Midwestern Seminary hosts 9Marks conference on membership


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Midwestern Seminary partnered with 9Marks to host “A Conference on Membership” on Tuesday through Wednesday, April 16–17. Speakers Jason K. Allen, Brian Davis, Zach Schlegel, Philip Van Steenburgh, Jared C. Wilson, Jonathan Leeman, and Jeff Lacine brought messages and led panel discussions aimed at providing a biblical understanding of church membership and cultivating meaningful membership practices in the local church.

Allen led the conference’s opening session, addressing the question, “Is church membership biblical?”

He offered nine indicators of church membership in the New Testament, demonstrating that membership is essential to fulfill biblical requirements for the church such as faithful pastoral oversight and loving one another.

Allen said, “There is no way to fulfill the New Testament pictures of Christian congregationalism without doing so in the context of church membership.”

Brian Davis, pastor of Exalting Christ Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, brought the second message, addressing practical ways pastors and church leaders can cultivate meaningful membership in their churches.

Emphasizing the church’s role in displaying God’s glorious name, Davis offered nine steps pastors can take to teach their churches the meaning of membership through the ordinances and church life.

Davis shared, “Our concern is that members do whatever God has said and learn what God has said in order that we might display His name with the honor that He is worthy of.”

Zach Schlegel, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, delivered the third message, focusing on the relationship between church membership and evangelism.

Schlegel noted that Christ alone has the authority to bring members into His body, while the church’s role is to display to the world what it means to belong to Christ.

“This is what makes having meaningful membership so important,” Schlegel said. “The church is God’s number one plan for evangelism. As the church lives like the church, the world begins to know who are God’s. He then uses the church, moving as the church, to display His manifold wisdom to the world and draw people to Himself.”

The fourth message was given by Philip Van Steenburgh, lead pastor of Wornall Road Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri. Van Steenburgh addressed the question, “How does church membership help us follow Jesus and disciple others?”

Noting that all Christians bear a responsibility to follow Jesus and help others follow Him, Van Steenburgh said, “In church membership, Christians formally and publicly recognize that they have a commitment to a local church relationship where they will follow Jesus and disciple others.”

Jared C. Wilson, assistant professor of pastoral ministry and author in residence at Midwestern Seminary, and associate pastor for preaching at Liberty Baptist Church near Kansas City, gave the fifth message, highlighting the importance of unity to bind church members together.

Wilson outlined three attributes of unifying love in the church, noting that individuals can unite and divide on numerous issues, while church membership centered on Jesus breeds unity and reflects the power of the gospel.

Wilson shared, “Unifying love is the ripple effect of a congregation fixing its eyes on the wonder of Jesus.”

Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks and elder at Cheverly Baptist Church in Hyattsville, Maryland, opened the second day of the conference with a session warning against heavy-handed membership practices.

Leeman said, “We’re required to implement some kind of membership, a covenantal community where we’re agreeing to oversee one another in the faith so we can fulfill all the one-another commands. How do we do it?” He noted, “The bottom line is to require what the Bible requires.”

Leeman offered six steps to cultivate healthy church leadership, emphasizing reliance on God’s authority over the church, care for the members and their situational needs, and consideration of Scripture’s teaching on the congregation’s authority and Christian freedom.

The final session was delivered by Jeff Lacine, lead pastor of Sellwood Church in Portland, Oregon. Lacine addressed the pastor’s fundamental status as a member of the local church.

Noting the church’s role to provide its members with spiritual protection and encouragement, Lacine encouraged pastors to seek growth in Christ as church members by engaging in corporate worship, seeking instruction from within their churches, and pursuing friendship with church members.

“Pastors, praise God, we are in the church and not merely over the church as overseers,” Lacine said. “And our membership in the body of Christ is a constant reminder that Christ has purchased us as part of the flock and members in His household.”

To watch one of the conference’s main sessions, visit mbts.edu/chapel.