Spirit,  Word  and  Sacrament

EmmausAbbey Church







Emmaus Abbey Church Membership


     So many folks ask, "why is church membership in a confessing body fundamental to the faithful Christian life. Failure to do so defies the explicit warning not to forsake "our assembling together, Hebrews 10:25."  The understanding of this prompted the early church fathers to say, "Apart from the church, salvation is impossible." Not that the church provides salvation; God does. But because we are "saved" one cannot fulfill what it means to be a Christian apart from the church, membership becomes the indispensable mark of salvation. "So highly does the Lord esteem the communion of His church," the early church Fathers stated, " they considered everyone a traitor and apostate from the " Faith Once Delivered" who perversely withdraws himself from any Christian society which preserves the true ministry of the word and sacraments."


In a day when commitment is a rare commodity, it should come as no surprise that church membership is such a low priority to so many believers. Many take this route so as not to fall under any financial or service obligation or authority of the church.  Some are personally        deceived, or wounded souls, alienated from God, some have delusions that God only speaks to them and no one else can speak into their lives.  This is a dangerous and confused individual who believes they possess all God's knowledge.  Sadly, it is not uncommon for Christians to move from church to church, never submitting themselves to the care of elders and never committing themselves to a group of fellow believers.

    To neglect—or to refuse—to join a church as a formal member, however, reflects a misunderstanding of the believer’s responsibility to the body of Christ. And it also cuts one off from the many blessings and opportunities that flow from this commitment. It is essential for every Christian to understand what church membership is and why it matters.

The Definition of Church Membership

     When an individual is saved, he becomes a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Because he is united to Christ and the other members of the body in this way, he is therefore qualified to become a member of a local expression of that body.

     To become a member of a church is to formally commit oneself to an identifiable, local body of believers who have joined together for specific, divinely ordained purposes. These purposes include receiving instruction from God’s Word (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2), serving and edifying one another through the proper use of spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), participating in the sacraments (1 Cor 11:23-28; Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38-42), and proclaiming the gospel to those who are lost (Matt. 28:18-20). In addition, when one becomes a member of a church, he submits himself to the care and the authority of the biblically qualified bishop, priest and deacons who serve you and your family that God has placed in that assembly.


Let me illustrate some practical provisions of church membership:

A. Connectivity - As already mentioned, being part of a local church gives me a forum to obey the “one another” commands of Scripture.

B. Responsibility - As already mentioned, being part of a local church gives me a forum to discover and use my spiritual gifts in ministry.

C. Accountability - When I become part of a local church, I am not just saying I want to be part of the life of this church, but I am saying that I   

    want this church to be part of my life. I am saying that I want to be part of a group of believers to whom I give permission to speak the truth in

    love to me.  I am saying I want to carry out the "Great Commission" through:

   

   1. Financial Obligations (every member should tithe and give offerings)
   2. Domestic Obligations (every member should witness and bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ)
   3. Missionary Obligations (every member should give for local and foreign missions)


D. Authority - As already mentioned, being a confirmed member of the local body of Christ allows for the person to be put into full time Christian

    service all of the gifts God has bestowed on that individual. All of God's people are saved to serve and fall under the authority of the local

    church.  

Note:
Can I be a Christian without joining other believers in a local church? Yes, it is something like - being a soldier without an army, or a football player without a team or better yet, a race car driver without a race car. Every formula race car driver I know has a million dollar sponsor to fulfill the purpose of sponsoring their products and winning the race set before them.  You will not get very far in fulfilling your calling and purpose.


In Acts 2:42-47, as Luke describes the life of the early church.Notice how St. Luke describes those who were added to the church and their activity: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (DISCIPLESHIP) and to the fellowship (FELLOWSHIP), to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

The Basis for Church Membership

     Although Scripture does not contain an explicit command to formally join a local church, the biblical foundation for church membership permeates the New Testament. This biblical basis can be seen most clearly in (1) the example of the early church, (2) the existence of church government, (3) the exercise of church canons and discipline, and (4) the exhortation to mutual edification.  Lastly, how can a church carry out the ministry doctrinally if one is not a Christian and committed to that church. Churches that do not adhere to strict guidelines of church membership could have people teaching and preaching a false doctrine in your church.  Membership is a safe guard in that people cannot walk in off the street and start a ministry in your church without the pastor and bishop approving their suitability for Christian service. 

The Example of the Early Church
     In the early church, coming to Christ was coming to the church. The idea of experiencing salvation without belonging to a local church is foreign to the New Testament. When individuals repented and believed in Christ, they were baptized and added to the church (Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16:5). More than simply living out a private commitment to Christ, this meant joining together formally with other believers in a local assembly and devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayer (Acts 2:42).

     The epistles of the New Testament were written to churches. In the case of the few written to individuals—such as Philemon, Timothy and Titus—these individuals were leaders in churches. The New Testament epistles themselves demonstrate that the Lord assumed that believers would be committed to a local assembly.

    There is also evidence in the New Testament that just as there was a list of widows eligible for financial support (1 Tim. 5:9), there may also have been a list of members that grew as people were saved (cf. Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 16:5). In fact, when a believer moved to another city, his church often wrote a letter of commendation to his new church (Acts 18:27; Rom. 16:1; Col. 4:10; cf. 2 Cor. 3:1-2).  The early church was at that time ONE church, not all the thousands of churches we have today.

     In the book of Acts, much of the terminology fits only with the concept of formal church membership. Phrases such as “the whole congregation” (6:5), “the church in Jerusalem” (8:1), “the disciples” in Jerusalem (9:26), “in every church” (14:23), “the whole church” (15:17), and “the elders of the church” in Ephesus (20:17), all suggest recognizable church membership with well-defined boundaries (also see 1 Cor. 5:4; 14:23; and Heb. 10:25).

The Existence of Church Government
     The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that a plurality of presbyters is to oversee each local body of believers. The specific duties given to these presbyters presuppose a clearly defined group of church members who are under their care.

     Among other things, these godly men are responsible to shepherd God’s people (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2), to labor diligently among them (1 Thess. 5:12), to have charge over them (1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 5:17), and to keep watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). Scripture teaches that the elders or presbyters will give an account to God for the individuals allotted to their charge (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:3).

     Those responsibilities require that there be a distinguishable, mutually understood membership in the local church. Priests can shepherd the people and give an account to God for their spiritual well-being only if they know who they are; they can provide oversight only if they know those for whom they are responsible; and they can fulfill their duty to shepherd the flock only if they know who is part of the flock and who is not.

     The priest of a church are not responsible for the spiritual well-being of every individual who visits the church or who attends sporadically. Rather, they are primarily responsible to shepherd those who have submitted themselves to the care and the authority of the priest, and this is done through church membership.

     Conversely, Scripture teaches that believers are to submit to their leadership. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them.” The question for each believer is, “Who are your leaders?” The one who has refused to join a local church and entrust himself to the care and the authority of the elders has no leaders. For that person, obedience to Hebrews 13:17 is impossible. To put it simply, this verse implies that every believer knows to whom he must submit, which, in turn, assumes clearly defined church membership.

The Exercise of Church Discipline

     In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus outlines the way the church is to seek the restoration of a believer who has fallen into sin—a four-step process commonly known as church discipline. First, when a brother sins, he is to be confronted privately by a single individual (v. 15). If he refuses to repent, that individual is to take one or two other believers along to confront him again (v. 16). If the sinning brother refuses to listen to the two or three, they are then to tell it to the church (v. 17). If there is still no repentance, the final step is to put the person out of the assembly (v. 17; cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-13).

     The exercise of church discipline according to Matthew 18 and other passages (1 Cor. 5:1-13; 1 Tim. 5:20; Titus 3:10-11) presupposes that the priest of a church know who their members are. For example, the priests of Emmaus Abbey Church have neither the responsibility nor the authority to discipline a member of the church down the street. Sadly, the widespread lack of understanding of church membership has made it necessary for our elders to discipline not only formal members but also those who regularly fellowship at  Emmaus Abbey Church. However, the Bible’s teaching on church discipline assumes church membership.

The Exhortation to Mutual Edification

     The New Testament teaches that the church is the body of Christ, and that God has called every member to a life devoted to the growth of the body. In other words, Scripture exhorts all believers to edify the other members by practicing the “one-anothers” of the New Testament (e.g., Heb. 10:24-25) and exercising their spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-7; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). Mutual edification can only take place in the context of the corporate body of Christ. Exhortations to this kind of ministry presuppose that believers have committed themselves to other believers in a specific local assembly. Church membership is simply the formal way to make that commitment.

Conclusion
     Living out a commitment to a local church involves many responsibilities: exemplifying a godly lifestyle in the community, exercising one’s spiritual gifts in diligent service, contributing financially to the work of the ministry, giving and receiving admonishment with meekness and in love, and faithfully participating in corporate worship. Much is expected, but much is at stake. For only when every believer is faithful to this kind of commitment is the church able to live up to her calling as Christ’s representative here on earth. To put it simply, membership matters.


A Note:   

Although anyone is welcome to participate in the life of this congregation without officially becoming a member, we believe it to be important for every Christian to make a commitment to some part of the Body of Christ until they believe God has called them into the Emmaus Abbey fellowship. As the bible says; "We are saved to serve."  Such a commitment is certainly not intended as a replacement of one’s commitment to Jesus, but rather as an expression of the commitment.

If the Lord calls you to become part of this fellowship, you can become a baptized member by completing a New Member Class and participating in a New Member Covenant Service. These brief services of commitment are held periodically throughout the year during the regular Sunday worship service.

In addition, should you desire to be confirmed by a bishop of The Charismatic Episcopal Church, or having been confirmed by a bishop in another communion desire to be received into this part of the Body of Christ as a confirmed member, there are Confirmation Classes for adults (minimum 17 years of age) scheduled each year.

The purposes of Confirmation:

1)  To make an adult profession of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord in the presence of the congregation and a bishop, representing the apostolic ministry of the larger Body of Christ.

2)  If not previously experienced, to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.

3)  To receive from the bishop his apostolic blessing of the strengthening work of the Holy Spirit for mission and ministry.

–The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12



Membership Classes


New at Emmaus, these classes will help you assimilate quickly into the body of Christ!


Hey, been out of church for awhile or just getting started, here's a way to get connected again. Starting anew in your walk of faith in Christ can be exciting.  So Emmaus Abbey is here to help you either one on one or in a group. Here's the (9-week) outline, give us a call...


Newcomer Class Outline
               Overview Handout
     [existing teachings in brackets]

Session 1:  Introduction and Personal Journey

          Welcome/Refreshments- Brett Travis, Rector, Emmaus Abbey Church
           Introduction to the curriculum
           Short Video: What is the ICCEC?
           Introduction to the Emmaus Abbey Parish and ICCEC
           Autobiographies
           FAQ [handout]

Session 2:  Becoming a Disciple: Conversion and Acceptance of Jesus as Lord

            Accepting Jesus as Lord
            Baptism as the protosacrament
            Conversion as an event or a process – teaching and [handout]
            What are the Seven Disciplines of Discipleship?  1) Disciple of Worship,
             2) Discipline of Prayer, 3) Disciple of Living in the Word, 4) Disciple of Fellowship,
             5) Discipline of Stewardship, 6) Discipline of Confession 7) Discipline of Service
                 Discipline of Witnessing

Session 3:  Worship:  the centrality of the Eucharist

            Eucharist in the Scriptures [handout]
            Liturgy – [The Holy Eucharist explained]
            Signs and Symbols [handout]

Session 4:  The Liturgical Year

            The Church Year – [handout]
            Liturgical Observances – the major feasts, lesser feasts
            What are Lectionary Readings

Session 5: Individual and Corporate Prayer

          How are we to pray in our homes and our church
          Daily Prayer and Prayer Partnering [Prayer Scriptures handout]
          Prayer as warfare [handout]
          Prayer of silence [handout]

Session 6:  Scripture/Bible Study/ Evangelism & Discipleship

            Inerrancy of Holy Scripture
            Bible Study methods and opportunities
            Scripture and contemporary issues
            Test your knowledge of the Bible
 
Session 7:  Charismatic Gifts

            Spiritual Gifts teaching [make Scriptures handout from newcomer material]
            Baptism of Holy Spirit           

            Hearing the Voice of God  [handout “Guidelines”]
            Knowing God – mind of Christ  [handout]
            Teaching on Biblical Prophecy [reduce teaching to handout]

             Inner Healing Ministries

Session 8:  The Church as Community – the Body of Christ

            The Body of Christ vs. corporate model

            The Essentials of Church Membership
            Reconciliation and Accountability  [handout on forgiveness and reconciliation]
            Forgiveness  [lunch and learn teaching]
            Christian Conflict Resolution  [handout]
            Sacramental confession  [handout]

Session 9:  Government by Consensus

            Acts 15 model  [two files, handout]
            Eucharistic Altar as the seat of government
            CEC structure  [handout]



Intergenerational Christian Formation

Emmaus Abbey tries to keep the family together in its worship and teaching ministries in order to mature the next generation.  “One generation commends God's work to another; they tell of His mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4 Most churches and faith communities segment their ministries by age and generation. The kids go to children’s church, the teens go to youth group. Worship services are geared toward different generational preferences, and small groups gather people at the same life stage, whether singles, young marrieds, parents or empty nesters. In some congregations, people may never interact with those of other ages. But it was not always so. Throughout biblical tradition and the majority of history, communities of faith included people of all ages together in corporate worship, education and ministry. The church was not just multigenerational; it was intergenerational, with the whole church together as one family and people of all ages learning from one another in common life. In this approach we offer a complete framework of learning for intentional intergenerational Christian formation.