On Church Membership

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”
(1 Cor. 12:27)

I recently started reading Mark Dever’s, The Church: The Gospel Made Visible.  I am particularly interested in how we can encourage and continue to develop in our congregation a Christ-centered, loving community that loves to worship and serve together.  I found Dever’s chapter on The Membership of the Church informative, and thought I’d share some of the highlights with you.*

Each year, our session asks the members of the congregation to prayerfully evaluate their standing in the Church, and to consider how they can be “better members of the body.”  Usually, though, there is very little explanation as to what a “better member” would look like.  Dever identifies three specific areas of responsibility of the member: 1) Responsibility as an Individual Christian, 2) Responsibility toward the Congregation, and 3) Responsibility toward the Pastor.  I share these with you for your consideration.

Responsibility as an Individual Christian:

Church members are to be baptized and regularly to attend the Lord’s Supper.  They are to hear God’s Word and obey it.  They are regularly to fellowship together for mutual edification.  They are to love God, one another, and those outside their fellowship; and they are to evidence the fruit of the Spirit.  They are to worship God in all the activities of their home, work, community, and life.

Responsibility toward the Congregation:

As followers of Jesus Christ, Christians are obliged to love one another.  Christians are members of one family, even of one another.  Absent a life of love for one another, what other duty of Church members is satisfying or worthwhile.

Church members are obliged to seek peace and unity within their congregation.  Given the sin which remains in believers in this life, however, unity often requires effort.

Love is expressed and unity is cultivated when Church members actively sympathize with one another.  Other duties follow: to care for one another physically and spiritually; to watch over one another and hold one another accountable; to work to edify one another; to bear with one another, including not suing one another; to pray for one another; to keep away from those who would destroy the church; to reject evaluating one another by worldly standards; to contend together for the gospel; and to be examples to one another.

Responsibilities towards the Pastor:

If Christians expect their pastor to fulfill his biblical responsibilities, church members must make themselves known to him.  They must regard him as a gift from Christ sent to the church for their good.  The ministry of the Word is a steward of God’s household and an under-shepherd of God’s flock.  His reputation can and should be defended, his word believed, and his instructions obeyed unless Scripture is contradicted or facts are plainly distorted.  The faithful minister should be so regarded simply because he brings God’s Word to his people; he does not replace it with his own.

Church members should give themselves both to praying for their ministers and to assisting them in every way they can.

In every church I’ve encountered, there are aspects of these responsibilities that the Church and her members do well.  There are also areas where every church can grow in grace and love.  I encourage you today to ask yourself, “How am I doing as a member of my congregation?” and pray for God’s grace as you grow, in and with your church, in the likeness of Christ.

SDG

*All quotes from: Dever, Mark.  The Church: The Gospel Made Visible, (Nashville, TN. B&H Publishing, 2012) pgs. 40-45.

A Pastor Looks at 40

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90:12)

I turn 40 on Sunday, and I’m dreading it for some reason.  Maybe it’s because I gave a couple of friends such grief when they turned 40 that I know there will be some payback.  It could be because I’m starting to feel the age set in a bit.  When I was a kid, I always looked and acted older than my age, in my thirties, I always looked and acted a little younger – sort of the ageless male… (ha).  But now that I’m hitting 40, there are a few more grey hairs, aches and pains in places I didn’t know I had, and all of a sudden 10:00 seems like a reasonable bed-time.

When I turned 30 it was just another birthday; it didn’t mean much at all.  Ten years later, I guess I’m a bit more contemplative; this milestone’s made me stop and think.  I thought I’d share some reflections on what I’ve learned over these 40 years.

If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. 

Growing up, my Father was a teacher.  His parents were teachers.  I swore I’d never be a teacher.  Teachers are underpaid, overworked, and every parent whose little Johnny or Jane does excel is quick to point out the inadequacies of their teacher.

So what did I do, I became a Pastor.  I am a pastor whose passion lies in teaching and preaching the Word of God.  I love sharing the wisdom of Scripture and helping people apply it to their lives.  I never could have imagined the joy and honor that comes from being a Teaching Elder.  God had this in mind for me all along, I’m so glad He didn’t let me have things my way.

Man’s natural inclination is toward passivity, but God calls us to more.

I’ve picked up on this thread through authors such as Dennis Rainey, Robert Lewis, and John Elderidge, but I’ve also seen it confirmed in my own life.  The natural inclination of man is toward passivity.  Consider Adam in the Garden: where was he when Satan tempted Eve? Not off plowing the south 40, he was standing right beside her, saying nothing as his wife was led into sin, saying nothing as she tempted him as well, pointing the finger at everyone else when God asked him what had happened.

Man’s natural inclination is toward passivity, looking for the easy way out, the short cut, “working smarter not harder.”  Great advancements in the world have come because men want things to be easier – and that’s not all bad – think about this the next time you get in your car, turn on the AC, run the dishwasher (you get the idea).

Too often, however, our passivity gets the best of us.  We’d rather sit back and let things happen that stand up and take the lead.  We watch the world fall apart, our communities fall apart, our relationships fall apart, and we tell ourselves there’s nothing we can do.  We wonder, “What’s wrong with the world today?” when the answer is staring back at us in the mirror.

Our natural inclination is toward passivity, but God calls us to something greater.  God calls us to a passionate desire for His supremacy in our lives, that we would love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, that we would love our neighbors as ourselves.  Christ calls us, and his love compels us, to take up our cross daily, actively, and follow him.  Our love for our wives, which can only truly be established first in our love of God, should lead us to lay down our lives for her, just as Christ laid down his life for the church.

Men, how often do we just sit back and say, well I see the need, but someone else can handle that?  Here is something Robert Lewis called his North Star for men, “A real man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously, and expects God’s greater reward.”

On a similar note:

A godly man accepts responsibility, admits his brokenness, seeks forgiveness, and works for reconciliation

When you reject passivity and step up to the call of God, you must also take responsibility.  Own up to your failures, admit your brokenness.  So many pastors, myself included, work frantically to try to hide the fact that they themselves are broken and in desperate need of the same grace they so boldly proclaim from the pulpit every Sunday.  “Never let them see you sweat.  Give the appearance that you have arrived at the destination, and are setting the example for all to follow.  No weakness, no fear.”  No thanks!

There is only one who has gone before that is worthy of anyone following, I merely walk with you saying “Keep your eyes on Jesus.”  If I set any example, may it only be in my brokenness, my daily desire to forgive and be forgiven, and in the manifest joy that comes from knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

I am insufficient for the task at hand

I am daily reminded of my insufficiencies for the ministry.  I like to think that I am a pretty solid preacher, but I know there are better.  I know that there are pastors who are better at finding the balance of pastoral care, planning, administration, study, and family.  I care deeply for my congregation, but I often have a hard time communicating that love.  After 12 years of ministry, 7 years here in Cherokee, I’ve learned and grown in many ways; but I still have a lot to learn.

Still, I am reminded of Paul’s words to the Corinthians –

2 Cor 3:5-6 “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.”

2 Cor 12:9-10 “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Good friendships are rare, but they are wonderful

Proverbs 18:24 teaches, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Over 40 years there have been a lot of friends who have come and gone, and with Facebook, it’s great to reconnect with many of them.  But there are those special friends who will always hold a place in your heart.  They call for no other reason than just to talk.  They are always ready to listen and encourage (and sometimes admonish).

A younger man desires popularity and a wide circle of friends – it’s nice to be liked.  Now, with a couple of good friends who know my heart and stand beside me, I am content.

SDG