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Wherever the body of Christ meets is called church, and it can be anywhere. But the Bible clearly calls for structure and membership because without it, we crumble.
*** God wants pastors, elders, and deacons, and he wants us to devote ourselves to their teaching—even if it’s longer than 20 minutes (Ephesians 4:11-12, Acts 2:42). Sometimes leading the church becomes such a full-time job that they must appoint others to take care of the physical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-7).
*** God wants us to respect, submit to, and show confidence in our authorities in the church, who watch over our souls and must give an account for doing so (1 Thessalonians 5:12; Hebrews 13:17).
*** God wants us to “come together as a church” and have some sort of membership in local churches (1 Corinthians 11:18). He wants us joined to something: the church (Acts 14:21-23), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27). Otherwise, there’d be no grounds for the commands of church discipline (1Timothy 5:19-20).
*** God wants us to “behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). He wants us to do all things “decently and in order” in the church (1 Corinthians 14:40). He wants us to partake in the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:26), pray (Acts 2:42), baptize (Matthew 28:19), sing spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19), and read Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13).
*** God wants us to practice our spiritual gifts to serve others as faithful stewards of his grace in its various forms, speaking as those who speak the very words of God, and serving as through his strength alone (1 Peter 4:10; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11).
This structure—in traditional churches, tent churches, house churches—leads to funded missionaries, wells dug, peopled loved, kids cared for, and so much more. In spite of sinful people, the work is getting done.
And yet it’s all the sinful people in churches that hold us back from participation. These sinful people are just going through the motions, we think. But are they? Or are they actually becoming more like Jesus?
The job of infiltrators play is helping those just going through the motions move closer to Christ.
"So while the Bible doesn’t provide us with a biblical treatise on membership per se, there is enough evidence in the inspired record to suggest that some form of member- ship was practiced and was necessary to the church’s operation."
— Thabiti M. Anyabwile
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