Membership – The Importance of Church Membership

Membership – The Importance of Church Membership

Does anyone here remember the day you were born? Of course not. That’s a ridiculous question. Thanks to our good God, He made us not capable of remembering the action of being born into this world. Think of the fear we would have if He did allow us to hold that memory. That’s a horrible what to start a childhood. You’d be scared for the rest of your life.

Thanks to our parents or whoever raised you, you know the date of when you were born and you know that on the day you were born, you were born into a family. Your family might have been healthy or unhealthy, fractured or fantastic, but you were born into it. You were not born into isolation.

We use the word born to describe when we leave our mother’s womb and enter the world. Jesus used the phrase “born again” to describe our spiritual birth. Nicodemus asked the obvious question, “How? How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” And Jesus explains that to enter the Kingdom of God we have to be born of the water and the Spirit. Humans produce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life.

Just as a physical birth moves us from the darkness of the womb to the light of day, spiritual birth moves us from the darkness of sin to the light of Christ. Last week, we explored what baptism is and what it means. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are accepting His grace and mercy. Baptism is the outward and visible sign of our covenant (holy agreement) with God to accept God’s gifts of grace and mercy and the power to grow in our faith. Baptism is a celebration and acknowledgment of the loving action God has already done and continues to do in our life.

But there’s more. When we become Christians, when we are born again, we become a part of a great family of believers. We call other Christians our brothers and sisters in Christ because we are in the same family. We’ve become children of God.

We are now members of the universal Church, which includes all believers down through the ages, but our connection to the universal Church is intended to be through a local congregation. We are not “born again” into isolation.

Did you know that the majority of the New Testament was written about, for and to local churches? From Acts 2 through Revelation 3, that’s 23 books out of 27, is all about the local church. Do you get the picture? Local churches are important. Being a Christian outside the fellowship of a local church is not a biblical option.

Please listen carefully when I say this. The New Testament does not have a plan for growing us as Christians outside of the local church. Scripture leaves no doubt that God wants local congregations to be at the center of Christian ministry.

The journey to grow in Christ is taken through the local church.

The Christian life is a journey of spiritual growth not taken alone, but in the company of other believers. Sure, we practice some spiritual disciples on our own such as prayer and scripture reading, but the assumption throughout the New Testament is that we will continuously and regularly gather with a local congregation for worship, growth, service, giving and accountability.

Growing in Christ essentially means growing in our commitment as church members. We are a part of the body of Christ. We cannot separate our connection to the head, Jesus, from our connection to the rest of His body, the church. If we are fully committed to Christ, we will be fully committed to the local church. The moment our commitment to the local church starts to wane, our growth in Christ wanes as well.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the right perspective of what church member is. Some act as if the church is a civic club seeing the local church as a place just to do good deeds for the community and have enjoyable meetings. When you give to a “civic club” church, you are paying your dues to help the church do its good deeds and endorse its activities.

Even worse, is some act like the church is a country club. They pay their dues and expect certain perks in return. These members tell the pastor what songs to play, what to preach and for how long. They dictate how the facilities should look. They want their programs, their ministries, and their priorities.

But what happens when country club church members have contradictory preferences and demands? A church fight. Left to fester, it can become a church split. Instead of seeing our churches as civic clubs or country clubs, we need to get a clear New Testament view of the local church. This view is often dramatically different from the way we do church today.

Let’s look at the commitments we make when we become a church member that line up with this view.

AN ATTENDING CHURCH MEMBER
Can you imagine standing at the wedding altar, vowing to love your spouse in every circumstance – except you may or may not come home on any given night? In fact, you might show up only once a month. After all, attendance at home is not that important. Crazy, right?

One of the clearest commitments in a healthy marriage is to be present and accounted for with your spouse. Likewise, one of the clearest commitments in a healthy church is to be present and accounted of for when the church gathers. This means giving church attendance priority over sleeping in, Sunday sports (kids and pro), days off, and whatever other excuses we can come up with.

Today, a lot of people have decided that showing up at church is a low priority. Consequently, a church with 200 members might have a weekly attendance of 50. That is not the way it is supposed to be.

When the first church started in Jerusalem, they began by meeting together:
Acts 2:44,46
44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.
46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.

Every church that Paul wrote a letter to had a congregation that met together faithfully. They met in a specific city, often in the same location each week and understood the importance of gathering as the body of Christ. They understood the importance of showing up.

When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he addressed a number of issues, one of which was the need for orderly worship. He took four chapters to talk about it. (1 Corinthians 11-14) Paul obviously put a high priority on gathered worship if he saw the need to provide so much instruction on how it should be done. The writer of Hebrews speaks directly to this issue too:

Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. 24 Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

We must meet together to hold on to the hope God has given us. We must meet together to motivate one another, to encourage one another. Church attendance is more important than all the other excuses we can offer.

I know committed church members who attend a church in person even when they are out of town or on vacation. That might seem legalistic, but it’s not. It’s simply obedience to the mandate of scripture. It is deciding that the body of Christ is not a part time or occasional commitment. It’s that important, and yes it is eternally important.

A SERVING CHURCH MEMBER

One of the most well known biblical metaphors for the church is the body.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

On the one hand, this metaphor reminds us of the importance of the entire congregation. We are one body, all of us together. On the other hand, it reminds us of the importance of each individual part of the body. Without the parts, there would be no body. A member, or a part, is what is necessary to make the body whole.

Paul explains this well. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26
25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

The whole chapter, 1 Corinthians 12, is a beautiful picture of what a healthy church looks like. Paul takes the metaphor deeper and explains how we should act as if we are one of many body parts.

1 Corinthians 12:14-17
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

Your role is to serve, not to be served. Your role is to minister, not to demand ministry for yourself. Your role is to put others before yourself, not to seek to get your own way.

When you became a believer in Christ, the mandate to gather together, serve together, and minister together immediately applied to you. Paul makes the point clear: “All of you together are Christ body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

When you become a part of a local church, your role is to find places to serve. Here at YSGMC, we have many places you can serve. You can join the ministry team, the Leadership Team, we need an outreach coordinator, you could lead the children, serve in the nursery, serve at the New Hope mobile pantry, lead a bible study. Don’t just sit in a pew. Don’t wait to be served by others. Serve and serve again with joy!

A GIVING CHURCH MEMBER
Much of the debate about giving to the church is focused on what we are required to give rather than what we are blessed to give. Rather than being an act of joy as God intended it, giving often becomes an obligation. When Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, he commended them for their giving because it was an example to other churches and other believers. (2 Corinthians 9:2) Paul then summarizes the spiritual basis for giving:

2 Corinthians 9:7-8
7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Giving to God’s mission and His church is a gift and an opportunity, not something to be neglected.

PRAYING CHURCH MEMBER

Prayer is probably the most frequently mentioned thing a Christian should be doing, yet all to often is the thing we do the least. Prayer is often seen as just another activity or ministry of the church. But it is actually how God’s Spirit accomplishes great works through the church.

I’ve seen prayer work! I’ve seen what God will do when His people pray! Prayer opens the door for opportunities to witness, heal, move walls, rise up out of valleys. This is why the term prayer warrior fits. Paul described the spiritual battle we’re fighting.

Ephesians 6:10-12
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

We are indeed in a battle, a real and powerful spiritual war. Paul tells Christians to put on the full armor of God, and then pray. And he doesn’t tell us just to pray for only a few minutes, he tells us to pray continuously.

Ephesians 6:18
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

And as a final note, Paul asks the believers in the church at Ephesus to pray for him as well.

Ephesians 6:19
19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.

It is biblical to be praying for your pastor, your spiritual leaders. As a pastor, we celebrate births, but bury friends. See marriages grow, and see marriages fall apart. See people become followers of Christ, but see people follow into sin. See the church grow, and see the church decline. We have mountaintop moments when we preach, and we plummet into valleys when it seems the sermon has fallen on deaf ears. Ministry is a blessing many days, but if I’m honest, it’s also exhausting.

We need your prayers. Start by praying for the preaching ministry, for the sermon preparation and for the delivery that it will be blessed and used by God. Praying for your pastor is really the greatest gift you could ever give your pastor.

WITNESSING CHURCH MEMBER

Jesus had already died on the cross, already been resurrected from the dead, was back on earth for 40 days, and just before He ascended to Heaven, He left His followers with some instructions. They were His last words on earth, very important words, and they were not just for those listening then, but also for those of us here today. We call them The Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

We are commissioned to go and to share the gospel. We will then see the work of the Holy Spirit as people become disciples. We are to baptize and teach these disciples. And as we go and share in the authority of Christ, He will be with us every step of the way. We are called to be Jesus witnesses, and He has made it very clear why.

John 14:6
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the father except through me.”

Do you understand why it is so important to be a witness, to share the good news about Jesus? He is the only way of salvation. There are no escape clauses. No back doors. Others must be told that He is the only way. We who are believers have been chosen and mandated to tell others about Him. The urgency of this command is so strong.
The evil living in this world, growing by the day, is outrageous. The world is so desperate for the truth, so hungry that they are believing in anything they can. We have the truth! And if you want to start seeing a difference in our world, then you need to follow Jesus’ command and witness the Truth to the world around you.

UNIFYING CHURCH MEMBER

Are you familiar with 1 Corinthians 13? We often call it the love chapter. The beautiful words conclude with, “Three things will last forever: faith, hope, and love and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

You’ve very likely heard this read at a wedding as it fits well with the theme of a wedding. There’s certainly nothing wrong with including these words in a wedding ceremony, however when Paul wrote these words he was addressing conflict and selfishness in the church at Corinth. The issues were disorderly worship and confusion, claims of spiritual superior over one another, abuse of the Holy Communion meal, sexual misconduct, and even church members suing one another.

Paul addressed each issue specifically, and then wrote the 13th chapter to establish how church members should relate to one another. They must demonstrate love by putting others before themselves, have great faith, be abundant givers, even sacrifice their lives. All of it amounts to nothing without love. You have been called to be a unifying member of the church putting yourself last instead of first.

The very first church that was started in Jerusalem was a church of unity.

Acts 4:32
32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.

However, Paul had to plead with the church at Corinth for unity.
1 Corinthians 1:10
10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

Unity and love will naturally happen when we determine, that in God’s power, we will put others before ourselves. And when we do, we imitate the greatest servant of all, Jesus.