A couple of years ago, following a rigorous and careful study of the Scriptures, we implemented formal church membership here at Bridgeway. Continue reading . . .
A couple of years ago, following a rigorous and careful study of the Scriptures, we implemented formal church membership here at Bridgeway. One of the biblical texts that moved us in that direction was the reference to the people in the local church as being in the “charge” of the Elders (1 Peter 5:3). Some may translate this as “those allotted to you,” or those for whom you bear responsibility.
In my opinion, there’s no way to escape the fact that this exhortation to Elders implies some expression of formal membership in the local church.
Of course Elders can and should extend their love to anyone and everyone, within the limits of their ability. But the question is whether the Bible tells Elders that they are to have a special responsibility and care for a certain group, a group of covenant members. Consider Acts 20:28 where Paul tells the Elders how to care for their flock.
“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
This verse does not say Elders cannot visit unbelievers or those who are not yet members. But it does make clear that their first responsibility is to a particular flock. How are they to know who their flock is? Who are we as Elders and Pastors responsible for? For whom will we give an account to God?
“Those in your charge” (your portion, your lot) implies that the Elders knew whom they were responsible for. This is just another way of talking about membership. If a person does not want to be held accountable by a