this age when it can be impossible to distinguish between a genuine believer and a nominal attender, formal membership seems to be a reasonable outgrowth of biblical principle. I'm sure Dever makes the point more effectively, so be sure to download the pamphlet.