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The Church Christ Builds, Pt. 6

Last week I stood in front of the congregation trying to give away a book called Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus. For reasons unfathomable to me, people didn’t jump out of their chairs to snatch the book from my hand! What topic could be more thrilling than church membership?

Of course, I’m being sarcastic-- not everyone gets excited about church membership (although if you are, let me know. I have a book for you). Perhaps you think of church membership as an overly technical arrangement that makes the church less organic, and more institutional; less relational and more contractual. If you have any concerns about church membership, hopefully in the coming weeks you’ll see the beauty and joy of membership. Church membership is a tool that enables us to protect the gospel and care for each other.

You may be wondering, “So, what am I committing to when I commit to membership here?” It’s a great question! Let’s start answering that question.

First of all, when you commit to membership, you are committing to follow Jesus Christ publicly. You’re saying, “I want to follow Jesus-- help me do that!” And in response, the church says, “Yes, you are our family! We are with you in this!”

Second, commiting to membership also means committing to the other members. When you become a member, you’re saying, “You’re my family. I will do my best to love and care for you as we walk with Jesus together.”

Third, it means submitting to leaders. You are saying, “I gladly submit to the leadership and oversight of my elders” (Hebrews 13:17).

Fourth, you’re committing to regularly gather for corporate worship, out of obedience to Hebrews 10:24, which says “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

To continue with the family analogy, the corporate gathering is like a family meal where everyone returns to feast on God’s Word, to share stories of God’s grace, to bear the burdens of the hurting, looking to God for comfort and hope. The New Testament is clear: Christians gather. It’s part of their spiritual DNA.

To sum up: the commitment to membership is the commitment to consider the church your family, to enjoy family-like commitments with one another, and to live life together for the glory of God.

Yours for Christ,
Eric
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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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