9Marks: Meaningful Church Membership
January 19, 2017
The conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) included six sessions and several panel discussions with speakers Danny Akin, Thabiti Anyabwile, Alistair Begg, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and Jonathan Leeman
Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks, gave an overview of the Gospel of Matthew and how the text relates to church membership.
“The local church represents heaven,” Leeman said. “It is also God’s embassy on earth. We don’t join churches, we submit to them. Church membership is the declaration of citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom.”
He also described church membership as an office and a job with the aim of helping to preserve the gospel.
Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and president of 9Marks, provided foundational principles for Christ-honoring church membership.
Dever says the body of Christ should be composed of members who have been born again. He explored several ways pastors can make church membership meaningful through the assurance, witness, nature, obedience and glory of love.
Ways to regain meaningful church membership include regularly proclaiming the Gospel when preaching, having and using a statement of faith and church covenant, requiring attendance at membership classes before joining and an interview before recommending someone to the congregation for membership.
Begg, senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio, preached on Acts 9.
Begg reminded the audience that prayer and ministry of the Word of God will edify and build up the church. “Our first responsibility is to feed the flock under our care through faithfully proclaiming the Bible,” he said.
Duncan, chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary and the John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, spoke from Paul’s final address to the leaders in Ephesus in Acts 20:28.
Duncan called pastors and church members to be on guard against sin in their lives, and to foster the work, growth and unity of the church.
“A man who has no concern for his own spiritual condition is in no spiritual condition to care for the spiritual condition of others,” he said. “Pastors are not called as hard task masters but called as guardians, watchmen, protectors and shepherds.”
“It is a precious thing to be trusted with the membership of a local congregation,” Duncan said. “You have been given the flock purchased by the blood of His own son. This is the apple of His eye.”
Anyabwile serves as assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He preached on 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, challenging the audience to observe the doctrine of church membership, to acknowledge the dangers facing church membership and to embrace the duties and delights of church membership.
Anyabwile cited the Apostle Paul, who referred to being in Christ 200 times in the New Testament. “Every time we talk about the body of Christ we are talking about church membership,” he said. “God puts His body together. Pride tears it apart.”
He believes that God sovereignly places Christians in churches with a specific role. “If you are a Christian and a member of the church, you have been touched by God,” he said.
Akin, president of Southeastern, spoke from Ephesians 4:1-16 on “The Benefits and Blessings of Being a Part of a Community of Believers Called the Church.”
These blessings include entering a family of likeminded brothers and sisters, learning the Scriptures under the teaching of gifted men of God and being equipped for the work of ministry that Christ has planned. Being protected from false doctrine and being able to serve others are also benefits of church membership.
Akin explained the importance of training others and delegating tasks to the congregation. “Our job as pastors is to work ourselves out of a job,” Akin said. “I have to free up others to do what God has supernaturally called them to do.”
He also called pastors to empower and train women and ethic minorities for vital roles of leadership.
“Our goal is not to build buildings, grow budgets, merely acquire knowledge or be captivated by political or social agendas,” Akin emphasized. “Our goal is to build men and women of God. Our aim is to fill this world with Christ and His gospel.
Therefore, our strategy and our local churches should reflect this. This is what should set the agenda for the church. Any other agenda will fall short and is not worth having.”
Attendees came from 20 states and as far as South Africa. Thirty-five students are registered to receive graduate course credit through the conference class.
9Marks’ mission is to “Equip church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources for displaying God’s glory to the nations through healthy churches.” The nine marks of a healthy church include preaching, biblical theology, the Gospel, conversion, evangelism, membership, discipline, discipleship and leadership.
SEBTS looks forward to hosting the 2015 9Marks at Southeastern conference on Sept. 25 and 26 on church discipline.
To watch the plenary sessions and panel discussions online, please click here.
To view photos from 9Marks, please click here.
For additional information about 9Marks please visit 9marks.org