‘Submit’ is an unpopular word in our culture. It’s an attitude that has infected the church, making the word ‘dirty’ and controversial. But it’s in the Bible, so we need to listen. It’s also relevant to our exploration of church membership.
The New Testament raises the issue of submission to church leaders several times, such as Hebrews 13:17 (“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account”), 1 Peter 5:2 (“Shepherd the flock of God that is among you”) and Acts 20:28 (“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers”). How should they be understood?
This is helpful both for the flock and the leaders. Are leaders responsible for every Christian they meet, or only for a specific group? Should the flock listen to every leader of every church, or just of their own local church?
This is where formal membership is important. How do the leaders know who the flock are? Does it include someone who attends the church twice in a row? The person who attends but makes no real contact with them? What’s a reasonable answer? Our way of solving this dilemma is church membership.
One thing Christians do in becoming members of a church is voluntarily submit to the leadership of that church. Relationships of responsibility and submission are made clear. Plus, members are given particular rights, including the ability to choose new leaders when there is the opportunity (Acts 6:1-6).
Last week we saw that membership helped identify who were genuine believers. Now we see it clarifies who is in a flock under particular shepherds. Are you willing to submit yourself to Christ’s under-shepherds?