Series: I Am a Church Member
(based on and adapted from Thom Rainer’s book of the same name)
“I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members”
We’re getting close to the end of our congregational study of Thom Rainer’s book: I Am a Church Member. Today, we’re going to be looking at the fifth chapter called, “I Will Lead My Family to Be Healthy Church Members.”
The church has been under attack for quite some time. A fairly recent incidence occurred when the April 3, 2012 cover of Newsweek announced: “Forget Church and Just Follow Jesus.”
The picture on the cover depicts an image that is recurrent in our society today. This depiction and others like it have been dubbed “Hipster Jesus.” It’s simply an attempt to do something that people have been doing for 2,000 years – remaking Jesus into what they want him to be instead of who he really is.
The basic argument against the church summed in this one statement: I like Jesus but not the church. Basically, they’re saying that Christianity would be fine without the church. What Jesus is teaching is fine but I don’t want to be part of that group called the church. Those church people speak about biblical things but don’t do them all the time. They can be selfish. They can be hypocritical. I’m just going to take the parts about Jesus that I like and forget the rest.
One of our biggest difficulties as families today is helping our children and grandchildren see the importance of church. It’s important that they see a group of people who are flawed, who don’t always get it right and that’s OK. Christ intended the church to be a place where flawed people learn to love God and love others. Then when certain criticisms come up that are justified, they also see that there is something valuable about this group called the church.
You might have a history of family in church. You might have family around you here in church today. For some, when your family gets together, church is part of what you do.
For some of us, this is a tough or touchy subject. It’s difficult to come to church and think of those who are not here. They’ve made a conscious decision not to be in church.
It’s difficult when you think back on conversations you’ve tried to have with family members and they just don’t accept what you’re trying to say to them. Maybe you have family members that were once active in church but something happened – whether it’s something that happened at church that drove them away or it’s something in life that drove them away. Whatever the case may be, they’re not in church anymore.
I hope that you will still pay attention this morning and that God will bless you somehow in this message. I pray that there is something worthwhile for each of us as we look together at this subject. It may just be a reminder that even though things are not always the way we’d like them to be that there are things that we can do to draw ourselves and others closer to God.
Here’s the first blank on your outline: Church is like a family. Paul says in Eph. 1:4-5 (NLT) – Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.
Paul’s uses the picture of the church as family several times in his letters. He refers to the family of God and the household of God. It seems a reasonable image for us to understand the role of the church as it applies to its necessity for our benefit and betterment as followers of Jesus.
Paul even uses an extended passage in Ephesians chapters 5 &6 to illustrate the interaction of church and family. Remember as we read this passage that originally there were no chapter and verse divisions in the original writings. They were added much later to aid in referencing specific passages. We don’t write letters or emails with chapter and verse divisions and neither did the apostle Paul. The end of Ephesians chapter 5 and the beginning of chapter 6 comprise a complete section of thought and purpose.
Eph. 5:21-6:4 –Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
6:1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3 “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
There are some important family principles in that passage that apply to the church. After all, Paul says in 5:32 – This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. Everything in this passage of Scripture hinges on two concepts: submission and love.
The word translated as “submit” here means to put under or place under. When we look at this idea of submission, take note of where it all starts and has to remain – submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. It’s not because that person deserves it. It’s not because that person is better than you or more powerful than you. It’s not because that person has it all together and you don’t. What we’re told here is this: Because you care about Jesus, because you care about God, submit – put your desires under the desires of others.
Have you ever thought about church in the sense of a healthy marriage and what that’s supposed to look like? Marriage is give and take which means that one spouse doesn’t get their way all the time. Each person within the marriage is trying to make sure that the other person is as happy as can be. What if we looked at church from that perspective? What if church became more about your needs than my needs?
The word translated as “love” here is the same word that recurs over and over again in our study of what healthy church membership looks like. It’s the word agape – a selfless, sacrificial kind of love.
We’re told in Col. 3:12-17 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Here are some important ways that we submit to one another and love one another in our families and in our church:
2. Treat one another respectfully.
3. Watch out for one another.
4. Forgive one another.
Then in Heb. 10:24-25 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
And so we add these important ways to submit to one another and to show love for one another:
5. Meet together with one another.
6. Encourage one another.
7. Support one another.
How do you lead your church family into being healthy church members? Let’s look at what Rainer points out in this section.
1. Praying together. You and your family should join together to pray for the church, its leaders, and its members. If you’re going to talk about the church, do it in a positive way by lifting it up with prayer instead of talking it down with criticism.
Rainer says, “Part of the opportunity and honor of being a church member is the teaching of our family to love the church. And that teaching often begins by praying together as a family for the church where God placed us.”
2. Worshiping together. As a church member, I’m responsible for encouraging and leading my family to worship together in church. If I’m married, I seek to include my spouse. If I’m a parent, I seek to include my children. My family must see my love for the church. If I’m single with no immediate family, I seek to set an example for others to follow.
Did you ever consider that your family might be a mission field? It might be that they’re immediate family or extended family but they need to know how much God loves them and you are God’s missionary in their lives.
1 Cor. 7:12-16 – To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Maybe you’ve been trying to reach them and you’re frustrated because you think that they aren’t paying attention. Don’t give up. It’s there somewhere in the back of their mind. Keep praying, keep serving, and keep watering the seed that you’ve planted. Don’t be pushy. Just keep them mindful that you do what you do because of Jesus and because of your church.
Make being in church a priority. Set the example for your spouse and for your children and grandchildren.
Are you single? No spouse or children? You make being in church a priority as well. There are people who are watching you and your example may lead them to make church a priority in their lives as well. Even so, you will be establishing an important discipline in your own life that will be important if the time ever comes where you influence a spouse or children.
I want to add two more things that Rainer doesn’t address:
3. Preparing together to have realistic expectations. Church is a family. That means that there are church members who frustrate us. Unless your family is a whole lot different than mine, there is a family member out there who frustrates you.
Church is family. There are ups and downs. Unless your family is a lot different than mine, someone in your family has been less than perfect over the last 30 days. Someone hasn’t done something they said they were going to do or they did something that they shouldn’t have done. Why should we expect any different than that here?
No family member is perfect. No church member is perfect. No church leader is perfect. And you are not perfect, either. Please practice the wisdom of Jesus in Matt. 7:3-5 – Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
4. Joining together in service. Involve your kids and grandkids in works of ministry and service to others. It teaches them important lessons about selflessness and the needs of others.
Jesus loves the church. She is his Bride. So remember these important things:
As a church member:
• I am not to merely like my church.
• I am not to merely serve my church.
• I am to fall deeply in love with my church.
My commitment is to love that Bride with an unwavering and unconditional love.
Unconditional love is not always easy. If someone is perfect and meets our every
perceived need, it’s easy to think we love that person. But such love is one way. It’s all
about me and my needs. Unconditional love means that 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.
And as I grow more deeply in love with my church, I will do all I can in God’s power to
bring my family with me. We will pray for our church leaders together. We will worship
together. And we will serve together.
If our family gets discouraged or discontent in our church, we will remind ourselves that
unconditional love is not always easy. But we will also remind ourselves that unconditional
love has been demonstrated perfectly for us. His name is Jesus. He loves us, sins and all, so
much that he died on a cross for us. Rom. 5:8 – But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It’s time for us to take the fifth pledge. These pledges are commitments and this commitment recognizes the importance of our immediate family supporting and loving the church family.
If your family members are believers who are part of this church, you should be looking to pray together and worship together. If there are unbelievers in your family, then you should look to demonstrate a deep love for Christ’s church. Such love can influence them and move them closer to Christ. If you are a single person living alone, know that other people are watching you. How you love your church could have a significant spiritual impact on their lives. So, let’s take this pledge together.
The Fifth Pledge:
I am a church member. I will lead my family to be good members of this church as well. We will pray together for our church. We will worship together in our church. We will serve together in our church. And we will ask Christ to help us fall deeper in love with this church because He gave His life for her.