The true church of Jesus Christ
The true church of Jesus Christ is made up of all those whom He redeemed on the cross by His shed blood. "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28)
The local church is to a visible likeness of that true church, and it should be as much like the true church as possible.
It should seek in every way to be a true reflection.
Since the true church is made up only of those who have been redeemed by Christ, the membership of the local church should as much as possible be made up only of those who give Biblical evidence of a true work of saving grace.
This means that there should be what we might call a "guarded membership."
There should be some process by which to determine the credibility of one’s testimony.
Opportunity ought to be given for the church to carefully and prayerfully consider the matter before they are asked to receive a person as a member.
Since a person is received into membership on the basis that he gives evidence of being a true Christian, it stands to reason that he should maintain that privilege only as long as he continues to give evidence that he is seeking to follow the Lord.
In other words, Biblical church discipline should be practiced in order to assure that the local church in its membership is made up only of those who continue to give evidence that they belong to Christ.
If a person is guilty of scandalous sin, or if he persists in some sinful lifestyle, then the privilege of membership should cease.
When a church fails to exercise Biblical church discipline, it ceases to use one of those means which God has ordained in order to keep the church pure. Such a church has taken the position that it is not important for the local church to reflect the true church.
Another description which we have of the true church is that it consists of all ethnic groups. "And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation." (Revelation 5:9)
If the local church desires to be a true and accurate reflection of the true church of Jesus Christ, it should as much as possible consist of a diversity in race and culture.
Such thinking is contrary to the philosophy of many church growth movements which encourages "targeting" certain segments of society to the exclusion of others.
The only segment of society which the Lord Jesus Christ targeted were those who were lost regardless of their ethnic, social or cultural background.
"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost." (Matthew 18:11).