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The Church Christ Builds, Pt. 5

“Pay club dues, attend meetings and events, use your professional skills to make a difference.” Those are the membership expectations for the Rotary Club. To function, members must know their responsibilities and fulfill them as best they can. Without these expectations, the club would be meaningless. It’s important to ensure expectations are clearly defined and communicated to members.

Are there any expectations for believers? Of course! First and foremost, they’re required to repent of their sins, trust in Jesus, and be baptized (Acts 2:38). They’re called to live a life of holiness and purity (1 Pet. 1:16). They’re called to meet together regularly (Heb. 10:23-24) to hear God’s Word preached (2 Tim. 4:2) and to care for one another in their walk with Christ (1 Cor. 12:25). What if someone said they wanted to follow Jesus, but refused to do any of those things? It would be a contradiction, because following Jesus entails obedience to his word (1 John 2:3-6). Christ purchased the church and gives it clear expectations for living. Membership is the answer to the question: “Who is willing to live aligned with these expectations?”

The term “church membership” isn’t in the Bible, but the concept is everywhere. Christians are members of one another because we’re all members of Christ’s body (Rom. 12:15). The Christians in Corinth understood some people were “inside” the church and some were “outside” (1 Cor. 5:12-13). Even the act of excommunication Jesus teaches in Matthew 18:15-18 presupposes membership, because someone can’t be excluded from something they aren’t a member of.

The church has the responsibility to protect the gospel (1 Tim. 3:15) by making sure the people who claim to believe it are legitimate. A church filled with false converts distorts the gospel. That’s why Paul speaks of removing people from the church when they continually and unrepentantly demonstrate unwillingness to obey Jesus (1 Tim. 1:19-20, Titus 3:10). The church is supposed to love, lead, and feed its members, and remove unrepentant imposters who threaten the health of the church. Without membership, there is no knowing who’s who.

Lastly, and perhaps most persuasively, Hebrews 13:17 tells Christians to obey and submit to their leaders because they’re going to give an account for the souls of their flock. Without some sort of membership, it’s impossible for leaders to know who they’re responsible for! Similarly, Christians are expected to obey and submit to specific leaders. Every Christian ought to have clearly designated leaders they can recognize and who recognize them. Membership allows this.

In coming weeks we’ll be talking a lot about why membership matters because the church matters, the gospel matters, and because the mission matters.

Yours for Christ,
Eric
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The Church Christ Builds, Pt. 4

 Recently I was watching a press conference where the GM of the Lakers, Rob Pelinka, made a statement related to the signing of LeBron James. Lakers fans (myself included) have been ecstatic about signing the best basketball player of this generation. With James in the purple and gold, there’s a chance at being back on top. But during the interview, Pelinka said, “We don’t celebrate signings. We don’t celebrate roster additions. We celebrate one thing and that’s NBA championships.”

That’s clarity. That’s the main thing. He knows the mission. NBA championships are the main thing. Everything else is done to help bring the team to that goal.

In a similar way, the church must understand its mission. Without deep commitment to the mission, we’ll drift. We must know what its main thing is. Fortunately, Jesus didn’t leave us in the dark. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus gave the church its charter, forever clarifying for us exactly what we’re aiming for:  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”

Just as the Lakers defined the success of their organization by one thing (championships), so Jesus has defined the success of the church by one main thing: making disciples. To say it like Pelinka did, “We don’t celebrate building renovations, we don’t celebrate new programs. We celebrate one thing, and that’s lost people get saved and discipled for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

In other words, everything the church does, from preaching to praying to programming, should work toward the goal of making disciples. This is the standard by which we judge every ministry of the church. Is it making disciples? If not, why keep doing it?

This means each member takes responsibility to build committed, long-term relationships that help others follow Jesus. As a part of our church, you have been called to devote your life to helping people walk with Jesus.

A church does many things, but this is the one thing we cannot ignore. If we’re not making disciples, it doesn’t matter how nice this building is or how busy we are. Making disciples is the mission of the church.

Yours for Christ,
Eric
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The Church Christ Builds, Pt. 3

 John Dagg famously said, “when discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.”

Church discipline. The two words send shivers down the spine of some Christians. Perhaps you think of The Scarlet Letter or imagine being shunned or judged by self-righteous religious folk. It’s unfortunate that for many the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about church discipline is its abuses.

There are two kinds of church discipline: formative and corrective. 99% of church discipline is formative: every sermon that lovingly challenges, every piece of advice that calls us away from temptation, every hymn that upholds the truths of the gospel. When a brother asks, “How’s your marriage doing?” he is disciplining you to fight for purity and holiness. This is formative church discipline.

The second kind of church discipline is corrective. It happens when one is confronted in their sin and there’s a refusal to repent. After a process (described in Matt.18:15-17), the unrepentant individual is to be excommunicated from the church. To be excommunicated literally means not allowed to partake in communion, which means a removal from membership. This is not a “punishment,” but an urgent and loving call to wake up to the danger of sin. The goal of corrective church discipline is the glory of God in the health of the church.

Some people think church discipline will kill the church. This simply isn’t true biblically (Matt. 18:15-17, 1 Cor. 5:1-13, 1 Tim. 1:19-20) or practically. Real Christians care most about pleasing the Lord. They hate their sin and thirst for righteousness, longing for a faithful community that loves them enough help them when they stray. A church can’t shine without holiness, and a church won’t be holy without discipline.

What does this have to do with you? You are responsible for the purity of other Christians! That’s why Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault.” If you see the sin, you go talk to him in a spirit of gentleness and love (Gal. 6:1). When Cain asked God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God could have answered, “Yes! If you truly loved him, you would keep watch after his soul!”

We are responsible for one another. We’re not responsible for every Christian in the whole world, but we are responsible in a unique way to the specific people God has brought into our church. Essential to being a church is committing ourselves to lovingly care for one another’s souls. If a shepherd won’t fight off wolves to protect the sheep, he will end up without sheep. Jesus wants his people protected from sin, and it’s the job of the whole church, working together in loving unity, to keep one other free from the filth of sin.

Yours for christ, 
Eric
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