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What Does Church Membership Mean?

May 16, 2013 Leave a comment

IAmAChurchMember_R2.inddChurch membership is a subject I’m passionate about, but all too often I’m not as passionate about the church itself as I should be. I Am a Church Member by Thom S. Rainer has reminded me both how important loving the church is and what this love looks like. Rainer’s book is short (less than 100 pages) and divided into six short chapters, but I Am a Church Member edifies the reader more in this short space than most books do in three times as many pages.

The six chapters comprise six statements in a church membership covenant. The new church member makes these promises upon joining a local church:

  1. I will be a functioning church member.
  2. I will be a unifying church member.
  3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.
  4. I will pray for my church leaders.
  5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members.
  6. I will treasure church membership as a gift.

In these chapters, Rainer draws six significant conclusions about church membership from the Bible:

  1. Each church member should lovingly serve the church to which he/she belongs. “One of the ongoing questions you should ask yourself and God in prayer is: ‘How can I best serve my church?’ You should never ask yourself if you should be serving your church” (16).
  2. Each church member should lovingly promote unity in the church.”You have a responsibility as a church member. You are to be a source of unity. You are never to be a divisive force” (24). Promoting unity in the church means eschewing gossip and being forgiving.
  3. Each church member should love other church members sacrificially by putting his/her preferences aside for others’. “As you are overwhelmed by Jesus’ undeserved love for you that caused him to sacrifice everything–including his preferences–you will be able to do the same for others” (40).
  4. Each church member should pray for the pastor’s preaching, family, protection, and health because a pastor’s “day is filled with mountaintops and valleys. He is adulated by some and castigated by others. He needs our prayers” (46).
  5. Each church member should model sacrificial, loving service to his/her family. Even if you’re single, “you can be assured that others are watching you. How you love your church could have a significant spiritual impact on their lives” (63).
  6. Each church member should view his/her membership in the church as a gift from God. “Church membership is a gift. We respond to gifts with gratitude. And one key way we express our gratitude is to serve like Jesus did and like He told us to do” (74).

I found myself agreeing with everything Rainer was saying in this book. I was reveling in this book’s biblical messages in chapters one through three. I have emphasized in numerous sermons that every Christian has a role to play in the church to which he/she belongs. I have recently preached on the danger of gossip, and I have also preached about the importance of unity in the local church. But chapter four began to prick my own conscience. I began to feel the logs in my own eyes and was no longer so focused on recalling others’ specks. I don’t pray near as often as I should (1 Thess. 5:17). I don’t pray for my pastor as much as I should, even though I myself am–to a much smaller degree than he is–aware of the hardships and challenges of Christian ministry. This is to my shame, and I felt my failure keenly as I read this chapter. May God break my spirit to pray “without ceasing” for my pastor as I ought!

Chapter five was similarly convicting, particularly Rainer’s conclusion: “As a church member, I am not merely to like my church or serve my church well. I am to fall deeply in love with my church. Christ is the bridegroom, and the church is the bride. My commitment is to love that bride with an unwavering and unconditional love” (62). I realize that my love for the church sometimes wavers because Rainer is absolutely right: “Unconditional love is not always easy,” but I should nevertheless love the church unconditionally, which “means I will continue to fall more deeply in love regardless of the response. It means my love for the church will grow even as I may disagree with something or encounter disagreeable people” (62). O God, make my love for your church unconditional! Give me the grace to love your people even when it’s hard! You have loved me, unlovable though I am, and how often have your people loved me despite my many imperfections! Help me to see more often the logs in my own eyes than the specks in others’.

I Am a Church Member rouses me to closer examination of my own life because it is Bible-saturated. Rainer quotes Scripture on nearly every page and consistently draws his conclusions and applications from the Bible. I cannot more highly recommend this book to every church member, whether young or old. By God’s grace, I Am a Church Member will convict us and lead us to repentance. What more can we ask for in a book?

Be Humble, As Christ Was

August 23, 2010 2 comments

Having said that Christians should “behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ” by uniting and persevering in the faith, Paul now writes how this unity would work itself out and why it should exhibit itself thusly. In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul writes that as Christians unite, they should be humble because Christ is the perfect model for our humility.

Read more…

Living the Christian Life by Exhibiting Christian Characteristics

January 17, 2010 1 comment

Today, I went to Tilden, MS, and preached the first sermon of three in a series on the characteristics of a Christian. Today, the sermon was on Christian unity and perseverance, with its text from Philippians 1:27-30. While these characteristics tie in with my regular “Living the Christian Life in 2010” posts on this website, I do realize that I still have yet to post the blog on public/private worship. I hope to have it up by the end of this week. My sermon series on Christian characteristics will last at least through the month of January, and I will post links to each sermon as I upload them to my account at podbean.com.

To explain the relationship between my current blog series and sermon series:

My blog series, “Living the Christian Life in 2010,” exhorts us Christians to do three things:

  1. Daily study God’s Word, the Bible,
  2. Pray, and
  3. Worship God both privately and publicly.

My sermon series, “Characteristics of the Christian Citizen of Heaven,” exhorts us Christians to

  1. Be unified in perseverance (Philippians 1:27-30),
  2. Be unified in humility (Philippians 2:1-11), and
  3. Shine as lights in the world (Philippians 2:12-18).

My blog series presents elementary building blocks of what we as Christians should be doing; studying God’s Word, praying to God, and worshipping God are basic things we should all be doing. My sermon series presents what should result as we do those three things. As we study our Bibles, pray to God, and worship God, we should become more unified with other Christians, persevere in the faith, become more humble, and shine as lights in the world. In other words, the traits I am preaching about in Philippians are what should result from our studying the Bible, praying, and worshipping. That said, these Christian characteristics (listed in my sermons) are other ways we should live the Christian life not just in 2010 but in every year we live; but we cannot exhibit these Christian characteristics unless we are first living the Christian life by reading the Bible, praying to God, and worshipping Him.

You can listen to the audio of from my first sermon on Christian characteristics here. As I mentioned earlier, I hope to have the last post on “Living the Christian Life” up by the end of this week, and you can expect the rest of my sermon series on Christian characteristics at least through the end of this month.

I hope you are all having a worship-filled Sunday. God bless!

Together for the Gospel … and Rejoicing in Its Proclamation

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

This morning, I delivered a sermon entitled “Rejoicing in the Proclamation of the Gospel” on Philippians 1:12-18 at Union Grove Baptist Church in Fulton, MS. In these verses of Philippians, Paul anticipates and quells the Philippians’ concerns that his imprisonment in Rome (v. 7) has hindered the advancement of the gospel; on the contrary, his imprisonment has “really served to advance the gospel” (v. 12)! In fact, “most” of the Christians in Rome are “all the more bold to speak the word without fear” (14). Even members of the imperial household have been converted to Christ (4:22)!

That said, Paul then delivers some interesting news: some of these Christians preach Christ sincerely and some insincerely. Some preach Christ in Paul’s absence out of love for God and fellow people, but others preach Christ out of enmity toward Paul. Paul, however, rejoices that “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed” (v. 18). The same Paul who pronounces a curse on anyone proclaiming a false gospel (Galatians 1:9) here rejoices in the proclamation of the gospel even when people proclaim it with impure motives! This is a fine line to walk, but while we are (definitely are) supposed to denounce false gospels, we should rejoice in the proclamation of the gospel at the hands of people who are less-than-friendly toward us. Whatever our other differences with people are, if we agree with someone (namely, a Christian) about the gospel, we are to be united in that. The gospel leaves no room for pride; we are to be humble and love all fellow Christians—even if they don’t love us (Philippians 2:1-5; Luke 6:27-28).

At the end of my sermon, I gave Together for the Gospel (T4G) as an example of Christian unity in the gospel. T4G is an interdenominational conference that initially stemmed from the friendship of four pastors—from different denominations—who united in the gospel. They do not all agree about baptismal methods, nor do they all agree upon the nature of spiritual gifts, but instead of disputing and dividing over these differences, these four pastors rather united in their like faith in the gospel of Christ. Their example is excellent, truly representative of Paul’s attitude in Philippians 1:18—

What, then? Only that in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes and I will rejoice,”

Like Paul, we should always rejoice at the proclamation of the gospel. Like the pastors who head the T4G conference, we should unite with fellow believers who are grounded in the gospel (listen to my sermon for a more thorough treatment of what the gospel is and what it is not).

For more information about Together for the Gospel (the next conference will be held in April 2010), visit the T4G website.

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