Church membership is, sadly, a controversial matter in the American Church. People will leave churches at the very mention of the word, "membership." Arguments on this topic can get really hot. On the other side, there are also Christians that are so apathetic to the topic they've chosen to know nothing about it and ignore or rewrite anything in the Bible that might simply hint at membership. Most Christians are sandwiched between these two extremes and that is who Jonathan Leeman seeks in his book, Church Membership: How the world knows who represents Jesus.
Church Membership is a small book--only 132 small pages--in the 9Marks series, Building Healthy Churches. This series include titles such as Evangelism by Mark Stiles, Church Elders by Jeramie Rinne, Church Discipline by Jonathan Leeman, and Expositional Preaching by David Helm.
Leeman sets the parameters of his audience, writing, "I'm not writing [this book] primarily for the person who is skeptical of church membership, though, if that's you, it might prove helpful, too. I'm aiming for the average church goer, church member, and church leader who have been going along with the crowd on this topic" (18). His intention, it seems, is to provide something of an introduction rather than an argument for church membership; however, his introduction does do a nice job arguing in favor of membership.
"My primary purpose," writes Leeman, "is to show you what church membership is, because it's not what you think it is" (18). In what follows, Leeman walks his readers through a survey of the New Testament, offering all the spots that hit at or explicitly point to membership within both the universal Body of Christ as well as in the local church. He also offers a great deal of logical progression through the topic, doing well to keep the Bible in view (most of the time).
Church Membership is an easy, quick read, but it will not appeal to everybody. For those already determined that membership in a specific local church is a prerequisite and necessary for salvation, this book will not likely persuade one away from heresy. Likewise, the person who has already predetermined that membership in a local church is akin to abusive of the flock will reject Leeman's biblical survey and call him anamatha. However, for those in the middle, who reside within Leeman's intended audience, this book should be both informative and helpful.
I found it helpful and well written. It probably could have made the same points in half as many pages, but I understand, publishers don't like to print 75 page booklets as much as they prefer to print 132 page books.
If membership is a topic on which you could use more information, I recommend this little book. Purchase it at Amazon.com here.
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