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(I recently came across this in Ferguson’s work, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel-Centered Life, and had to share this with you.)
Many years ago, I witnessed revival in its most microcosmic form in a sudden, unexpected, and remarkable work of God’s Spirit on a friend. The work was so dramatic, the effect so radical, that news of it spread quickly to different parts of the country. People were asking, “Just what exactly happened?”
Five things seemed to have happened, and they were still fresh in the memory two and a half decades later:
- A painful exposure of the particular sin of unbelief occurred. Listening to preaching was a staple of my friend’s spiritual diet, but what came with overpowering force was a sense that God’s Word had actually been despised inwardly. God’s own Word, preaching in the power of the Spirit, stripped away the mask of inner pride and outward reputation for spirituality. There was a fearful exposure of sin.
- A powerful desire arose to be free from all sin. A new affection came, as if unbidden, into the heart. Indeed, a desire seemed to be given actually to have sin increasingly revealed and exposed in order that it might be confessed, pardoned, and cleansed. Disturbing though it was, there was a sweetness of grace in the pain.
- The love of Christ now seemed marvelous beyond measure. A love for Him flowed from a heart that could not get enough of Christ, ransacking Scripture to discover more and more about Him.
- A new love for God’s Word was born—for reading it, for hearing it expounded and applied, and especially for knowing every expression of God’s will, so that it might be obeyed.
- A compassionate love for others now flowed. It came from this double sense of sin and need on the one hand and grace and forgiveness on the other. Christian witness ceased to be a burden and became the expression of Spirit-wrought and powerful new affections.
I do not know about you, reading over this and then writing it here makes my heart long for this work to happen among us. Does this describe you? This is not simply for the super-saints—this is what God has in store for true followers of Him. May we set our sails and be ready when God decides to move among us—and may we be joyfully obedient in the meantime.
This summer, our leadership here at Boone’s Creek will evaluate the role of membership. Some churches have decided against membership, some make their membership very stringent. Some are, obviously, at all points in-between!
In the case of our church, we have a number who are what we call non-attending members. They are non-attending for the following reasons:
- They are attending elsewhere, but for sentimental reasons they keep their membership at our church;
- They have moved away, but have not joined another church;
- Some take issues about how a certain ministry
- Personal illnesses or illnesses of family members, making it necessary to stay close-by;
- Many we cannot contact either by mail, e-mail, nor telephone.
While we as churches are very stringent on being accountable in other areas of our church (finances, music, starting/ending time, temperature of the room), but the covenant of membership is seen as something of little importance or even necessity (Hebrews 10:23-25; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:32-37).
The True Church
Our Declaration of Faith defines the true church as:
We believe that a church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a congregation of baptized believers; associated by a covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel of Christ; taking the Holy Bible as the only rule of faith and practice; observing the ordinances of Christ; governed by His laws; and exercising the gifts, rights, and the privileges invested in them by His Word; that its only scriptural officers are bishop or pastor and deacons; that the true mission of the church is found in the Great Commission, Matt. 28:19-20; that the only head of the church is Christ; that the sole authority for faith and practice is the Scriptures; that such a church has the absolute right of self-government, free from the interference of any (17. The True Church, Declaration of Faith, Boone’s Creek Baptist Church, Lexington, KY).
This article is thick with understanding the nature of the church. Nestled away in this is a very key phrase: “…associated by a covenant in the faith and fellowship of the Gospel of Christ.” When people join their church, there is some significant understandings that must be brought forth:
- The church of Christ consists of baptized believers. You have to be a Christian to unite with a local body of believers in Christ.
- Baptism demonstrates your willingness to identify with the body of Christ in obeying what He teaches through His Word and His people.
- The Scriptures are the centerpiece of worship because the centerpiece of the Scriptures is Christ;
- We exercise the “gifts, rights, and privileges invested” by His Word;
- We observe the ordinances (baptism and Lord’s Supper) as a local church;
- The Great Commission is the true mission of the church;
- Christ is the head of the church;
- The church is self-governed under Christ’s headship.
How could we take membership in a local church lightly? When we covenant to invest our time, gifts, talents, and presence among God’s people to strengthen them in the faith, this is a decidedly serious matter. We link arms with our brothers and sisters in Christ to spread the glory of God from our neighbors to the nations. We strengthen one another in Christ, and share the gospel of Christ.
Over this summer, our emphasis here at Boone’s Creek Baptist Church is to get a greater grasp of the Kingdom of God and the role Christians play as citizens of that Kingdom! Please check back!