I AM A CHURCH MEMBER
Functional Church Members
(1 Corinthians 12-13)
VIDEO – I AM A CHURCH MEMBER: Book Trailer [https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=83&v=wdgejS3F5kw]
How many of you have found that perfect church with perfect people and a perfect pastor with perfect staff members? You won’t find that here on earth, but that’s the hope of every follower of Jesus Christ. We will one day experience that kind of perfection, but it will be after there is a new heaven and a new earth – when Jesus Christ returns.
Until that time, you and I have to learn the attitudes that make a difference in being a biblical church member. Over the next six weeks, we’ll be looking at each of those attitudes.
I’m not just speaking specifically about becoming a member of this church. It includes everyone who attends this church regularly. You are a part of this body of believers and your attitudes are also important in making a difference in reaching our community for Christ.
You’re going to find that some of the attitudes are not a problem for you and they are things you’re already doing. Keep doing those things. Other attitudes are going to be a challenge for us all as we look at them, together. The important thing is that you come willing to hear from God concerning your personal attitudes about church membership and what biblical church membership looks like.
We have several copies of the book on the table in the foyer. If we run out, we’ll get more. If you can’t afford the $5 suggested donation, please take one anyhow and don’t worry about the money.
We’ll be spending a little time on Wednesday evening discussing the questions at the end of each chapter in the book.
People leaving the church
I can think of people I know personally who have left the church
One individual stopped going to a Christian college and church because of the hypocrites they saw there
Another individual I know didn’t see the importance of going to church with other believers, because he could learn just as well at home on his own (it’s easier and less messy to learn on your own – there’s no church politics, hierarchy, or drama to deal with)
Do you know people like that?
Maybe it’s a family member
It could be a coworker
Perhaps it’s a neighbor
What do you say to someone who has quit church?
BIG IDEA – Unity through diversity is built on love.
GOD (1 Corinthians 12-13)
Concern for the church today
I don’t know about you, but I’m concerned about the church and the attitudes within the church – not just here but in the universal church
If you read the book Vertical Church you see some staggering statistics about the church in North America
6,000 churches close every year
3,500 Christians are leaving churches every day (that’s 1,277,500 people leaving the church each year)
Less than 20% of Americans attend church regularly
Only 15% of churches are still growing
2% of churches are growing by conversions
Only 800 church plants succeed each year, we would need 10,000 to succeed to reach everyone
Researched 557 churches from 2004 to 2010 and found out that 9 out of 10 churches in America are declining or growing at a pace that is slower than that of their communities
About two-thirds of the Builder generation, those born before 1946 (71 + year olds) are Christians
Of the Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000 (17 – 37 year olds), there are only 15 percent who are Christians
I was talking with a local pastor in south-central PA several years ago about his church
He said they lost the Baby Boomer generation (1946-1964) in their church and almost lost the Generation X (1965-1979) generation
His explanation is that the Builder generation wanted the Boomers to take over leadership of the church, but they did not want them to make any changes – they wanted them to have responsibility without authority
When this happened the Boomers simply left the church
It almost happened again with the Generation X group
A pastor friend of mine told the story of a family whose parents wanted to pass on the family farm to one of their children. As the years went by the parents were unwilling to pass on the farm and their children eventually bought their own properties. When it came time for the parents to move out of the family farm, none of the children could afford or wanted to purchase the family farm. The pastor related this story to the church. When the older generation only allows the younger generation to assume responsibility of the church tasks without authority to make changes, then the younger generation leaves and goes elsewhere. Then when the older generation is ready to hand over the authority of the church to the next generation, there is no one there to assume the authority.
Thom Rainer believes, and I agree, that those kinds of things are happening in churches throughout America, because there are individuals in the church who have a unbiblical understanding of church membership
Country Club Membership mentality in the church
The basic premise is, I pay my dues and you serve me
For individuals with this mentality about church membership it’s about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices – it’s all about them instead of others
It’s revealed in statements like the ones Thom Rainer used in his book:
“This is my church, so you have to play the music just the way I want it.”
“Look pastor, you need to remember who pays your salary.”
“If you don’t do this program, I’ll withhold my check to the church.”
“I’ve been a member of this church for over thirty years, so I have a right to get what I want.”
“I don’t pay good money to this church to listen to sermons that long.”
What does Biblical church membership really look like?
Unity through diversity (1 Corinthians 12:12-28a)
Paul relates the body of believers to the human body (vv. 12-13, 27-28a)
When your body is working correctly, you are able to do things without thinking – it comes naturally
It’s when something isn’t working properly that you begin to struggle with tasks that were once easy
Individuals who have had major brain trauma can tell you how difficult it is to not be able to do what you once could
You know in your mind that you could do that with ease before, but now your body doesn’t cooperate with your brain
Your body is a unit made up of many members/parts that all work together to enable you to function
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. (NASB)
Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church . . . (NASB)
The body of Christ (the church) is the same way
It’s made up of many different members that work together so that the body of Christ functions properly
Ephesians 4:1-6, As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
I was studying through the book of Ephesians several years ago
Ray Stedman is the one who wrote the commentary for the Joy of Living Bible Study I’m using
He has some very important points concerning Ephesians 4:1-6
“Notice the apostle does not say we are to produce unity; he says we are to keep a unity that has already been produced by the Holy Spirit. There is a unity that is already there by virtue of the very existence of the church, because the Holy Spirit is the bond which holds the church together.”
“We can violate that unity by our actions, we can grieve the Holy Spirit by our sinful behavior towards one another in the body of Christ, we can bring shame and dishonor to the gospel by sinning against our Spirit-given unity, but we cannot create or destroy what the Spirit Himself has produced. The church can be divided organizationally, but the body of Christ can never be disjointed.”
“When we are tempted to feelings of resentment or to such actions as attacking one another or spreading rumors against one another, we should stop and ask God to bless the other person.”
He encourages you and me to pray this way, “Lord, show me how I can reach out to my brother or sister in this time of irritation. Make me a blessing and not a hindrance in that person’s life. Show me practical ways I can work to maintain the unity between us that you have made possible through your Spirit. Replace my annoyance with understanding, my impatience with forbearance, my grudges with forgiveness, my bitterness with a sweet spirit, my resentment with love, my hardened heart with a tender heart. Lord, I am Your prisoner. I am ready to take orders from You.”
The prayer is listed on the bookmark that each person received this morning as you came in (if you didn’t receive one they are available in the foyer when you leave)
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to praying this prayer each morning when I have feelings of resentment or frustration with a fellow believer.
When you and I forget that the unity of the body already exists through the Holy Spirit, we can do things that cause the body of Christ to not function properly and therefore make what should be easy nearly impossible
God is the One who appoints you and I to the various parts of His body, the church
This is an important point that you and I have to remember
We don’t always remember it, as the next two sections show us
Unimportant (vv. 14-19)
Perhaps you’ve had those feelings about your spiritual giftedness or where you are serving in the church
You may be thinking that if you left the church no one would miss you or even care that you left
That is furthest from the truth
Communication is the key
Most people quietly leave the church and never tell anyone, especially the pastoral staff
I know that conversation can be difficult to have with us, but please let us know
There are others who are asking us if we know where certain families or individuals are
My response to those who ask me, is to encourage them to reach out by calling them and letting them know they’re missed
I spoke recently with one family member of a family that hadn’t been to church in six weeks – they told me that they appreciated that I had reached out to them, but they also told me that a couple other people from the church had called them also. They told me that in the two previous churches they had attended that no one contacted them when they left, including their deacon.
I want to say how proud I am of those of you who recognize that individuals and families are missing church and then following up with them by contacting them
It’s difficult when we have contacted individuals and never hear anything back
We’re not going to be upset when individuals leave
We would like to know what caused them to leave
If you are feeling unimportant, please forgive me and our church body
I care for each one of you deeply and I want you to know I’m available for you – I can’t read your mind, so please call me and set up a time to meet
Paul reiterates again that God is the one who has arranged the parts in the body just as He wanted them to be
You can’t have a properly functioning body that only has one part or one kind of member
Overly important (pride) (vv. 21-26)
There is no room for an elitist mentality in the church
This is spiritual pride and only causes the body of Christ to stop functioning properly
The parts that seem weaker are indispensable
A friend of mine on Facebook had this as is status several years ago, “Pinky toes are lame. There is not another part of your body that has a use only for smashing things in the dark.”
You know how much that hurts!
But do you know how important that pinky toe is to your overall balance and ability to walk?
It’s extremely important for balance, which is extremely important for walking
You need that pinky toe for your body to function properly
Paul again states that God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so there wouldn’t be any division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other
If one part suffers every part suffers with it
If you’ve ever had an injury you know this principle very well
Your body can’t rest well when one part of it is suffering
You stay up all night trying to deal with the pain in one part of your body
This should be true of church members also
If one part is honored, every part rejoices with it
When you win a race or competition, you know the joy and feeling of euphoria that courses through your body
Every part of your body benefits from the “feel good” chemicals running through your body
The same should be true of the church and its members
My Next Step Today Is To: Suffer with those in our congregation who are suffering and rejoice with those who are rejoicing.
Based on a biblical foundation of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
Paul shows you and I the most excellent way
It’s not about seeking recognition for ourselves, but rather loving others within the body of Christ – thinking about what will cause others to desire a relationship with Jesus Christ or a deeper walk with Him
Principles of love
Not easily angered
Keeps no records of wrongs
Doesn’t delight in evil
Rejoices with the truth
A person who is loving in this way is not going to leave the church, but will rather strive to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace
Unity through diversity is built on love
You and I each have a role to play in the church
The question is, do you know your role and if so, are you doing it?
“The concept of an inactive church member is an oxymoron. Biblically, no such church member really exists.” [Rainer, 16]
You should never ask yourself if you should be serving your church – that’s a given
You should be asking yourself and God, in prayer, this ongoing question, “How can I best serve my church?”
The research that Thom Rainer has done has revealed that, to their best estimates, only one-third of members on church roles are real biblical church members that are functioning properly by giving abundantly and serving without hesitation
At the end of each chapter there is a pledge for you to make
Perhaps today you recognized that you are struggling in the area of being a biblical functioning church member and you’re ready to make the change
On the back of the bookmark is the first pledge and a place for you to sign to commit to making that pledge
The pledge is between you and God
My Next Step Today Is To: Pledge to be a functioning church member by giving, serving, ministering, evangelizing, studying, and being a blessing to others.
As you and I examine each attitude and willingly ask God to make changes to those attitudes in our own lives, Thom says two things are going to happen
You will likely have a new or renewed attitude about Idaville Church. You will learn the joy of being last instead of seeking to be first. Instead of being a whiner complaining about what’s wrong with your church, you will be a unifier seeking what’s best for your church.
Idaville Church will begin to change. It will become healthier because one of its members is healthier. And as the church gets healthier, it will have a greater impact on our community and the world.
VIDEO – The Body of Christ [https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/illustration/97944]