Summary: Are you a church attender or a church member? Does it matter which you are, or which you choose to be?
A Place to Belong
Purpose Driven Life #17
December 6, 2003
Are you a church attender or a church member? Does it matter which you are, or which you choose to be? Maybe you’re not sure, right now, what you want to be and are exploring to decide what you want to be.
It does matter and I want to encourage you to become an active church member. There’s a difference between an attender and a member. Attenders are spectators from the sidelines; members get involved in the ministry of the church. Attenders are consumers; members are contributors. Attenders want the benefits of a church without sharing the responsibility. They are like couples who want to live together without committing to marriage.
The early NT church sets the pattern for us of what we need to be and ought to be.
Acts.2.42- they were committed to each other, to the mission of the church, to the common meal, and to the praying which allows for the work of the church to go forward. God expects you, and me, to commit to the same things today. He hasn’t changed. He hasn’t ‘updated’ his expectations. God is so wonderfully fair and has maintained, from the beginning, the ideals for the church- for his church.
The Christian life is more than just commitment to Christ- that’s the necessary beginning point. But, it includes a commitment to other Christians, too. The Christians in Macedonia understood this:
2 Cor.8.5. Jumping into the life of a local church is the natural next step once you’ve become a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ. You become a Christian by committing yourself to Christ, but you become a church member by committing yourself to a specific group of believers. The first decision brings salvation; the second brings fellowship.
You and I are called to belong, not just to believe. Even in Eden, God said that is was not good for people to be alone. We are created for community, but have trouble with the idea because of human hurts we have experienced. However, those hurts must not stand in the way of our doing what God declares we need to be doing. However, the Bible knows nothing of solitary saints or Christians living isolated from other believers and deprived of fellowship. God never intended for our faith to be a ‘private’ faith. In God’s family, you are connected to every other believer, and we will belong to each other for eternity!
C.S. Lewis wrote that the word ‘membership’ is of Christian origin, but the world has emptied it of its original meaning. We know that Costco offers special privileges to its members. Members of various organizations get special benefits. American Express members get Air Miles on our purchases, if we have that card. It’s like this, so the idea of membership has been cheapened.
However, to Paul, being a ‘member’ of the church meant being a vital organ of a living body, an indispensable, interconnected part of the body of Christ.
1 Cor.12.12-27- take time with these verses to emphasize what they say. In order for the organs to fulfill their purpose, they must be connected to your body. The same is true for you as part of Christ’s Body. You were created for a specific role, but you will miss this second purpose of your life if you’re not attached to a living, local church. You discover your role in life through your relationships with others. Note, specially, what Paul declares in those verses in Romans 12 that we have just read.
If an organ is somehow severed from the body, even though we are used to the idea of physicians being able to reconnect it, we know that, without that reconnection, and, sometimes even with it, it will shrivel and die. It cannot exist on its own, and neither can you. Disconnected and cut off form the lifeblood of a local body, your spiritual life will wither and eventually cease to exist. That is why the first symptom of spiritual decline is usually inconsistent attendance at worship services and other gatherings of believers. Whenever we become careless about fellowship, everything else begins to slide, too.
I spoke this week about the restrictions of leadership or of increasing spiritual maturity with the Pastoral Teams in both congregations. If you think of leadership responsibilities or opportunities, in terms of a pyramid, the options and potential diminishes as we go up the pyramid. I have fewer options than you do, for instance, and those of you longer-term members have fewer options than brand new members do. More is expected of you- by God, me, and others. You need to be more involved- to attend more- to be more regular in giving- to bemore supportive, and the like.