April 4, 2012 by C.J. Mahaney
Categories: Conferences | Interviews
Another speaker you’re going to get to meet this year if you join us at Next 2012 is Jared Mellinger, a pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania.
Like Kevin, Matt, and Ian, Jared is part of a young generation of pastors that gives me a lot of joy as I think about the future. I won’t get to see all of that future myself, but I can see when I look at these young men that the future is going to be well led, and that the transfer of the gospel between generations is being accomplished. Jared in particular is wise beyond his years (an overused expression, but it’s true) and a gifted expositor of the Word. So enjoy his answers to the questions below, and if you want to hear more of what he has to say about Church Membership, join us in Orlando over Memorial Day weekend at the Next conference.
When did the local church become important to you and why?
I grew up in the church and my parents faithfully modeled the importance of the local church for me. But when I entered the teen years, I became bored with church. The reason the church was boring to me was that God himself was boring to me, and I was blind to his grace in Christ.
It wasn’t until I was entering college as a young Christian that I was forced to think through the role of the church in the life of a believer for myself. I saw that some of the most committed Christians on campus were not remotely committed to the local church, and that struck me as strange. When I was 18 years old, I attended a conference in Baltimore called New Attitude. I heard preaching on the importance of the church, and that set me on a course of loving the church that has continued to this day.
Share just one Scripture passage that has impacted your understanding of the church.
Revelation 1:9-20 (and all of Rev. 1-3) has taught me that Jesus Christ is the Lord of the church, and that he cares greatly about the health of local churches. It is a beautiful picture: The One who loved the church and obtained the church with his precious blood is now risen from the dead and walking among the lampstands, which are the local churches. Jesus fixes his loving attention upon the health and holiness of individual congregations. This is his passion.
I believe our Savior still walks among the lampstands today. And that picture is more than enough to get me fired up about the church.
You're speaking at Next 2012 on "The Church and Membership." Why should this matter to us?
Ultimately, the reason we care about church membership is because God cares about church membership. The Bible teaches that bad things happen when the boundary line between the church and the surrounding world becomes fuzzy, and that glorious things happen when that line becomes clear. Membership is about drawing a clear line around the people of God. Also, I am concerned that too many Christians in our generation are unacquainted with the privileges and protection of church membership.
How would you counsel someone who is looking for a church to join—what should they be looking for?
Don’t care too much about image, the personality of leaders, technological savvy, creativity, the size of the church, and musical style. Those are all overrated. Instead, find a church that treasures the gospel of Jesus Christ, trembles at the word of God, emphasizes preaching and sound theology, seeks the power and presence of the Spirit, abounds in love, faithfully practices the sacraments and church discipline, and is committed to biblical evangelism and missions.
What would you say is the average church member's job description?
The categories in Acts 2:42-47 come to mind. In no particular order: Praise God in all of life, value teaching and doctrine, be devoted to prayer, attend the meetings of the church, practice fellowship and mutual care, use your gifts, walk in unity, give generously, and witness in word and deed.
At Covenant Fellowship Church, we call every member to treasure, proclaim, and grow in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are a family of brothers and sisters in Christ that is marked by each member pursuing gospel-astonishment, gospel-advancement, and gospel-application.
Why don't we just say that everyone is a member of every church, that we're all part of the "universal church?"
While it’s true that all believers are a part of the universal church, God intends for our commitment to the church to find concrete expression in a particular congregation. Church membership is really the only way for us to be truly submitted to pastoral authority (Exactly who is responsible to keep watch over my soul and give an account of me?) and the only way to be subject to the discipline of the church (Exactly who has the right to apply the instructions for church discipline to me or remove me from the church if needed?). In other words, there are clear instructions to Christian leaders and instructions to all Christians that cannot be carried out apart from the idea of membership in a specific, visible local church.