A Farewell to Proof-Texting (Church Membership, Part 1)
I'm going to show you a list. Are you ready for it? OK, here it is:
I've just listed every verse of scripture that commands us to formally join a local church. Do you need to see them again? OK, here they are:
You're right, I'm being a bit facetious (side note, "facetious" has all five vowels in alphabetical order- and sometimes "y," if you count facetiously). But the point I'm trying to make is that there is no specific verse that you can point to as a command to join a church.
And I don't think that's a problem.
It's only a problem if we have a proof-text mentality, a way of reading scripture that needs one or more verses to explicitly state something for us to believe or do. But that's not how Scripture works. Sometimes things are that clear: "You shall not murder." That's pretty clear. But many - if not most - of what the Bible calls us to believe and obey needs to be understood through a more reflective approach to Scripture. Sometimes that means we need to see how different verses relate (Romans 3:28 and James 2:24 are not in conflict, for example). Sometimes a whole passage needs to be understood in light of its context (for example, you wouldn't want to quote a verse from one of Job's friends without considering Job 42:7). And sometimes we can draw a conclusion by looking at implication.
For the next few blog posts, I'd like to look at the issue of church membership in light of Scripture. Since there are no single verses to proof-text our way through the discussion, how are we to understand the Bible's teaching on this? Is the Bible silent? Or are the indications that a certain view is to be assumed? And what implication does that have for the way we practice membership today?
A few of the questions we'll need to address are:
-What is the church?
-What does it mean to be a member of the church?
-Are we right in talking about a local church instead of "The Church"?
-What does it look like to be a member of a local church?
Feel free to interact with this discussion in the comments or over email with the pastors. What are your questions? What confuses you? What helps you understand this issue? For those who have been through our Discover TCPC class, there will be some familiar content here, but also some things we don't have time to get to in a 30 minute lesson. So stay tuned, as we begin our discussion by exploring our understanding of the church.