Yesterday we began a series of posts examining the question, "Why pursue a regenerate church membership?" In yesterday's post, we considered the benefits of seeking regenerate church membership to the life and health of the local church. Today, we consider the advantages of a regenerate church membership for the person and work of the pastor. How does prayerfully and patiently working to ensure that the members of your local church are Christians (to the best of your ability) contribute to a healthier pastoral ministry and experience?
1. A regenerate church membership helps the pastor in his accounting before God. Pastors are those who must give an account before God for their stewardship of the souls entrusted to their care. The biblical aim is to create a context and climate where they can take on that awesome task with joy that profits the congregation (Heb. 13:17). We want pastors to conclude with Paul that their congregations are "their boast in the day of the Lord" (2 Cor. 1:13,14), "to very gladly spend and be spent for their souls" (2 Cor. 12:15a). Removing or preventing unregenerate persons from membership clarifies who the pastor is to watch over and who it is God will call him to account for on that day.
2. A regenerate church membership increases the affection shared between a pastor and the congregation. Consider Paul's longing and love for the congregations he established! To that troubled church in Corinth he wrote: "You are our epistle written in our hearts..." (2 Cor. 3:2); "O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open" (2 Cor. 6:11); "Open your hearts to us... for I have said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together" (2 Cor. 7:2,3). He penned these words to a church apparently filled with carnal members, unregenerate persons. These appeals coincide with the letter's exhortations to turn from worldliness and live as people born again by the Spirit of God. Regenerate membership goes hand in hand with mutual affection between a pastor and a congregation.
To the Thessalonians the apostle wrote, "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and our joy" (1 Thes. 2:19,20). Pray that every pastor would boast in his congregation, find joy in the ministry, and an increasing mutual affection with those entrusted to his care for the glory of God. And pray that the path to such blessing would at least in part be cleared through a regenerate church membership.
3. A regenerate church membership protects the congregation and the pastorate from false teachers and teachings. Surely false teachers are among the people of God today, creeping in with perverse Christ-denying doctrines and blemishing the love feasts of the redeemed (Jude 4, 12; 1 Cor. 15:12; 2 Cor. 11:3,4; Eph. 4:14; Phil. 3:18,19; 1 Tim. 1:5-7). Guarding the doctrine of the church is ultimately a congregational responsibility. It is the congregation that is to "withdraw" from false teachers (1 Tim. 6:3-5) and pronounce anathema on those teaching "another gospel," even if it comes from an apostle (Gal. 1:8,9). The congregation must be prepared to defend the gospel and the teachings of the Word, but to do that effectively it must be comprised of born-again members whose minds are captured by Jesus and the truth of His word.
4. Given all the above, a regenerate church membership should help with the widespread problem of pastor fatigue and burnout. Members who understand gospel priorities, who love from a sincere heart, have been given a new heart, who think with the mind of Christ, who appreciate the eternal labors of shepherds are members who pray and work to make pastoral ministry a joy, rendering to their overseers the kind of honor and affection they are due (1 Tim. 5:17-21).
May the pastorate be made a place of great blessing for both the men who serve as pastors and their congregations through an increasingly pure church membership! Next time, Lord willing, the benefits of regenerate church membership to members of the congregation.
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