John Owen (1616 – 1683) wrote a wonderful little booklet titled, Duties of Christian Fellowship: A Manual for Church Members. Our church’s pastoral intern, Andrew Graham, has been teaching it to our youth on Wednesday nights. We’ve also made it available to the whole congregation. The book is among the clearest and most concise works on this subject I have ever read. John Owen provides numerous biblical rules outlining the faithful conduct of church members. He supports his rules with Scripture and then expounds them. Here are the rules he lists (without the exposition). I’ve included many of the Scriptures he cites in support of each rule as well.
Rules for walking in fellowship with respect to the pastor of the congregation
1. Believers are to attend regularly, and to submit to, the preaching of the Word and administering of the ordinances committed to the pastor by virtue of his ministerial office. They are to do this with a willing obedience in the Lord (Heb 13:7, 17).
2. The pastor’s way of life is to be observed and carefully followed, to the extent that he walks in the ways of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 14:16; 11:1; Phil 3:17).
3. Prayer and supplication are to be made continually on the pastor’s behalf that he might receive help and success in the work that has been given to him (Eph 6:18-20; 2 Thess 3:1-2).
4. Believers are to hold the pastor in the greatest respect and to submit to him, for the work’s sake (1 Cor 4:1; 1 Thess 5:12-13; Heb 13:17).
5. The church is required to support the pastor and his family by supplying all their earthly needs, to the degree that it is appropriate to the state and condition of the church (1 Tim 5:17-18; Gal 6:6-7; 1 Cor 9:7, 9-11, 13-14).
6. The church is to remain loyal to the pastor and to stay at his side in all the trials and persecutions that may arise because of the Word (2 Tim 4:16; 1 Tim 2:16-18).
7. Believers, along with their families, must gather together as a congregation before the pastor, at the times appointed by him (Acts 14:27).
Rules for walking in fellowship with respect to other believers
1. Believers have a duty of affectionate, sincere, genuine love in all things toward one another; a love compared to that of Christ for the church (Jn 15:12; 13:34-35; Rom 13:8; Eph 5:2).
2. Believers must maintain continual prayer for the prospering of the church under God’s protection (Phil 1:4-5; Eph 6:18).
3. Believers must strive and fight with determination, in every legitimate way, by their actions and sufferings for the purity of the ordinances, for the honor, liberty, and privileges of the congregation, and in order to help other sin the face of all opponents and adversaries (Jude 3; 1 Jn 3:16; 1 Pet 3:15).
4. Believers must maintain an unremitting care and effort to preserve unity, both in general and in particular (Phil 2:1-3; Eph 4:3-6; Rom 15:5-6).
5. Believers are to separate and keep apart from the world, and from the men of the world in all their ways of false worship, so that we are seen to be a different people (2 Cor 6:14-18; Eph 5:8, 11).
6. Believers should engage in frequent spiritual conversation for edification, according to the measure of their gifts (Col 4:6; 1 Thess 5:11; Heb 3:13; 10:24-25).
7. Believers must bear with one another’s infirmities, weaknesses, sensitivities and failings, in meekness, patience, and pity, and providing help and assistance (Eph 4:32; 1 Cor 13:4-7; Gal 6:1; Col 3:12-14).
8. Believers must support one another, tenderly and affectionately, in various circumstances and conditions – bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2; Heb 13:3; 1 Cor 12:25-26).
9. Believers are voluntarily to contribute and share in temporal things with those who are truly poor, in a way that is suitable to their necessities, wants and affections (1 Jn 3:17-18; 1 Cor 16:1-2; Rom 12:13; Heb 13:16).
10. Believers ought to note watchfully and avoid carefully all causes and causers of division; they are particularly to shun seducers, false teachers, and those who spread heresies and errors that are contrary to the Word of God (Rom 16:17-18; Matt 24:4-5, 23-25; 1 Tim 6:3-5; Titus 3:9-11).
11. Believers should cheerfully accept the lot and portion of the whole church, in prosperity and affliction, and not draw back (Heb 10:23-25, 32-39).
12. Believers must not discriminate between persons but condescend to the weakest brother and perform the least service, for the good of fellow believers (Jas 2:1-6; Matt 20:26-27; Rom 12:16).
13. If any member is in distress, persecution, affliction, the whole church is to be humbled, and to be earnest in prayer on his behalf (Acts 12:5, 7,12; Rom 12:15; 1 Cor 12:26-27).
14. Believers must watch one another’s behavior carefully and warn one another to avoid all disorderly conduct. If any offending member will not accept such warning, their case must be brought to the church (Matt 18:15-17; 1 Thess 5:14; Heb 3:12-13).
15. Believers should live and walk in an exemplary way in all holiness and godliness, to the glory of the gospel, the edification of the church, and the conviction of those outside the church (Matt 5:16, 20; 2 Tim 2:19; Titus 2:11-14).