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Patricia (Meg Ryan), in the movie Joe Versus the Volcano, who wants Joe (Tom Hanks) to marry her before he jumps into the volcano.
I Don’t want to get married. "What's the problem? You afraid of the commitment? You'll have to love me and honor me for about 30 seconds! You can't handle that?"
When it comes to commitment… today, it seems that we can’t handle that. An article was written in Scientific American calling out our culture as “commitment-phobes.” It is a fear that in promising to do something good, we might miss out on something better. It is a fear of missing out. We want to live “keeping our options open.” George Barna in his research found that only 43 percent of those who said that they were Christian were actually committed to the Christian faith. This poll was in 1998. Our new emerging generations are finding commitment difficult. One “millennial” wrote… "Trying to live with somebody else and putting their needs first is more difficult when you have been raised to put yourself first."
It is interesting that the modern slogan and mottos of putting yourself first, the team of me, no Taunto for this lone ranger. The only person I can depend on is myself. In life I am a DIYer… Do it yourself-er. I want a life of ease and simplicity so why complicate it with other people. I may actually be a burden to others, and they are definitely a burden for me. Why make any commitments?
Add to that… nobody tells me what to do. The existential philosophy of our day asserts that making up our own mind on this is the only real freedom we have. We are the only ones who can make anything in our lives meaningful. Modern individualistic thinking fueled by Neizteche’s principle of will to power… suggest not only do you not let anyone tell you what to do you must not let anyone tell you what to do. Right and wrong is defined by what you like and don’t like. Even when an individual seems to go along with the majority, it is because they chose to go along with the majority. Therefore authority goes out the window. There just is no real submission anymore. No one tells me what to do. Even in the church when we see that submission is commanded… the response is… I will submit to you as long I as I agree with you. Kinda goes against the definition of submission.
So if we have an issue with commitment and we have an issue with submission, then it is not surprising that we have an issue with the biblical concept of church membership. And because of this the understanding of Church membership gets convoluted. The church only wants members because they want our money. The church wants members because they only care about numbers. They only want members because they are trying to develop a social club. Membership is about church elitism. Membership is all about power and controlling people lives. And all kinds of other inaccurate depictions. But Shane how do you know that this is what people think?
I hear them myself. And a SBC study was done concerning membership. The typical SBC church has 233 members. Only 70 is present on a Sunday morning church service. So where are the 163 members? What does this convey about our churches and Christianity to a world that is watching us? What does this message give about the importance of Christianity in our lives? As we continue with our series on the church… membership is what we do and lets find out why we do it. When it comes to the gospel… Getting it right and getting it out. When it come to church… getting it right and getting it done.
Acts 20:28 NLT
“So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.
Members of Christ
The first thing we will look at today is the idea that we submit to a local church body. The second principle to explore is that a Christian will commit to a local body. And finally we will see that members of Christ are entrusted with the gospel.
Thesis: Though sin and the pattern of this world may cause us to lose sight of the importance of church membership due to our culture’s commitment and submission phobia, it is the truth of scripture and the power of the gospel that will cause us to love what Christ loves and hold on to what Christ holds on to.
I. Submitted
- We submit, we don’t join.
A. If we are looking for a “thou shalt be a member of a church.” As far as I know there is not such a verse. But through good and necessary consequence it can be deduced from the scriptures. This is a clear principle of reformed exegesis. Deduction from the scriptures. There is nowhere in the scriptures that says that Solomon was the son of the king of Israel. But we know by deduction that it is a truth alongside all truth. We know he was the son of David. And we know David was the king of Israel. The simple A is B B is C therefore A is C. We can be positive that Solomon was the son of the king of Israel. And this truth is binding. You have to believe it. Even though is is not stated directly.
B. With this in mind. Many Pastors will discover something very clear in our study of the book of Hebrews and the sobering passage of scripture in chapter 13:17 and the 2 glaring questions.
Hebrews 13:17 NLT
Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
C. Two questions, two glaring questions. The first question, if there is no biblical requirement to be a member of a local church, then which leaders should an individual Christian obey and submit to?
- Second, and more personally, who will I as a pastor give an account for? One day I will stand before God and give an account for the walk, journey, sanctification for Christians? Which Christians?
D. In regards to the first question. We all as Christians have to submit to our leaders. We are commanded to submit. This is the category of honoring father and mother. We obey and honor those who have authority over us.
Hebrews 13:17 NLT
Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.
Hebrews 13:7 NLT
Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.
1 Timothy 5:17 ESV
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.
E. If there is no understanding of local church membership, then who are we to submit to? Just who are we supposed to obey? Is it anyone with the title “elder” from any church? So we not gonna submit to just anyone who claims the title elder or deacon. So who then? For existing members… The one who you vetted, examined, tested, and who you decided to appoint to be your pastor. For new members… the one who you vetted, examined, tested, and who you decided to submit you and family too. This is called membership.
F. We know we need to be submitted to church leaders and a church body… it can’t be every single church body in the world. It can’t be every single pastor in the whole world. It can’t be every single deacon in the whole world. It is your local church elders and deacons. We picked one. We have decided to submit to CBC. This is membership. You don’t join a church you submit to one. In order to submit to leadership as commanded by scriptures, we need church covenant membership. It is the way it works.
G. The next question is also important. If there is no understanding of church membership who am I gonna be held accountable for? Every single person who professes to be Christian? Not likely… we will be held accountable for those we are in charge of. This is membership. You have covenanted with CBC and submitted to the church and its leaders therefore I am now accountable for you.
1 Peter 5:1–5 NLT
And now, a word to you who are elders in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in his glory when he is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow elder, I appeal to you: Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
H. Will I as a pastor be held accountable for all the Christians in the Denver metro area? There are many churches, ministries and parachurch ministries in Denver that I have strong theological, philosophical, and behavioral differences with. Will I one day stand before God and give account for what they teach in their small group, how they spend their money, and what they do concerning missions? Especially those who will not obey and submit? No I will be accountable for those who have decided to be a part of CBC and have agreed to commit and submit to our local church body. This is church membership. We don’t join we submit.
I. So I know that submission is not a popular word today. People just don’t like it. But just because we don’t like something does not make it untrue. Booker T Washington once said, “A lie doesn't become truth, wrong doesn't become right, and evil doesn't become good, just because it's accepted by a majority.” But there is a real beautiful and wonderful dynamic happening here.
J. This is an important factor in how we set up membership directives. Members must be submitted to leadership at CBC and leadership must understand that we will be held accountable for those submitted to leadership. This should be our guide for what we allow and don’t allow for church members. This is why member roles should be purged. Why attendance and discipleship has to happen on a regular basis. Why if an individual will not submit to leadership directives and are awol they should be removed.
K. I am going to stand before God one day and give an account for people I don’t know, for people who I never discipled, for people I never saw, for people who refused to follow. If there is pastoral purgatory… I’m going there for them. Not right. This is why Obedience and Submission is commanded. I am going to be held responsible for all members of CBC.
L. But again remember that Obedience and submission is not an option for Christians. We are commanded to be under leadership somewhere. If not here then somewhere.
M. Which now brings up the subject of church discipline. Of course there is Matthew 18 and the principles of church disciple given to us by our Lord as to how we are to handle those who are unrepentant in sin. There needs to be an in before there can be an out. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-12 , Paul confronts the church in Corinth, the Corinthians for approving of a man walking in, ardent, blatant, and unrepentant sexual immorality. The Corinthians are celebrating this as God’s grace given, but Paul warns them that this type of wickedness shouldn’t make them boast, but rather mourn. They should be ashamed of themselves. He calls them arrogant, prideful and tells them to remove this man for the destruction of his flesh and the hopeful salvation of his soul. In verses 11-12, he does not hesitate.
1 Corinthians 5:11–12 NLT
I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.
N. There needs to be an in before there can be an out. And even as a church body we cannot cast out people in the church down the street for immorality. This is church membership. We are able to cast out people for unrepentant sin because of membership. If we are living in unrepentant sin, God has called the church to follow his directives as to how we help the spiritual and physical state of those who are members. This is what’s supposed to happen. Paul tells the local church body in Corinth to discipline this man. Discipline happens with membership. If there is no local commitment to a covenant community of faith, then how do you remove someone from that community of faith? Church discipline won’t work if local church membership doesn’t exist.
O. But remember when we think of membership. We think about our biblical directives to submit to church leaders and that our church leaders will be held accountable and give an account to the Lord in heaven. If there is a pastoral purgatory… how long am I gonna be in there for you. How long will I be in there for those I don’t know, those I never discipled, those who never followed, those who were never disciplined, those who never submitted?
II. Committed
- We commit, we don’t join.
A. We must commit to each other. We submit to our leaders and commit to each other. Because we need each other to grow and to live.
Romans 12:10–13 NLT
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
B. How do we do this without a local church body that we are committed to? How do we know a person is “God’s people.” When they become members, they are examined by an elder of the church and the church validates their salvation when we vote them into our church body. But we regularly see them, their growth, their sanctification, and God’s grace in their lives. We know as well as anyone… and its because of membership.
C. We live together in a covenant community with a commitment showing that we can count on you. We agree to the church statement of faith so we can count on you. We agree to the churches core values and policies so that we can count on you. We agree to the church covenant so that we can count on you. We commit so that we can count on you.
D. We are commanded to pray for each other. To help those in the household of faith, but for us that is logically fulfilled in the church community. We are commanded to encourage one another, to rebuke another, and it all happens in the local church. We give up the idea of trying to live for Christ alone and apart from His body. To commit to know and be known by others. We need others and other need you. You may not need help, but your brother might need help and we are commanded to help. This church membership. The NT makes it very clear that when following Christ we are supposed to love and care for others especially those of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:10 NLT
Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith.
E. This is not to say that others outside of our church are not of the faith, we just don’t know it, if we don’t know them. This organically and naturally happens in the committed and covenanted local church community. The Lettuce passage is also telling.
Hebrews 10:19–25 NLT
And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. 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.
F. It is only natural for us to see that the Lettuce directives happen in the committed local church community. Lettuce for those whom we meet with regularly.
G. We commit to be baptized after conversion. We commit to attend Sunday services regularly because we believe in the primacy of the preached word for life and discipleship in the church. We are committed to taking the Lord’s supper together for growth in grace. We are committed to go to member meeting to facilitate info and strategy for church life. We are committed to pray regularly and to give regularly for operations, integration, and benevolence. We are committed to each other and we are directed to in the scriptures.
H. We commit, we do not join a church. Church membership is an outward reflection of an inward love for Christ and his people. And as we see in life, the greatest of love is rarely spontaneous, it is most always characterized by the beauty of commitment.
I. As Christians will we love the thing that Christ loved. And Christ loved his church.
Ephesians 5:25 NLT
For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her
J. And finally the local church community with its members are there to preserve the gospel. To preserve the beauty of the gospel. To insure its survival. To ensure that we denounce the pattern of the world and announce the wonders of the Gospel.
III. Members of Christ
- To uphold the Gospel.
A. We commit and submit to ensure the authenticity of the gospel. We have been entrusted with the gospel.
B. We saw that husbands are to love their wives, just like Christ loved the church and he gave himself for her. To be a member of the body of Christ. To be entrusted with this truth. That Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures and he was buried
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