Didache- Healthy Church Membership

Didache 12

In chapter 12, the Apostles or Apostolic Fathers deal with hospitality in the local church gathering particularly concerning the provision of needs. There is a temptation in some local churches to feel a pressing need to provide everyone’s immediate needs at all times. In other local churches, there is a resistance to provide any needs at all to individuals or families because people don’t want to be taken advantage of. The Apostles or Apostolic Fathers instructed young local churches and new Christians:

  • Receive everyone who comes in the Lord’s name.
  • Consider his or her situation, case-by-case.
  • Help travelers as much as possible, but don’t buy their con if they try to stay and leech off the local congregation.
  • If anyone wishes to stay, put him or her to work for the good of the body. No one should stay and be idle.
  • Anyone who wishes to stay in a local church but is unwilling to contribute for the good of the body, he or she is trafficking upon Christ. Beware of such people.

In chapter 11, we saw the place of the pastor, missionary, and teacher in church polity. Here, we see the place of the church member according to First-Century basic church structure. Like with baptizing a person too eagerly (Chapter 7), the Apostles or Apostolic Fathers warn against accepting a person into church fellowship too eagerly. Their goal is not to build up their numbers, but to add people who know Christ sincerely and wish to serve Christ for the good of Christ’s body. Here, we see two groups of people mentioned: travelers and settlers.

Travelers are people who are not committing themselves to the church body. This includes church-hoppers, people passing through, mere attendees, and people outside the church walls in a community. Travelers only have a passing relationship with a local congregation, either because they have visited, attend, or live in proximity. Since the local congregation is instructed to receive everyone who comes in Christ’s name, she has a peaceful and positive relationship with travelers. If travelers are in need, the church body considers each situation case-by-case and provides as much as possible for one time.

Settlers are visitors or attenders who wish to become part of the local church community on a permanent basis. The local congregation is instructed to welcome people into the family who desire to contribute. The local church isn’t to be too eager to gain members because she isn’t to be concerned about numbers in that way. In fact, she is to beware of such people that would desire membership but are reluctant to serve according to the gifts God has given them. There are no age exceptions. Youth, like adults, who are members should be serving Christ—not being entertained in youth group. Why? Because Christ is building a kingdom of priests, not consumers. We don’t desire to have any member of the Christian body who is trafficking upon Christ—building their own kingdoms, comforts, or pleasures upon Christ’s cross.

This section is an application of Acts 2:37-47, 1 Corinthians 12, 2 Thessalonians 3:10, 1 Timothy 6:5, Hebrews 10:25, and many others.

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