Most readers of the RFPA blog are familiar with Prof. David Engelsma. For sixteen years he was editor of the Standard Bearer and he has written numerous books which the RFPA has published, including two which treat the topic of church membership: Bound to Join and A Defense of the Church Institute.
Those who read and profited from these two books will be interested in knowing that the Reformed Witness Committee (RWC) of Hope Protestant Reformed Church of Walker, Michigan has recently published The Necessity of Membership in a True Church, written by Engelsma. The booklet contains two parts: the text of Engelsma's public lecture sponsored by the RWC at Hope Church on the evening of November 11, 2016 and the questions of the audience and the answers of Prof. Engelsma that followed the lecture.
Having been present on that evening and hearing the lecture and the questions and answers, I can assure you that your effort of listening to the lecture online or reading this booklet will be greatly rewarded. While church membership is not a popular topic to speak on and write about in these days of the great "falling away", and while many a churchman dare not touch the topic with a ten foot pole, Prof. Engelsma addresses the "life-or-death matter" of church membership head-on (pg. 9).
The first part of the booklet, the text of the lecture, is divided into five parts: The Necessary Membership, The Marks of a True Church, The Marks of a False Church, The Nature of the Necessary Membership in a True Church, and The Believer's Calling. The booklet is thoroughly scriptural and confessional throughout. To disagree with the author's assessment of membership in a true church and the believer's calling as a vigilant church member is to disagree with scripture and the Reformed Confessions.
The second part of the booklet contains twenty-five pages of penetrating questions and fearless answers that followed the lecture. In the words of the author, some of the questions were "provocative" (pg. 10). One of the questions was, "What do you see as the most pressing, or dangerous, or most likely route of apostasy in the Protestant Reformed Churches?" (pg. 43). Another, "If one leaves a true church and joins a church that is becoming false, can it be said that, insofar as they have left the truth, they have left Christ?" (pg. 53).I encourage you to take the time to read the author's answers. Learn about the "ja broer" or uncritical "yes, brother" ..."who affirms everything that goes on and every sermon simply because the elders arrange the service as they do and simply because the minister says whatever he says" (p. 52). Read the author’s fearless and pointed answer to a question regarding NAPARC, which reads in part: "...the liberated Reformed churches make no secret of their judgment of the Protestant Reformed Churches as false churches inasmuch as they confess the unconditional covenant of grace. To these influential churches in NAPARC, the Protestant Reformed Churches are the one, anomalous, 'conservative' false church. Because the Protestant Reformed Churches confess the gospel of salvation by sovereign, particular grace in the preaching of the gospel and in the covenant of grace!" (p. 57).
To obtain a copy of this booklet, one can contact the RWC by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. An audio recording of the lecture is available at www.hopeprchurch.org.
This post was written by Aaron Cleveland, a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you have a question or comment for Aaron, please do so in the comment section.