1. Our History
2. Our Vision
3. Our Values
4. Our Mission
5. Our Membership
For the past three weeks at Rock Valley Bible Church, we have been considering the
topic of church membership. We have been doing so because we are working to transition
our church from practicing an informal church membership to a formal church membership.
This simply means that we are looking for some formal definition to our relationships
with one another.
Three weeks ago, we looked at “Church Membership in History.” We looked at
how church membership has been practiced throughout history of the church. And we saw
that church membership has been practiced many different ways. In the early church, we
saw rapid membership
. As the church grew rapidly, so did its membership. People
came to faith in droves and were quickly added to the church.
In the post-apostolic church, we saw rigorous membership
. As the church grew, so
did the persecution. And it was important to test those becoming members of the church,
lest they fall away as the pressure increased in their lives. So, the post-apostolic
church made it more rigorous to join.
In the church after Constantine, we saw relaxed membership
. As the default
religion in the empire was Christianity, those born into the empire were assumed to be
Christians. So they were baptized as children and added to the church as members.
This continued for 1,000 years, until the Protestant Reformation. In the church after
the Reformation, we saw regenerate membership
. That is, churches sought to
accept only genuine believers into membership in their churches.
And when it comes to church membership in recent history, practices and beliefs vary
wildly. Some think that church membership is totally optional. Others think that church
membership is necessary. Some churches accept new members the very morning they come
forward confessing their faith in Christ and their desire to join the church. Other
churches take several months and classes and interviews before you become a
Here's the big lesson for us: there has been no consensus over the years of how exactly
to practice church membership. This is because the Bible is silent as to how church
membership should be practiced.
Two weeks ago, we considered “Church Membership in the Bible.” We saw last
week how “membership” is a Biblical word
. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul
members in the church and compares them with members of your own body.
We also saw that church membership is for clarity
. That is, the Bible speaks of
the church as a defined group of people. So that someone is clearly a member of the
church, or clearly not a member of a church. This is most clearly demonstrated when the
church needs to remove one of its members due to their sin. After confronting the
wayward member individually, then by a few more, then by the entire church, Jesus says,
"And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a
tax collector" (Matthew 18:17). That is, let him be outside the church. Or you might
say it this way: Jesus wants the membership of the church to be clear. Those in the
church are his representatives. When someone is not representing Jesus well, Jesus said
that it was mandatory for the church to removed him.
Also, church membership is for care
. When Paul spoke to the elders of the church
in Ephesus, he told them to "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" (Acts 20:28). The Holy Spirit appoints leaders over a
group of people, called the church, to care for them. That is, to help them and teach
them and lead them and support them. Church membership is simply a way to help identify
who the leaders are to care for.
Finally, we saw that with membership comes accountability. The leaders will give
account to the Lord as to how they have cared for those in the church. The author of
Hebrews writes, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over
your souls, as those who will have to give an account" (Hebrews 13:17). Regarding
membership in a church, it is helpful for leaders to know who they are accountable to
before the Lord.
Last week, we looked at “Church Membership in Practice.” That is, how
church membership works itself out. We looked at what is expected of church members.
Church membership is the working out of what it means to be a member of the body of
Christ. Paul compares the church to a body. Eyes help a body know where it needs to
walk. Feet help the body to move. Stomachs give the energy to the body. Lungs and heart
work together to deliver needed oxygen to the body. All of these things take place so
that the body can function. Church members serve one another, so that the body
This is demonstrated in the “one another” commands of the Bible. There are
about 50 such commands in the Bible. Consider a few of these commands:
- “love one another” (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:11, 23;
4:7, 11, 12).The "one another" commands represent well the
expectations of church members.
- “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13; 1 Peter 4:10)
- “accept one another” (Romans 15:7).
- “be kind and compassionate to one another” (Ephesians
- “forgive one another” (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians
- “instruct one another” (Romans 15:14).
- “greet one another” (Romans 16:16).
- “confess our sins to each other” (James
- “pray for each other” (James 5:16).
- “show hospitality to one another” (1 Peter
- “clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter
Church membership is each of us, doing our part to
love and serve and help one another. About a third of these 50 commands are to
“love one another.” Another third of these 50 commands can be placed under
the umbrella of seeking unity for one another. One of the key “one another”
commands is found in Hebrews 10:24-25, ...
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but
encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing
These verses speaks about the importance of church
members regularly gathering together. It speaks of how church members should be
thinking about others, and stirring them up to love and good works.
Well, this morning, I want to conclude our series on church membership by looking at
what church membership looks like at our church. My message is entitled, “Church
Membership at Rock Valley Bible Church.” In my message this morning, I simply
want to describe our church. I want to urge you to become a formal member of our
church. I know that for many of you, this will be review, but it’s a good review.
Let's begin with ...
1. Our History
I want to take us down memory lane. You can trace the heritage of our church back to
1984, when a church began in Warrenville, Illinois, called Grace Church of DuPage. In
1993, this church planted a church in DeKalb, called Kishwaukee Bible Church. Yvonne
and I were privileged to be a part of that church plant. On July 2, 1998, we began a
Thursday evening Bible Study in Rockford with the hope that the Lord would establish a
church in Rockford, Illinois. We met in the basement of a home in Rockford.
As our Bible study grew, we began renting out a church building on Sunday evenings. Our
first meeting was on July 2, 2000. It was a great evening, as many came from Kishwaukee
Bible Church to rejoice with us in what God was doing. In the summer of 2001, I quit my
secular job in DeKalb, and was sent and fully supported by Kishwaukee Bible Church to
focus all of my attention upon the church in Rockford.
On March 3, 2002, we began renting Rockford Christian High School for our Sunday
morning meetings. We rented that building for 8 years. We finally purchased our own
building in Loves Park in 2010. Our first meeting in our building was on Sunday
morning, December 5, 2010. God has done some great things among us. We are thankful for
his grace. Let’s continue with ...
2. Our Vision
Here is our vision statement. It's our purpose for existing: “Rock Valley Bible
Church exists to enjoy his grace and to extend his glory.”
We have worked hard to promote this. It is written on the wall outside the auditorium.
It is on our bulletins every week. It is on our website. It is on the Weekly Word email
that I send out every week. We have pens with this written on them. We have mugs with
this printed on them.
“Rock Valley Bible Church exists to enjoy his grace and to extend his
glory.” The first part of this sentence addresses our vertical relationship with
God. The second part of the sentence addresses our horizontal relationship with
others. Our relationship with the Lord is characterized first and foremost as a
relationship of grace. That is, God has been gracious to us in Christ Jesus by dying
for our sins upon the cross, based upon nothing that we have done. That's grace. God
has created us to enjoy this grace.
Our relationship with others should be characterized by making God’s grace known,
which extends his glory. That is, the grace of God should so impact us and be so
enjoyable to us, that we can do nothing else, but to show it and tell it to others. We
see this often in the Bible. On example is what Jesus said to the Gerasene Demoniac who
Jesus healed. Jesus told him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the
Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).
“Rock Valley Bible Church exists to enjoy his grace and to extend his
glory.” And it’s my aim that every member of Rock Valley Bible Church knows
this clearly. So that if anyone would ask: why does Rock Valley Bible Church exist?
Everyone one of us would respond: "to enjoy his grace and extend his glory!"
Before moving on to my next point, I want to spend a few moments reflecting upon the
meaning of each of these phrases. First of all, ...
a. Enjoying His Grace
If there is anything that I want to see of Rock Valley Bible Church, it’s this
flavor of Christianity that is happy and joyful. A frumpy Christianity that worships
and serves God out of duty and not delight is dishonoring to the Lord. There’s a
big difference between saying, “It’s Sunday, I have to go to church.”
Rather than, “It’s Sunday, there’s no other desire that I want than
to go to church.” There is a big difference in these things. The one is detached
and burdensome. The other is part of our being and communicates with the world around
us the source of our joy, God and his people.
God hasn’t called us to be a dis-interested people, who obey him because he said
that we must obey. Rather, we are called to be joyful worshipers, who serve him from
delight. Consider the following Scriptures. Notice how the LORD
commands us to be joyful.
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD.
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
And that’s what our mission is at Rock Valley Bible
Church. We are seeking to be a joyful Christian community. The source of our joy is the
grace of God. That’s how we come into God’s kingdom, by grace.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is
the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may
Our salvation is a gift of God’s grace to us. Just
as a child enjoys his Christmas gift, so are we to enjoy God’s gracious gift to
us of his salvation. But, it doesn’t merely stop there. God doesn’t want
for us to have this salvation only to enjoy it for ourselves. Rather, he wants for us
to make it known. Or, as we say it, ...
b. Extending His Glory
If we truly embrace the grace of God, we will proclaim it to others. We see this many
times in the Bible. For instance, take the leper that Jesus healed. Jesus told him to
say nothing to anyone, but to show himself to the priests. And what happened? You
couldn't keep his mouth shut. "But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and
to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in
desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter" (Mark 1:45). Why
couldn't he keep his mouth shut? He experienced the grace of God and couldn't help, but
to extend the glory of God to all he met!
Another illustration is of the deaf mute man who Jesus healed. When his ears were
opened and his tongue was released and he spoke plainly. Those who saw it were amazed.
We read in Mark 7:36 that "Jesus charged them to tell no one. But the more he
charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it." What happened? The crowds
witnessed the grace of God and couldn't help, but to extend the glory of God to all who
And should Jesus tell us not to talk about the salvation that he has brought into our
lives, it would be like trying to hold a laugh in during a laughing contest. Sooner or
later, we are just going to burst, telling others of God's grace in our lives. And so,
likewise, we as a church exist to enjoy his grace (in its fullness), and to extend his
glory (to the nations). That’s what we mean by “enjoying his grace and
extending his glory.” Let’s move on to our next point.
3. Our Values
By "values," we mean the core beliefs that we hold to. And in some regard, each of
these core values help to distinguish us from others churches in the area. The first is
a. We believe in the power of the Word of God.
In other words, we believe that "the word of God is living and active, sharper than any
two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of
marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). We
believe that "the word of the Lord remains forever" (1 Peter 1:25). We believe that the
word of God "is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105). We believe
that "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16). We believe in the power of the word of
There is a reason why our pattern is to preach through books of the Bible. Because we
aren't trusting in our own wisdom, but in the wisdom of God as he has revealed it in
the Scriptures. We don't need to go chasing down every relevant topic pertaining to our
Christian lives, packaging together in our own way what the Bible says about this or
that. We believe this because, we believe in the power of the Word of God. He has given
us his word. We want to let God speak in his way. Next, ...
b. We believe in the power of the God.
Fundamentally, this is why we believe in the power of the word of God, because we serve
a powerful God who backs up his word. When he makes a promise, he brings it to
pass. When he decrees, it happens. "Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he
pleases" (Psalm 115:3). And there is nothing that is too difficult for him. "Ah, Lord
God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your
outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you" (Jeremiah 32:17).
God rules the world, as he created it by the power of his speech. He rules over all of
the objects of creation. God rules over the animals. He rules over the spiritual
beings. God rules over human beings. He gives us life (Genesis 2:7). He determines when
and where we live (Acts 17:26). He directs our steps (Proverbs 16:9). He raises up
leaders (Isaiah 44:28-45:1). He pulls down leaders (Exodus 11:1). He buries every
God rules over the souls of men. God is the author of our salvation. He is the one who
has chosen us from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4, 5; 2 Timothy 1:9). He is
the one who "causes us to be born again" (1 Peter 1:3). He is the one who grands us
repentance (Acts 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25). He is the one who give us faith (Ephesians
2:8-9). He is the one who changes us from those who were dead in our sin to those who
are alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-6). He changes us from being blind to the spiritual
realities of Jesus Christ to seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of God in the
face of Christ. It is the Spirit of life that God blows into our hearts that gives us
new life in Christ (John 3:3, 8). We can take as much credit for our spiritual birth as
we can take for our natural birth. None. It's all of grace. That’s the power of
God in our lives. Our third value is that ...
c. We believe in the power of the Gospel.
Consider Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God
for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." You
can't get much clearer than Romans 1:16 says it. There is power in the gospel.
The gospel is the greatest story ever told. It's the greatest news that you will ever
hear. "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried,
and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he
appeared to [many after his death]" (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).
There is power in this message. This simple message has turned drunkards into
respectable citizens (1 Corinthians 6:10). This simple message has turned homosexuals
into straight men and women (1 Corinthians 6:10). This simple message has turned
idolaters into God-worshipers (1 Thessalonians 1:9). This simple message has turned
demon possessed men into spirit-controlled men (Mark 5:1-20). This simple message has
turned the worst of sinners into the greatest of saints. The apostle Paul, Augustine,
and John Newton are but a few famous examples in church history.
And if this morning finds you entrapped in any sin, this message of Christ crucified is
sufficient to give you the strength to overcome sin. The gospel is powerful! This is
why we need to hear it often. Paul told those in Rome that he was eager to preach the
gospel to them (Romans 1:15). Likewise, we are eager to preach the gospel, because it
how power to transform lives.
4. Our Mission
And it is right here that we get very practical. How is it that our vision and values
work themselves out? Our vision is to enjoy his grace and to extend his glory. We value
the power of God, his word, and the gospel. Here’s how it works: we gather
together to be strengthened and equipped, by trusting in God, his word, and the gospel,
that we might scatter to reach a world that is lost and in need of salvation.
When we gather, we focus our attention upon the same things that the early church
focused upon. When the early church was established, there were four characteristics of
the church that marked out its activities. They are set forth in Acts 2:42, "And they
devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of
bread and the prayers." We see here four core activities of the church.
- The apostles teaching
- Breaking of bread
The early church "devoted themselves" to these things.
That is, they gave strong attention given to these activities. And I believe that they
are normative for us as well. We, as a church, ought to give "strong attention" to
these activities as well. Rather than simply go through each of these characteristics
one by one, I would like to show how they relate to our church. We engage in each of
these activities on Sunday mornings, here at the church building.
We meet together to pray at 9:00am to pray
together as a church (Acts 2:42) . We
meet to pray in order
- to plead for God's guidance, strength, and wisdom in the church
and in our lives;
- to intercede for others at the throne of grace;
- to share our trials with one another;
- to visibly demonstrate as a church our complete dependence upon
God for everything (Ps. 123:1);
- to inform those who come with the needs for prayer;
- to train those who come in prayer;
- to express our love for one another in praying for one
- to learn more about God;
- to submit to God's will.
We experience teaching
in our Sunday morning
worship service at 10:00am in the auditorium. This corporate worship service
allows us to worship God publicly.
- to remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.
- to provide a forum for the public reading of
- to instruct the church in godliness.
- to equip the church body for works of service.
- to bring unity to the church (i.e. once a week, all are gathered
in one place).
- to give opportunities for service.
- to obey God's counsel to gather together.
- to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.
- to mobilize a group of people to work to promote God's
Every Sunday, we have a fellowship
the hour after the service. This usually begins near 11:30am. This is why we have
snacks at church.
- to help encourage others to stay after church.
- to connect with others;
- to encourage one another (talking, praying, ...);
- to discover ways to serve one another;
- to stimulate one another to love and good deeds;
- to meet others;
- to strengthen relationships.
And as a church, we have several opportunities to
together. This may have specific allusions to the Lord's Supper. Or
it may also refer generally to eating food together. There is a way in which eating
together forms a bond with one another. This happens during various times when we
- the fellowship time after our church services.
- the Lord's Supper every 4-6 weeks during our weekly services.
- the monthly fellowship dinners we have together.
- the times when you invite families over to your home for dinner.
In this way, we are committed to "the apostles' teaching
and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers."
All of these activities are very intentional. Our teaching
on Sunday mornings
helps to teach us and unite us in our common faith and purpose. Our fellowship
after our Sunday service helps to give opportunities to love and serve and encourage
one another. Our eating together
gives opportunity for us to form bonds with
each other. Our praying
together shows visibly that we are dependent upon the
Lord for all that we do. But it’s not only on Sunday mornings that this happens.
It also happens throughout the week. We have various small groups and Bible studies and
gatherings, many of which meet informally, all to promote a community that would extend
God’s glory to the world.
These are all activities in which we gather and enjoy God's grace. But this is only
half of our vision. We also have a vision to extend God's glory. We do this by
scattering. We do this locally through helping local ministries, such as
the Pregnancy Care Center, the Rockford Rescue
Mission, ReachOut Jail ministry, Kids
Klub, Safe Families or foster
agencies. Furthermore, there are ways that we give financially
to support outreach, as we support various missions organizations. We support
First Love International with their efforts to Nepal and India. We
support Farms International, who reaches out to micro-loans to
Christians in poorer nations. We support Leadership Resources
International, which equips needy pastors overseas.
On top of this, there are many ways in which you can
reach out informally. You can reach out to your neighbors or coworkers or friends. You
can do this with smiles and handshakes and invites over to your house and offers to
serve them in some way or another. You can be involved in the community with a goal to
reach others for Jesus. You can be involved in youth
activities, reading clubs, pool
leagues, bowling leagues, quilting
guilds, or musical groups. Really, the opportunities are
endless. You simply need to make the effort to discern what you
can do with your giftedness and time. Then, you simply make the effort to reach out and
extend the glory of God.
All of our church-centered activities are aimed to equip you and encourage you and
support you in seeking to extend God’s glory to the nations. Finally, let’s
talk about ...
5. Our Membership
This is where we have been headed the past four weeks. Until this point in time at Rock
Valley Bible Church, we have only practiced informal membership. People have come to
church. Those who have stayed around have been members.
With formal church membership, we are going to initiate a process to formalize our
relationship. It’s really an opportunity for you all to pledge that Rock Valley
Bible Church is your church, where you will serve, where you will practice the one
anothers, and where you will be shepherded by the elders.
We are simply going to ask you to fill out a form, that we might have a record of those
who are formal members of the church. The form is quite simple. It’s one
page. On the front side, there’s an opportunity for you to profess your faith in
Jesus, and to express your desire to formally commit yourself to Rock Valley Bible
Church. Acts 2:42 forms the guidelines for the commitment. It gives you an opportunity
to sign and date the document. Below, there is a place for the elders to make their
commitments to care for you.
On the back side, there’s an opportunity for you to give an account of your
salvation. Then, a place where you can express any desire to serve the church. Finally,
there is a question about baptism We ask that you would take this paper home and pray
over it. We would ask that you would work through in your own heart whether Acts 2:42
is representative of what you want to devote yourself to. And over the next few months,
we, as elders would love to sit down with you and talk with you about this form. We
would love to see every one of you make a formal commitment to Rock Valley Bible Church
and become formal members of this church.
This sermon was delivered to Rock Valley Bible Church on February 9,
2020 by Steve Brandon.
For more information see www.rvbc.cc