While this book may not be an all-encompassing church membership resource it is an excellent and essential addition to a church's membership process. I'm making this pre-requisite reading for everyone who is interested in joining the church the Lord has given me charge over.
I think the author brought up great points and biblical references for how a Christian's life should be lived and carried out. However, my biggest problem is the disconnect to church membership itself. I don't think the biblical ties made to membership being something that is commanded versus the option were very strong. He casts a vision that seems to elevate the "local church" beyond it purpose and authority. My biggest stance I disagree with the author is his point made by basically saying you can't claim to be a true believer, follower of Christ Christian without the local church's consent.
Jonathan Leeman has done a commendable job of expounding the sixth of the "9 Marks of a Healthy Church," first put forth by Mark Dever in his book by that name. This present title is one of the smaller volumes in the series being produced by 9Marks in an effort to assist pastors and church leaders in the reformation and revitalization of their churches. "Membership matters" is the succinct thesis of this book. Leeman proposes that most churches have been approaching the subject of church membership incorrectly for years by accepting members on "profession of faith" without examination of the candidate. He implies that many church problems can be avoided when greater care is exercised in "who gets in." The church is the visible representation of Jesus Christ on earth and, therefore, its purity must be protected at all costs. How rare to hear that today! Using biblical material in story form, Leeman shoots straight but does so in a non-threatening manner. He points out the difference between "joining" a church, as one would join a social club, and "submitting" to a local body of believers and its leaders. He broaches the subject of church discipline and excommunication, but actually develops that more completely in a companion volume in this same series. None of the books in the 9Marks series are comprehensive, but make excellent material for small group studies and personal contemplation.
The iconic Ã¢â¬Ëlittle black book' is a small journal or address book that supposedly contained contact information for dating and romantic purposes. Popular culture, such as the 2004 movie Little Black Book, has reinforced this symbol of less-than-committed social relationships. If you're old enough, you may have first encountered this social motif while watching Happy Days; Fonzie would regularly consult his little black book to find a suitable date for a Saturday night. But I'd like to discuss a little book that comes in a different colour.
Jonathan Leeman, the Editorial Director for 9Marks and author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love, has written a Ã¢â¬Ëlittle blue book' that is concerned with a different social construct than that of dating and romance. Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus is a concise book covering a broad spectrum of church membership related questions and issues and is notable for its moving illustrations, analogies, and anecdotes. At only 130 smallish pages, this indeed is a little book. But do not let the diminutive dimensions deter you from reading this book. Its benefits are incommensurate with its size.
The word concise is chosen because despite the relatively short length of this work, its topical breadth is surprising and the force with which it covers its ideas is impressive. Leeman covers church membership by looking at five all-encompassing ideas about what the church is which leads into what church membership is. These five big ideas about the church are: the church as the highest earthly authority in things pertaining to faith, the church as a people bound together under Christ's rule, the church as Christ's embassy on earth, the church member as one who is officially affirmed and publically recognized, and the church not as something one joins but rather something one submits to. Clearly, covering all these topics could easily require several books. And though Leeman's writing on this topic is not exhaustive, definitely not a goal of this work, it is thorough, enlightening and helpful.
Leeman continues by considering membership through the Biblical accounts of the New Testament church. This chapter confirms that "to be a Christian is to belong to a church" (46) by way of ten Scriptural themes preceded by an interesting historical narrative. The book progresses with definitions of a church and church membership and then clarifies these definitions by looking at the bible's metaphors for the church. Two chapters, on becoming a member and being a member, shine light on the practical reality of what Leeman has advanced thus far. Leeman proceeds through a delicate yet direct discussion of church discipline followed by a chapter considering how church membership might look different depending on the societal context of the church.
It should be obvious with the breadth of topics and ideas under consideration in this book that Leeman has indeed been concise in his writing. At no time did the transfer of information seam threadbare or meagre; the discussion seemed surprisingly thorough.
Stylistically, what makes Church Membership notable are its refreshing and real-to-life illustrations, anecdotes, and analogies. Leeman has a penchant for memorable commentary on the point he is deliberating. His personal anecdotes are appropriately chosen to help the reader reflect on issues and see them in light of real circumstances. Leeman's story of a church member's discipline and restoration was emotionally powerful and intellectually engaging. It allowed me to grasp the power of Biblical church practices. Suitable analogies are employed to help clarify ideas. The presentation of the church as Christ's earthly embassy, a foundational idea in this book, was particularly adroit. Leeman's skill in illustrating concepts may be seen most convincingly in his discussion of the Bible's metaphors for the church. I found this discourse on the bible's use of figurative language pertaining to the church engaging and engrossing, enlightening and edifying.
This Ã¢â¬Ëlittle blue book' is a wonderful introduction to the topic of church membership. It has a surprising breadth of content which it delivers through compellingly concise writing which is bolstered and beautified through powerful illustrations. Church Membership is a book worth reading, and it leaves one desiring the other book in this series; Leeman's Ã¢â¬Ëlittle red book' entitled Church Discipline.