Thursday, December 11, 2014

How does one become a member of a church? Does church membership matter?

Before this question can be answered, some terms need to be clarified and defined. 

What does the word “church” mean?

The word “church” in its most simple and literal sense means “assembly or gathering”.  Often times people will say “I am going to church”, when they are talking about attending the assembly. The word church is at times in reference to a local body of believers like the churches mentioned in the beginning of the book of Revelation (such as  “the church of Ephesus”). 

The word “church” may also be in reference to the universal body of Christians in all locations. This is what is being referred to in passages like (Ephesians 5:25) where Jesus is said to have died for the church, or in (Colossians 1:18) where Jesus is called the “head of the church”. 

When does one become a member of the church?

Once you believe in Jesus (John 8:24), change your life/Repent (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38), God saves you by His grace and adds you to HIS CHURCH (Acts 2:41,47).
So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls...praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
A person does not “join” the church, but instead, at the moment of their salvation, God adds them to the church. For a person to say they are a Christian, but not a member of the church, would be an impossibility. 

What about local church membership?

The Bible does not specifically outline how a person becomes part of a local congregation. It would be assumed that one would assemble regularly with the people who brought him or her to Christ. It is important for an individual to be part of a local congregation in order to be spiritually shepherded and encouraged.

What if you move to a new town? Can one choose to not be a member of any church?

The Bible is full of examples of how local churches are to function. You do not have Christians ever mentioned as living in a specific locale and refusing to gather with other Christians (except for those “forsaking the assembly” in Hebrews 10:25). 

Elders are to help shepherd a local flock of Christians. How could this happen if one is not part of a local congregation? The Bible mentions a church gathering together and trying a restore a lost brother (Matthew 18). This could not happen if one is not part of a local church. The church is to raise up elders from its membership. If a local church had no members, this would be impossible (1 Timothy 3). A local congregation is to reach out and meet the needs of widows (1 Timothy 5). This would not be possible without local church members working together as one. The church functions because each member depends on one another. 

There is not set way that a person “places membership” in a congregation, however, it is needed for a person to let a congregation know that they desire to be at that location full-time. Some congregations have you fill out a “getting to know you” type form, others have you stand and introduce yourself to the congregation, while others just list your name in the directory. However it is done, the leadership of a church does need to know who they should expect at services. It is important for ministry coordinators to know who they can call on to staff programs. Being an active member of a local congregation of the Lord’s church is very important to one’s spiritual growth.

By Cliff Sabroe

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Should Christians celebrate Christmas? What is the true meaning of Christmas? Is December 25th Jesus’ birthday? Is Christmas a religious or a secular holiday?

This post will attempt to present a Biblical view of the Christmas holiday as well as answer many of the questions that believers have this time of year.

Is December 25th Jesus’ Birthday?
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), do not give a date for the Nativity. This author is of the conclusion that the time of the Savior's birth is more likely to have occurred in Spring instead of the Winter. Luke 2:8 reads:
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8)
Most scholars note that shepherds guarded their flocks day and night only at lambing time, which would be in the spring. In winter the animals were kept in corrals unwatched. In the early years of the church you do not have any mention of a celebration in relation to the birth of the Messiah. 

What is the origin of the Christmas holiday?
When “Christmas” was first celebrated is up for debate as well as when was December 25th first designated as the date of the Nativity. Concerning this point Dan Graves at writes:
No one knows for sure on what day Christ was born. Dionysus Exiguus, a sixth century monk, who was the first to date all of history from December 25th, the year of our Lord. Other traditions gave dates as early as mid-November or as late as March. How did Christmas come to be celebrated on December 25th? Cultures around the Mediterranean and across Europe observed feasts on or around December 25th, marking the winter solstice. The Jews had a festival of lights. Germans had a yule festival. Celtic legends connected the solstice with Balder, the Scandinavian sun god who was struck down by a mistletoe arrow. At the pagan festival of Saturnalia, Romans feasted and gave gifts to the poor. Drinking was closely connected with these pagan feasts. At some point, a Christian bishop may have adopted the day to keep his people from indulging in the old pagan festival.
There is good evidence that the Christmas holiday was formed in order to serve as a “Christian” alternative to pagan celebrations.

Does God require us to celebrate Christmas? 

*POINT: There are NO set days in Christianity that God Requires us to Observe other than Sunday.

Multiple passages (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2, Rev. 1:10) teach that Sunday is a holiday for the Lord. During Bible times there were individuals who were trying to coerce Christians into celebrating holidays brought over from Judaism but Paul rebukes them for trying to require something that God does not and tells the Christians to not allow these individuals to pass judgment on them.
“Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day-- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” -  (Col. 2:16-17)
Some Christians choose to not celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday or not even at all. They should not feel “pressured” into celebrating a certain day. No one has the right to religiously bind on others any special day carried over either from pagan practice, or an expired divine religion (i.e. Judaism).  Christians should not let themselves be pressured to conform. Do not feel pressured to keep any “day” just because someone says you should.

Is it ok to celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday? What about keeping secular  Christmas traditions?

The Bible makes it clear that it is acceptable for Christians emphasize certain days (for religious reasons or not) as long as they do not violate two rules. 
  • #1 - Nothing sinful is done during the celebration (such as worshiping an idol - Galatians 4:8-11).
  • #2 - That the day is not bound upon nor required of others (Romans 14:5-6)

One may choose to make up there own special days or even utilize ones that were left over from religious practices (As is the case in Romans 14). According to Romans 14, it would be wrong for me to demand that others celebrate the day with me, but it would also be wrong if brethren condemned me for celebrating such a day. An individual may even choose to take a certain day and use it to remember an event in Scripture (as many do with the birth of Jesus in December). 

Many Christians understand that there are a lot of false ideas about Jesus presented during Christmas time. Because of this, some choose to just celebrate Christmas as a “national” or “secular” holiday. Celebrating Christmas as a secular holiday and not a religious one would also be Biblically acceptable.  As a Christian I have the Scriptural right to celebrate secular events and days as well as long as the celebration does not cause me to engage in sinful behavior.

Some individuals have a problem with certain holiday traditions that have their origin in pagan practices (if it violates their conscious, they should not do it). There is nothing wrong with engaging in behavior that had its origins in a false practice as long as you yourself are not engaging in any sinful behavior. The name of our day of the week “Thursday” comes from the word “Thor” (the Norse God of Thunder). In fact the name “Thursday” means “Day of Thor”. To use that name today is not an endorsement of pagan religion. (The same would go for Easter Eggs or Christmas Trees). 

  • If a Christian chooses to engage in the traditional Christmas activities, that is his or her right.
  • If a Christian chooses not to, because it violates their conscience (because of its Religious or Pagan roots) that is his or her Scriptural right.
  • Even if a Christian chooses personally to remember the birth of Jesus on December 25th without teaching something the Scriptures do not teach, that is his or her choice
  • No one has the right to condemn either person because of them choosing to or to not esteem certain days.
Final Thoughts:
  • It may be wise to not do certain things that give the impression that you believe that December 25th is Jesus Birthday. 
  • One should also use caution with “Christmas Songs”. Some teach things that are false and offer worship that God is not pleased with.
  • Don’t get overly preoccupied with correcting everybody who does believe that December 25th is the exact day Jesus was born, their interest in Jesus may serve as an opportunity for sharing the Gospel.
Jesus is the Reason for Every Season:
Jesus birth was a miraculous event no matter what day it happened. It fulfilled many prophecies and proved His Deity. It is a marvelous event because Jesus would ultimately “…save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus was born, lived, and died to save mankind. 

By Cliff Sabroe - Citations from NASB and