Ryan M. McGraw & Ryan Speck
Reviewed by: Brett Mahlen
Is Church Membership Biblical? by Ryan M. McGraw and Ryan Speck. Reformation Heritage Books, 2015. Paperback, 32 pages, list price $3.00. Reviewed by OP pastor Brett Mahlen.
Church membership can be a thorny issue. There are people who believe the gospel, read their Bible, pray regularly, and even attend church, but they deny that church membership is biblical. Such well-meaning people may seem to have a good argument; they may even ask us to show them one Bible verse where church membership is mentioned. Also, we live in a time when many believers hop from one church to another without becoming rooted. How shall we help such people?
We should remember that church membership is not proved from one verse, but from reading all of God’s word (not unlike the Trinity and infant baptism). To guide us, Ryan McGraw and Ryan Speck have written Is Church Membership Biblical? and they have done a great job.
This short book reads in the simple style of a Puritan sermon. That structure has a brief introduction, a strong one-sentence thesis (often written in italics), unpacking of the thesis, argument for the thesis, answers to possible objections, and then a conclusion. This book has a similar structure.
The authors define church membership as “a covenant made by a public vow in which a person commits himself or herself to a local body of believers under the authority of a well-defined group of church leaders“ (p. 2).
McGraw and Speck then go on to show that the thesis is true, and that without church membership many passages of the Bible don’t make sense. They argue from the analogy of national citizenship, family membership, and different members of the body; they argue for each of these analogies biblically. The authors then show how the Bible assumes the interdependence and mutual responsibilities that members have with one another. They then show that the many biblical passages dealing with church members and officers assume membership. Church membership is assumed in baptism. It is assumed in formal church discipline. Lastly, the authors ably handle three common objections to church membership.
I highly recommend this book for church officers to give to membership classes. Pastors could give this book to frequent attendees who sit on the fence about membership. This book also challenges our individualistic view of the church. We should all be challenged to be more mindful of our interdependence and mutual responsibilities toward each other and less individualistic.
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