word “church” in our English Bibles is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia”.
This word is also translated as “assembly” in
Acts 19:32, 39, and
41; Acts 7:38, R. V.; and as “congregation” in
Heb. 2:12, R. V.,
as well as an alternate reading in
Mt.18:17, R. V.
relation to Christians, the word “church” is given two different
applications in the New Testament. (1) The totality of all the saved
(redeemed, saints, etc.) of the whole world. Such usage is found in
Mt. 16:18, Eph.
1:22, Col. 1:18. We generally speak of this usage as the
“universal church”. (2) A group of Christians who have united together
to work and worship as a single unit. Such usage is found in
Acts 20:28, 1 Cor.
1:2, Gal. 1:13,1 Thes. 1:1. We usually speak of this as the
and Phil. 1:1,
we find that the “local church” is given a plurality of elders whose
20:28, I Peter 5:2) ; literally, “to look over — or after —a
flock”. (2) To “feed (or tend) the flock”
(Acts 20:28, 1
Peter5:2). (3) Teaching
(4) Protect (Tit.
1:9). (5) “Rule”
(I Tim. 5:17, Heb.
13:17); literally, “To stand before” or “To be at the head as
leader”. (6) To be an example, or pattern
(1 Peter 5:3).
(7) To watch after, and give an account to God for, souls in
their charge (Heb.
elders adequately perform their God-given tasks, and discharge their
responsibilities to the flock, they must know who are members of the
“local flock — church”, which they oversee. This necessitates what is
generally called “being identified” or “placing membership”. By this
process the elders know that you are not “just a visitor” but that you
intend to “work and worship” as a member of that congregation, and to be
under their oversight.
scriptures indicate that Christians should be not only a part of the
“universal church”, but also a part of a “local church”. When Paul
arrived at Jerusalem, he endeavored to “join himself” to the disciples
there (Acts 9:26).
Paul and Barnabas later became “identified” with the church at
Antioch (Acts 11:26,
it is conceivable that conditions may exist, where for a time one is a
member only of the “universal church”
he should, as soon as possible, become “identified” with a “local
church”, as did Paul and Barnabas
If there is not a faithful congregation of the Lord’s people meeting in
that area, he should begin one. Thus, the idea that one can be a member
of a “local church” where he has not worshipped for weeks, months, and
sometimes years, is denominational in origin and unscriptural in
to avoid responsibilities and discipline will become “floating members”;
just visiting around from place to place, never “identifying” with any
one congregation. If these people become needful of discipline, and are
approached by the elders of any of the congregations where they attend,
their immediate reply is; “but, we’re not members of your congregation!”
Therefore, to eliminate this, when we move to another town, or
permanently sever our connection with a congregation, we should find
another faithful congregation of the Lord’s people and “join” ourselves
to them; settle down and go to work.
we should not lightly sever our connection with one congregation and
“place membership” with another. Naturally, if we move from one town to
another, it becomes essential that we do so at once. Sometime we may
deem it necessary to become part of another “local church” within the
same general area where we have previously worked and worshipped
because: (1) We feel it necessary for our own spiritual growth. (2) We
feel that such will enable us to be more effective and useful for the
Lord. (3)There are unscriptural doctrines and/or practices in the former
congregation which we are unable to correct. However; let us be sure
that we can substantiate our claim of such. (4) There is such a strong
difference of opinion as to the advisability — not scripturalness — of a
particular work or activity that we feel it is better for peace and
harmony that we work and worship elsewhere
If this is the reason, when at all possible, we should “forbear” with
one another (Eph.
4:2). (5) We have been unscripturally and unjustifiable
“withdrawn” from and are unable to get the mistake corrected. This
sometimes happens. But let’s be positive it is they that are wrong, and
not us! Also, that we have done ALL in our power to rectify the error!
leave one congregation and become “joined” to another, we should be
ENTIRELY POSITIVE that our motives are honest and justifiable. It should
never be done: (1) To put pressure on the former congregation to honor
our particular whim. (2) Because the truth has been preached and our
toes thereby stepped on. (3) To escape discipline or responsibilities.
(4) Through jealousy and envy because we have been passed over for some
particular work. If it be for such reasons as these, we will soon be
dissatisfied with the new congregation!
one “identifies” himself with a congregation, he should be admitted into
the fellowship of that “local church”. If there seems any reason to
doubt or question his previous faithfulness, the elders should exert
every effort possible to satisfy themselves that this person is
faithful and not in need of restoration. If it is found that he has not
been faithful, or transferred membership to escape needed discipline,
then the church should institute disciplinary action against this new
member just as they would against any other. Likewise, if we seek to
sever our connection with one congregation that we may be “joined” to a
religious body in error, the elders have no course open but to begin
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