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“Why bother with church membership?”

I’ve been asked the question before. Sometimes it’s said with genuine curiosity-“So explain to me what membership is all about.” Other times it’s said with a tinge of suspicion-“So tell me again, why do you think I should become a member?”-as if joining the church automatically signed you up to tithe by direct deposit.

For many Christians membership sounds stiff, something you have at your bank or the country club, but too formal for the church. Even if it’s agreed that Christianity is not a lone ranger religion, that we need community and fellowship with other Christians, we still bristle at the thought of officially joining a church. Why all the hoops? Why box the Holy Spirit into member/non-member categories? Why bother joining a local church when I’m already a member of the universal Church?

Some Christians–because of church tradition or church baggage–may not be convinced of church membership no matter how many times “member” actually shows up in the New Testament. But many others are open to hearing the justification for something they’ve not thought much about.

Here are just a few reasons why church membership matters.

1. In joining a church you make visible your commitment to Christ and his people. Membership is one way to raise the flag of faith. You state before God and others that you are part of this local body of believers. It’s easy to talk in glowing terms about the invisible church-the body of all believers near and far, living and dead-but it’s in the visible church that God expects you to live out your faith.

Sometimes I think that we wouldn’t all be clamoring for community if we had actually experienced it. Real fellowship is hard work, because most people are a lot like us-selfish, petty, and proud. But that’s the body God calls us to.

How many of Paul’s letters were written to individuals? Only a handful, and these were mostly to pastors. The majority of his letters were written to a local body of believers. We see the same thing in Revelation. Jesus spoke to individual congregations in places like Smyrna, Sardis, and Laodicea. The New Testament knows no Christians floating around in “just me and Jesus” land. Believers belong to churches.

2. Making a commitment makes a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture. Many bowling leagues require more of their members than our churches. Where this is true, the church is a sad reflection of its culture. Ours is a consumer culture were everything is tailored to meet our needs and satisfy our preferences. When those needs aren’t met, we can always move on to the next product, or job, or spouse.

Joining a church in such an environment makes a counter-cultural statement. It says “I am committed to this group of people and they are committed to me. I am here to give, more than get.”

Even if you will only be in town for a few years, it’s still not a bad idea to join a church. It lets your home church (if you are a student) know that you are being cared for, and it lets your present know that you want to be cared for here.

But it’s not just about being cared for, it’s about making a decision and sticking with it-something my generation, with our oppressive number of choices, finds difficult. We prefer to date the church-have her around for special events, take her out when life feels lonely, and keep her around for a rainy day. Membership is one way to stop dating churches, and marrying one.

3. We can be overly independent. In the West, it’s one of the best and worst thing about us. We are free spirits and critical thinkers. We get an idea and run with it. But whose running with us? And are any of us running in the same direction? Membership states in a formal way, “I am part of something bigger than myself. I am not just one of three hundred individuals. I am part of a body.”

4. Church membership keeps us accountable. When we join a church we are offering ourselves to one another to be encouraged, rebuked, corrected, and served. We are placing ourselves under leaders and submitting to their authority (Heb. 13:7). We are saying, “I am here to stay. I want to help you grow in godliness. Will you help me to do the same?”

Mark Dever, in his book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, writes,

Church membership is our opportunity to grasp hold of each other in responsibility and love. By identifying ourselves with a particular church, we let the pastors and other members of that local church know that we intend to be committed in attendance, giving, prayer, and service. We allow fellow believers to have great expectations of us in these areas, and we make it known that we are the responsibility of this local church. We assure the church of our commitment to Christ in serving with them, and we call for their commitment to serve and encourage as well.

5. Joining the church will help your pastor and elders be more faithful shepherds. Hebrews 13:7 says “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” That’s your part as “laypeople”. Here’s our part as leaders: “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.” As a pastor I take very seriously my responsibility before God to watch care for souls. At almost every elders’ meeting the RCA Book of Church Order instructed us “seek to determine whether any members of the congregation are in need of special care regarding their spiritual condition and/or not making faithful use of the means of grace.” This is hard enough to do in a church like ours where there is constant turnover, but it’s even harder when we don’t know who is really a part of this flock.

To give just one example, we try to be diligent in following up with people who haven’t been at our church for a while. This is a challenge. But if you never become a member, we can’t tell if you are really gone, because we might not be sure if you were ever here! It’s nearly impossible for the elders to shepherd the flock when they don’t know who really considers them their shepherds.

6. Joining the church gives you an opportunity to make promises. When someone become a member at University Reformed Church, he makes promises to pray, give, serve, attend worship, accept the spiritual guidance of the church, obey its teachings, and seek the things that make for unity, purity, and peace. We ought not to make these promises lightly. They are solemn vows. And we must hold each other to them. If you don’t join the church, you miss an opportunity to publicly make these promises, inviting the elders and the rest of the body to hold you to these promises-which would be missing out on great spiritual benefit, for you, your leaders, and the whole church.

Membership matters more than most people think. If you really want to be a counter-cultural revolutionary, sign up for the membership class, meet with your elders, and join your local church.

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90 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why Membership Matters”

  1. A. Amos Love says:


    You write @ May 14, 2015 at 3:29 pm…

    “The lack of biblical support in this article is revealing.”

    “I thought the opening comment about how many times ‘member’ shows up in the NT would be expanded but perhaps how that word is used in the NT is not what church membership means in this article.”

    I kinda agree. I checked out the 25 times “member” and/or “members” is used in the NT.

    But, As far as I can tell…
    NO where in the NT, is “member” used in referrence to “joining today’s church?”

    Maybe that is why the author did NOT expand, or give the scripture reference…

    There is none. ;-)

  2. A. Amos Love says:


    You ask @ May 17, 2015 at 11:59 am…
    “A simple question- who are your leaders and how do you apply Heb. 13:7,17 to them?”

    Was wondering…

    From the Bible…
    Who are the “Leaders” in Hebrews 13?

    NOT what a pastor/leader says… NOT what a denominaltional tradtion says…

    But, after reading Hebrews 13 a few times… Over, and Over, and Over… And asking…

    From the Bible… Who are the “Leaders” in Hebrews 13?


    From the Bible…
    How does one of His Servants, His Sheep, become a “Leader?”

    If some of His Sheep, His Disciples, are “Leaders” and some are “Followers”

    How do WE, His Sheep, His Disciples, His Ekklesia, know who these “Leaders” are?
    How do WE, His Sheep, His Disciples, His Ekklesia, know who these “Followers” are?

    Are there any Qualifications for who can be a “Leader?”

  3. Travis says:

    I think you have great points here and I agree wholeheartedly with your statements.

    What I fail to understand is how someone can view membership of a local body of believers that teaches biblical doctrine and shares the gospel as a “bad thing”. Hebrews 13:17 tells us to submit to the authority of the leaders of the church. I view that as a command not a request.

    1 Timothy 5:19 also gives a rather strong warning not to bring charge against a leader unless fully warranted. So we should always examine the charges and our own motives when speaking against our leaders of bible preaching churches.

    After studying the idea of membership, I do not see a better way to commit myself publicly to the church. In my opinion not joining a local body of believers in a biblical setting goes against authority. I would go to the length that most who strictly avoid and/or oppose church membership struggle with submission to authority on multiple levels including biblical authority.

    We were not all created to lead, some of us were created for special use and some common use. Recognizing this has helped me to understand that church membership gives me a voice within the local church and makes a strong statement that I not only believe, but belong and stand alongside my brothers and sisters in Christ.

  4. Michael Ferguson says:

    The sooner every real Christian leaves church and stops listening to “professional Christians” like the author of this article the better off they will be. I’ve been free of institutional bondage for over 15 years now and have never had more life, more freedom or more of the love of Jesus in my life. That’s what happens when one’s allegiance is exclusively to Jesus Christ and not to men and “their own” religious organizations. Kevin DeYoung is only a leader to those willing to submit to his authority OVER them. He is no leader to me, nor has Jesus sent him to teach lies contrary to Scripture- many of which exist in this article.


    “It takes courage to ask the right questions, even more so if one intends to obey God’s answers”

  5. jeremiah says:


    From the direct context, leaders are those who speak the word of God to Christians.
    Many consider this to be the equivalent of being an elder. There are qualifications for an elder in 1 Tim. 3 and in Titus 1. Elders speak authoritatively when they speak the word of God, they do not possess innate authority like a political office holder. The authority is the word and elders are supposed to be giving themselves to the word (the authority)and prayer, be gifted in rightly dividing the word of God (the authority). In this since they have authority. And in this since I will gladly listen to them when they speak and let myself be persuaded by them as long as they don’t go outside of scripture in asking for compliance.

  6. Message to Dean

    Dean i repeat here for you what I posted earlier on this blog in regards Heb 13:17 This passage has been misused a lot. “To use Heb 13:7 to justify obedience to leadership is incorrect as pointed out by Dan and Brad earlier. The word supposedly translated as “obey” in Hebrews 13:17 is in fact not the normal Greek word (hupa…kouo) that’s usually employed in the N.T. for obedience.

    Rather, it’s the word peitho. Importantly the word Peitho means to persuade or to win over. Furthermore in Hebrews 13:17 this word appears in the middle-passive form (ie it expresses the action of persuasion), so the text ought to be translated “Allow yourselves to be persuaded by your leaders.”

    So how does this help us in our daily choices and decision making re obedience and church membership. In essence this text appears to be an exhortation for us to give weight to the instruction of local overseers (and possibly apostolic workers). It’s not an exhortation to obey them mindlessly. It implies influential power to convince and to win us over rather than to coerce, force, or browbeat into submission. In the words of the Greek scholar W. E. Vine, “The obedience suggested [in Hebrews 13:17] is not by submission to authority, but resulting from persuasion.” Its important that you reflect on this concept as it makes a very big difference to your role in the ecclesia ie the gathering, which does not require worldly membership.

    The second part of this passage raises the issue of submission. In this case the verb translated as “submit” is traced back to the Greek word hupe…iko………. Hupe…iko in fact carries the idea of yielding, retiring, or withdrawing, ie like surrendering after battle (ie the battle to be persuaded or not). Let me say this again….this is our battle… in our hearts and minds led by God the Holy Spirit rightly dividing His word… ie to be persuaded or not… after a battle for our minds! Thus those who occupy themselves with spiritual oversight must not demand submission at all. It’s the believer’s job to decide whether to follow if they see a leader’s wisdom and spiritual maturity. If this is apparent then they are to be accorded with respect. In its out working Christians are encouraged to be uncommonly biased toward what a leader does and says if they reflect Christ. It’s Not because of an external office they hold, but because of their godly character, spiritual stature, and sacrificial service to the people of God.
    In summary therefore….. The words of Hebrews 13:7 echo a very powerful and important thread which supports the Greek translation which I have alluded to…. ie believers are to “imitate a leader’s faith” as they “consider the outcome of their life”…. but the condition is this….only if you have been persuaded.

  7. lwesterlund says:

    Travis writes, “I would go to the length that most who strictly avoid and/or oppose church membership struggle with submission to authority on multiple levels including biblical authority. ” I am familiar with this charge, but it is a puzzling (and hurtful) one, since it is on the basis of scriptural authority that I question the practice of requiring church membership. The absolute authority in my life is the Word of God–granted, I am not always submissive and wish I were, and granted, that my present interpretation may be in error. When it comes to requiring church membership, my view is supported by other thoughtful expositors of the Word.

    I am blessed to have a pastor whose sole authority is the Word of God. In his sermons, he says, “If you think differently about this matter (whatever position he has staked out), then study the Word. If you can persuade me from Scripture that I am wrong, I will thank you.” Generally speaking, his exposition is so careful and so thorough that I find myself persuaded.

  8. Sorry I meant to say my repeated post in for Travis

  9. Brian Lee says:

    Message to nearly everyone in this thread:

    I am amazed at the anti-authority nature of many professing Christians. No one wants to be accountable. I fear the reason is, they don’t want someone challenging their life and actions. I am completely comfortable correcting and exhorting my own children. It would seen really awkward doing that to someone else’s. Maybe not the greatest analogy, but you get the point. The theme song for most Christians today is, “Me and Jesus Got Our Own Thing Going.”

  10. Neville Briggs says:

    Sorry Brian but you have made some statements there, e.g. ” no one wants to be accountable ” ; judging people’s motives and dispositions for which you have no basis in reason, logic or evidence.
    We are all accountable to God, and I can’t see any comment here that denies that truth.

  11. Like Neville I believe we are only accountable to Christ for our personal choices and actions within the Priesthood of all believers. There is no two teared levels of believers. Biblically we have a flat structure where positions are function not hierarchical> Leaders are to persuade through the lens of their lives and teaching not by ordering us. The battle for us is to decide if we have been persuaded or not by them. We willingly bend our knees to Christs authority which is the only source for us. Our job is to seek after a relationship with Him which leaders must also do. If they did this then the whole issue of membership and who is the boss would be irrelevant. Ultimately the temple model of church has failed badly and things must change.

  12. Brad says:

    Brian, if you read the Bible through a “structure” lens (like most of us did our whole lives, instead of a “relationship” lens, it’s perfectly understandable that we see the church universal split into two categories – leaders and followers or those in charge and those who listen and obey. That lens has been reinforced for 1700 or 1800 years in most expressions of “church”. So if you accept that model is the way it’s supposed to be, then anyone challenging that obviously appears to be “anti-authority”, or rebellious, or lone-ranger Christians. But I don’t believe that’s the way God ever intended us to understand relationships within the Church. Our understanding of Biblical leadership has been warped over the centuries. There were not two tiers of Christians. There were no pastors as a position to hold. “Pastoring” was merely one of the five ministerial gifts. Constantine turned it into a paid position and built a whole structure around it. Leaders were there to advise and serve, not to order people around.

    Your analogy of fathers telling kids what to do is actually a good one. However, the father is not the pastor or the elder of the fellowship, it’s God. He’s the shepherd. And everyone else are brothers and sisters. In the family analogy, the Father is God. I have four kids and my oldest is definitely a leader. He can suggest and try to persuade his siblings, and especially when they kids were younger, they usually went for his advice. But they weren’t obligated to. He wasn’t the parent (aka God). IMHO :)

  13. JB says:

    I went into this article looking for answers. Having grown up in a church it had always been a question for me if the U.S. Church structure was biblical. I never experienced real joy in a church setting but it was all I knew.
    Whenever I read an article like this one I always read the chapter the scriptures referenced are in the bible. So I make sure I get the context. Unfortunately the resonating sound from the NT I get from years of church experience is that the modern day church is the pharasees of old. It’s the only parallel I see. I agree with most of the comments more than the article. I’m done being a sheep to man. The whole comment made by Brian Lee earlier is the reason people are leaving the institution. Me and Christ do have our own thing going that is why he came to me on this earth and died for my sins. If I’m not wholly convinced that me and him have our own thing then I am not saved. Relationship w/Christ > relationship w/US church. I find myself sharing that relationship more with nonchristian friends because they care about me more than my saved friends. Most of the time I think people go to church because they just feel safe. Like their kids are safe, they are safe, and it’s safe to be friends with Christisns. Non believers are to unsafe for us. I dunno maybe I’m wrong. ; )

  14. Jim says:

    Travis writes, ” I would go to the length that most who strictly avoid and/or oppose church membership struggle with submission to authority on multiple levels including biblical authority.”

    I would reason that those here who sits in a pew listening to someone who they don’t spend time with in real life (only in their catholic rehash religious theater twice a week) and calls it ‘submitting’ is really deceived and on level ground with a the average roman catholic. I am blessed to fellowship with elders whose example proves the New Testament pattern is God;s plan and systems like that which Deyoung earns his living from and promotes membership to our the empty plans of man that will burn on the day of judgment.

  15. Serving Kids in Japan says:

    Dear Jeremiah,

    …a hireling is only in it for the money and would not be a shepherd otherwise. Also a hireling flees the sheep when danger approaches and leaves them to destruction.

    Pardon me for butting in to this conversation, but based on your own definition, I think that the term “hireling” works just fine to describe Kevin DeYoung. As I recall, he was a member of the “review panel” that declared C.J. Mahaney fit for continued ministry. This after Mahaney admitted to blackmailing one of his own church officials. Instead of recommending that such a man be removed from leadership, DeYoung let him continue to have power over people. To me, that sounds very much like “abandoning the flock”.

  16. lwesterlund says:

    To Brian Lee: Your perspective on accountability emphasizes accountability to man. To me, it inserts an unnecessary layer of human accountability and thereby minimizes our true accountability to Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, every moment of our lives. It substitutes a human community, with its structure and organization, for the supernatural reality of the Church, the body of Christ, his loved Bride. When we are made sons by God’s grace, we are born into a family. That family consists of all who know the Lord in truth, all who have His Spirit within, who have been born again. Some family members are physically near, in the local church, or other parachurch gatherings, and some are far away, taking the Gospel to those who have not heard. As God leads, we are the servant of all.

  17. A. Amos Love says:


    Thanks for your response @ May 18, 2015 at 4:26 pm – You write…
    1 – “From the direct context, leaders are those who speak the word of God to Christians.” Heb 13:7.
    2 – “Many consider this to be the equivalent of being an elder.”

    Yes – I agree with #1… And, I’m familiar with but question #2.
    Yes – I know – “Many consider this to be the equivalent of being an elder.”

    That’s why I asked…
    “From the Bible… Who are the “Leaders” in Hebrews 13?”
    “NOT what a pastor/leader says… NOT what a denominational tradition says…”

    Because, in ALL of Hebrews 13, there are NO pastor/elder/shepherd/overseers, mentioned. ;-)

    If pastor/elder/overseers, are NOT mentioned in Heb 13 – Who put them there?

    Could, elders, have been “added” to Heb 13? – By those who call themself, pastor/elders? ;-)
    And want to be known as “pastor/elder/leader/reverends?”

    And doesn’t Paul, also say that ALL Christians “Can” speak the word of God to Christians?
    Seems, ALL can, and are expected to participate, when WE, His Sheep, His Ekklesia, come together.

    1 Cor 14:26 KJV
    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together,
    **every one of you** hath a psalm, hath a *doctrine, (a *teaching)
    hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation.
    Let all things be done unto edifying.

    How often do WE, His Kings and Priests, His Ekklesia, His Called Out Ones, experience this in…
    Today’s 501 (c) 3, Non-Profit, Tax Deductible, Religious Corporation, that the IRS calls church?

    Should one of His Disciples call an IRS Corporation – The Church of God? :-)

    In the Bible? Can you find? Any?
    Paid, Professional, Pastors, in Pulpits, Preaching, to People, in Pews?

  18. Brian Lee says:

    If church membership is unnecessary and even unbiblical, then:

    How can a shepherd effectively and practically lead if he doesn’t know who his sheep are?
    How can the church effectively and practically carry out discipline on a brother who is sinning if there is no connection with a local body of believers?
    How can a Christian effectively and practically grow in sanctification and discernment if there are no ties to a local church?
    How can a church effectively and practically pay church staff if people come and go as they please with no commitment to any particular church?

    These are simply a few questions that need to be dealt with. There are clearly many others. The key is “effectively and practically”. I’m certain that many can come up with seemingly well thought out responses to these questions. But is it really the best? Can Christians really lead a more sanctified and serving life without a commitment to other local believers?

    I don’t understand people’s fear of church membership? Not only does it “effectively and practically” answer the questions above, but belonging to a healthy, well balanced church offers comfort and security, not fear. Granted, there are churches out there that should be avoided, for various reasons. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bath water. One bad experience is not a reason for wholesale rejection.

  19. Neville Briggs says:

    The question , Brian, is not whether Christians can lead an effective life without ties or commitment to others in a group, but what does the group look like. Of course, the Christian walk is a corporate experience, the Bible makes
    that perfectly clear.

    It’s how the church gathering has evolved from a caring, sharing and supportive family into an institution where some are required to take orders from others who have positioned themselves as bosses, that is now causing a lot of people to question what membership of the church should look like.

    I don’t see any comments here about abandoning the gathering together of members, I see comments about
    getting back to how Jesus wanted His church to function.
    I see signs around today that the institutional church is crashing into a heap of rubble, probably at the hand of God who wants something else to take it’s place i.e. the organic, living breathing church, whose members support each other as brothers and sisters building that body of people that the apostle Peter called” a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession “

  20. To JB
    Its sad that you find fellowship with non Christians more rewarding than with believers. Unfortunately that also has been my experience over a 30 year period. The temple model of church in my view creates this disjuncture between believers. Loss of relationship vertically with God and horizontally with believers plus domineering leadership has created it. I do have though very good spiritually mature christian family and friends that are the exception to this conundrum. As a chaplain I encounter functional believers and non believers in my daily ministry who do really care about me. In the end its about relationship building not a institution. Hope this helps……don’t give up ask God for divine opportunities each day with people its makes a big difference as it produces relationships over time .

  21. Marshae says:

    Awesome read. I realized over time that a lot of people are turned off by membership because the church can be the main reason of hurt, not only with tithing and offering but also with allowing people to flow in their gifting. I can go on and on about why people turn away from church membership but this article does an astounding job of showing why it is imperative. Thanks for sharing.

  22. Serving Kids in Japan says:

    Yet again, DeYoung has written a blog post in which demonstrates how far out of touch he is, and how poorly he understands the Bible. Or, perhaps, how well he can manipulate it.

    Some Christians–because of church tradition or church baggage–may not be convinced of church membership no matter how many times “member” actually shows up in the New Testament.

    As in… zero?

    Kudos to those who’ve called DeYoung on this line already. How cleverly he makes it sound like the words “local church member” occur multiple times in Scripture. Sorry, RevKev, but those of us who actually know the Bible aren’t buying any of that.

    Mark Dever, in his book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, writes…

    Oh, look. One hypocrite appealing to the words of another hypocrite. Why am I unimpressed?

    And in case anyone thinks I’m slandering fellow Christians by saying this… Please recall that a few weeks ago, DeYoung wrote a blog post here on this site decrying the sin of “spreading a false report”. And yet, a few years before that, he co-signed a statement (regarding C.J. Mahaney and the SGM lawsuit) which contained at least two provable falsehoods. As far as I know, he has never recanted or corrected this error, or even acknowledged it.

    As for Mark Dever, in the constitution of his own church, he stated that a member shouldn’t be allowed to leave or resign from the local church as long as he is undergoing church discipline. However, he broke this very rule when he gave refuge to Mahaney, who was on the run from the discipline process due to his high-handed leadership.

    So, why should I take either of these men seriously?

  23. A. Amos Love says:

    Brian Lee

    You ask @ May 19, 2015 at 11:53 pm…
    “If church membership is unnecessary and even unbiblical, then:

    How can “a shepherd” effectively and practically “lead? if he doesn’t know who **his sheep** are?”

    Hmmm? **his sheep???** – Nope – If they be sheep – They be belonging to Jesus. ;-)

    Hmmm? A Mere Fallible Human as “a shepherd?” To “lead?” Jesus’ Sheep?
    When Jesus says, – “My Sheep, Hear My Voice, I know them, and They Follow ME.” John 10:27
    “…Follow ME, and I will make you fishers of men.” Mat 4:19

    And, Haven’t you ever wondered? Why? In the Bible?
    NOT one of His Disciples called themself “shepherd?” Or “pastor?” Or “leader?” Or church leader?
    NOT one of His Disciples called another Disciple “shepherd/leader?” church leader?
    NOT one of His Disciples took the “Title/Position,” “shepherd/leader?” church leader?
    NOT one of His Disciples was, Hired or Fired, as a “shepherd/leader?” church leader?

    What did His Disciples know 2000 years ago…
    That those who call themself pastor/leader/reverend? – Miss Today?

    The only “ONE” I can find, “In The Bible,” with the “Title/Position” Shepherd/Leader is…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall “hear My voice; “
    and there shall be “ONE” fold, and “ONE” shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Voice – One Fold – One Shepherd – One Leader

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  24. A. Amos Love says:

    Brian Lee – jeremiah

    Seems, in the Bible, Jesus has a unique take on “Leaders” for “His Disciples” – “ONE” ;-)
    Jesus even taught His Disciples NOT to be called “Leaders.” And none did…
    And the greatest shall be your “Servant.”

    Mat 23:10-12 NASB – New American Standard Bible.
    Do NOT be called leaders; for “ONE” is your Leader, that is, Christ.
    But the greatest among you shall be your “Servant.”
    Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled;
    and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

    Humble – a modest or low estimate of ones importance.
    Do you know many today, with the “Title/Position” pastor/leader?
    Who have a “low estimate of their own importance?”

    Mat 23:10-12 TM – The Message.
    And don’t let people maneuver you into taking charge of them.
    There is only “ONE” Life-Leader for you and them—Christ.
    **Do you want to stand out? – Then step down. – Be a servant.**
    If you puff yourself up, you’ll get the wind knocked out of you.
    But if you’re content to simply be yourself, your life will count for plenty.

    Jesus, as man, humbled Himself, made Himself of NO reputation…
    And took on the form of a “Servant.” Phil 2:7-8.

    When someone takes the “Title/Position” pastor/leader…
    They now have a “reputation” whether they want it or NOT.

    If, in the Bible, Jesus instructed **His Disciples** NOT to call themselves “leaders?”
    And, NOT one of **His Disciples** called themself “leader?”
    And today, someone calls them self “leader?”
    And allows others to call them “leader?”

    Are they one of “His Disciples?” ;-)

    Why isn’t what Jesus said important? ;-)

    What is popular is NOT always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is NOT always popular.

  25. To Serving Kids in Japan

    Its common practice for reformed churches to have in their procedures/policies you cant resign from membership while facing church discipline. They will threaten you with facing a aimless walk between churches achieving no new home unless you go back and face their music. My view of this is simple membership by their definition is not supported biblically so you can go where you wish to worship and fellowship…. who cares you cant resign…just leave. Find a group that sees Christ as the head of the church and all positions in the gathering are functional and have no authority to rule over you. Most of the time their discipline revolves around not obeying or submitting to their over watch. Most people can decide for themselves if they have been “persuaded” to follow or not a spiritual leader ……which is the true biblical mandate.

  26. Jonathan says:

    Again, the comments on Kevin DeYoung’s post here are very helpful and, hopefully, are seen as an insight into the modern mind of the engaged laity. There has always been those who dissent for the sake of dissenting…but we cheat ourselves of the valuable contribution of those who sit outside of the bubble of professional ministry if we simply disregard every dissenting opinion.

    The recent Pew survey shows that we, in North America, might be in the beginning of a dramatic shift away from the cultural standard with regard to “local church” that has largely existed since the end of WWII. If we take the position that we know how the story ends, we not only have nothing to fear from this but should be filled with excited anticipation. Our comfortable, institutional structures are at risk…and that’s a good thing because that’s what happens with cultural transformation.

  27. jeremiah says:


    leader is a word used in the NT by Jesus in a positive way

    Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. Luke 22:26

    and by the writer of Hebrews in the passage we have been talking about, in 13:7,17,24

    Are you going to rebuke them?

    Regarding sheep, yes they are the Lord’s and not man’s.

    Elders are instructed though by Paul to
    ‘pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.’ Acts 20:28

    and then by Peter as well to
    ‘shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
    1 Pet. 5:2,3

    It is easy to take a position by ignoring challenging passages of scripture that challenge. Wisdom and discernment is needed to look at ALL of NT’s voice on a matter. It is easy for any side to take a few verses in their favor and run with it.

  28. jeremiah says:

    Brian Lee- I will attempt to address your questions

    “If church membership is unnecessary and even unbiblical, then:”
    “How can a shepherd effectively and practically lead if he doesn’t know who his sheep are?”

    If a pastor needs an official list of who to care for in the local body, then he is no pastor as he would be unable to know the people who gather regularly in a particular assembly without such a ‘list’.

    “How can the church effectively and practically carry out discipline on a brother who is sinning if there is no connection with a local body of believers?”

    Biblical church discipline is not dependent upon some official status, but upon relationship. Church is a family.

    “How can a Christian effectively and practically grow in sanctification and discernment if there are no ties to a local church?”

    Scripturally, what ties one to a local church?
    If you assume that signing a document puts one believer on a path to ‘practically grow in sanctification and discernment ‘ above another believer who does not sign, then that is plainly of the letter that kills and not of the Spirit that gives life.

    “How can a church effectively and practically pay church staff if people come and go as they please with no commitment to any particular church?”

    If church leadership can not trust God to provide for the function of the church without resorting to extra-biblical means, then that is a sad indication of lack of faith and should bring to question what that church is built upon.

  29. A. Amos Love says:


    You write…
    “leader is a word used in the NT by Jesus in a positive way”
    Then use only one verse of Luke 22:26…

    But when reading a few additional scriptures, before and after, verse 26…
    I NO longer see “leader” here as positive.

    In Luke 22:24-26, Jesus, is turning the ways of the world, upside down.
    When someone wants to be known as “The Greatest”
    When someone wants to be known as “The Leader”

    His Disciples wanted to know – Who should be known as “The Greatest”

    Luke 22:24-26 ESV
    24 A dispute also arose among *them, (*His Disciples)
    as to which of them was to be regarded as “The Greatest.”
    25 And he (Jesus) said to them,
    “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them,
    and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
    26 **But not so with you.** (His Disciples)
    Rather, let “The Greatest” among you become as the youngest,
    and “The Leader” as one who serves.

    Is Jesus, using “The Greatest” in a positive way?
    Does Jesus, want one His Disciples to be called “The Greatest?”
    Does Jesus, want one His Disciples to be known as “The Greatest?”

    Who is known as “The Greatest?” Where you fellowship?

    If NO one is known as “The Greatest?” Where you fellowship?
    Why think that someone being known as “The Leader” is okay with Jesus?
    When Jesus calls Himself “The “ONE” Leader? Mat 23:10 NASB
    And teaches His Disciples NOT to be called “Leader?” And NONE did.

    NO, Jesus is NOT using “leader” in a positive way.

    Jesus is using “leader” as a contrast of how the world works.
    How The kings of the Gentiles work.

    And Jesus tells His Disciples, in verse 26 **But not so with you.**

    And WE, His Disciples, His Ekklesia, His Kings and Priests, His Called Out Ones…
    Are to see ourselves, humble ourselves, as *the youngest* – And *servants.*
    Esteeming others “better” than themselves. Phil 2:3 KJV
    Submitting “One to Another” Eph 5:21 KJV, 1 Pet 5:5 KJV

    And WE, His Servants, His sons, are NOT to “exercise authority” or “lord it over” anyone.
    Like those who are known as “The Greatest” and “The Leader” will eventually do.

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    **THEIR shepherds** have caused them to *go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    BUT are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  30. jeremiah says:


    Yes, Jesus used leader once in a positive way. Now if someone is desiring to be called by ANY title is another matter that I suspect I would be in agreement with you in. However if Jesus can use it in a good or neutral way then so can we. Also you gave no reference to the writer of Hebrews using it?

    It is similar to ‘teacher’.
    “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.”
    Matt. 23:8

    1 John 2:27
    But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.

    but then you have James, the brother of Jesus,
    “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

    and the apostle Paul in 1Cor. 12
    And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

    and in Eph. 4
    And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers……

    And Luke in Acts 13
    Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

    Both the warning against ‘teachers’ and the sufficiency of the Spirit does not negate the positive ways that teacher is used elsewhere. Now one could pretend either the former or the later is irrelevant but that would not be listening to the full council of God.

    It is clear the we in the gathering of believer can and should be learning from one another and to be thankful and listen to those who have been gifted by God to teach as something in addition to regular brotherly encouragement and exhortation. To deny either of these is costly and to only see the cost from one side or the other is to be short sighted and deny the reality of how God has communicated the Spirit to be at work in our mist.

    Abuse, lording over and coercion are warnings and reality that I seek not to diminish. We can and should speak out against such, I am seeking to clarify another aspect, namely the positive function of certain servants gifted to teach.

  31. lwesterlund says:

    Jeremiah, Thank you for answering Brian’s questions in the way you did. You wrote what I thought about writing and didn’t, because I began to wonder if there was any profit in it. Those in favor of requiring formal church membership seem to have written off their brothers and sisters in Christ who think differently as rebellious and in-submissive (A bit of judging of the heart there, which Jesus clearly tells us not to do.) So I am not sure there is an audience here. Yet perhaps there are other non-posting readers of this blog who may be helped.

    The body of Jesus Christi, the Church He is caring for and building, can function as a single, caring body without signing a membership form of a given church. We who live this know it is true. It is a matter of the heart, and of being filled with the Holy Spirit. That Spirit may lead us to join a church as a practical matter, out of sensitivity to others, but our daily leading comes from the Lord, as we prayerfully seek Him in His word, read in the community of His church, past and present.
    The comments posted here have confirmed this for me, sadly.


  32. Christoph says:

    This discussion goes on for a long time. As I read the 6 statements again I had a couple in our church in mind. They attend our church for around 15+ years. They’re not members. It is an issue about of baptism. But that couple fulfills all these 6 points. On the other hand I do know members who do not live up to the expectation of a member

  33. A. Amos Love says:


    We seem to disagree about leader… BUT…
    We just might be in agreement when you write…
    “Now if someone is desiring to be called by **ANY title**
    is another matter that I suspect I would be in agreement with you in.”

    Job 32:21-22 KJV
    Let me not, I pray you, accept any man’s person,
    neither let me give **Flattering Titles** unto man.
    For I know NOT to give **Flattering Titles;**
    in so doing my maker would soon take me away.

    In my experience with having been ordained, in “Leadership.” And…
    In my experience with the “Title/Position” of *Today’s* “pastor/leader/reverend,”

    “Titles” become “Idols” ………….. “Idols” of the heart – Ezek14:1-11 KJV
    “Pastors” become “Masters”……..A big No, No. Mat 23:10 KJV, Mat 6:24 KJV
    “Leaders” become “Deceivers”….Isa 3:12 KJV, Isa 9:16 KJV, Mat 15:14 KJV

    Even if the “Title” is not an “Idol” to some – What about the guy in the back row?
    The one who desires – Power – Profit – Prestige – Honor – Glory – Reputation – Recognition?
    ALL those things that come with today’s “Title/Position” pastor/leader/reverend?

    In my experience…
    Everyone who assumes the “Title/Position” of “pastor/leader/reverend”

    No matter how loving… eventually…
    No matter how humble… eventually…
    No matter how much a servant… eventually…

    Will “exercise authority” and “lord it over” God’s sheep. A No, No, Mark 10:42-44 NKJV.

    Psalm 118:8-9
    It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
    It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

    Jer 17:5
    Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man…

  34. A. Amos Love says:


    You write…
    “Also you gave no reference to the writer of Hebrews using it?”
    Previously you referenced, Heb 13:7, Heb 13:17, Heb 13:24, when talking about “leader.”

    Well, FYI, the writer of Hebrews did NOT use the word “leader.” ;-)
    That’s a modern English translation of the Hebrew word “hegeomai.”

    The Greek word “hegeomai” is 28 times in the NT.
    Only 3 times as, “have the rule over” all in Heb 13.
    Moderen translations often use “leader” here.

    It is Strongs #2233 hegeomai. In the KJV it is translated,
    KJV – count 10, think 4, esteem 3, have rule over 3, chief 3, be governor 2,

    Thayers has “hegeomai” – To Lead.
    And, Thayers also has “hegeomai” – To go before.
    And, “To Go Before” is a lot different then how we, are taught today, to understand, “leader.”

    Leader – Dictionary – “The person who leads or **commands a group,”
    **Command – Dictionary – “give an authoritative order”

    And, “hegeomai” in the KJV is also translated as – Esteem.

    Yeah – Esteem – Go figure… ;-)

    Php 2:3 KJV
    Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory;
    but in lowliness of mind let each *esteem* other better than themselves.

    How many, who quote Heb 13:17, wanting to be obeyed, submitted to, known as “the leader.”
    Operate in “lowliness of mind?” And “ *esteem* others better than themselves?” ;-)

    So, “hegeomai” is different then how folks today are taught to understand “leader.”
    In the 501 (c) 3, Non-Profit, Tax $ Deductible, Religious $ Corporation, the IRS calls church.

    And, NOT one of His Disciples called them self “hegeomai” or leader.
    And, NOT one of His Disciples called another Disciple “hegeomai” or leader.

    If someone today, calls themself “the leader?” Of Heb 13:17?
    Allows others to call them “the leader?” Of Heb 13:17?

    After Jesus taught His Disciples NOT to be called “Leader?” Mat 23:10 NASB.

    Are they one of His Disciples? ;-)

  35. Jim says:

    “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

    Many here base their understandings of Christ and His church on corrupt roman catholic traditions rather than the simplicity that is in Jesus. This speaks to reformed religious institutions being the harlot daughters of Rome…

    ‘And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth.’

  36. Message to Jonathan

    Thank you for your contribution you have your finger on the pulse of what is really happening. There is a shift away from the institutional church. Billy Graham predicted this in 1965. This is happening across the western world.
    I am a chaplain and I welcome the shift. Something has to end for something new to start. All i can say watch what God does.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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