Summary: Church membership is a gift, not a perk.
Series: I Am a Church Member
(based on and adapted from Thom Rainer’s book by the same name)
“I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift”
I go into a bit of depression several times a year. One of those times is very close. It’s the end of the NCAA men’s basketball season. The other comes after the Super Bowl – the end of the NFL season. There comes quite a dry spell for me sports-wise between the close of NCAA men’s basketball and the start of the NFL season. I haven’t been a MLB baseball fan since the last player strike.
There are other times that I feel a bit down. Those times come at the completion of a sermon series. I almost always feel sorry to be done but I also know that there are always some people who are always glad when I am done.
Today, we’re going to finish our study together of Thom Rainer’s book I Am a Church Member. We’re at chapter six: “I Will Treasure Church Membership as a Gift.”
Every church member must decide between two distinct options. The first option is that we approach church membership in a similar way that we approach country club membership. We are joining the church to see what we can get out of it. We will determine what we like and don’t like. We are members who expect perks, privileges, and service.
Rainer asks, “What happens when the country club church member is asked to contribute to the work of the church?” He gives the examples of the opportunities of serving in the nursery and leading a fifth grade Bible study class.
One country club church member may agree to one of the requesst out of obligation and they do so because he or she has a legalistic approach to serving. They don’t respond because they want to but because they have to. Remember that country club church membership is not about working. It’s about being served. Usually someone who responds in this way begins their service with a bad attitude and they don’t last long in their service.
Other country club church members just get mad when they’re asked to serve. Some may respond that they did their time in earlier years – as if serving the body of Christ is a prison sentence. Others refuse to even give a reason as to why they won’t contribute to the ministry of the church. They just get indignant because they were asked. And then there are those country club church members who get mad at the pastoral staff. They usually say something like, “That’s what we pay our ministers to do. They’re just trying to get out of work.”
The first option is the country club church membership. The second option is the biblical option. This option views church membership as a gift. It sees membership as an opportunity to serve and give rather than the legalistic obligation to do so. Our entire attitude is different when we approach church membership in the biblical way. Church membership is a gift, not a perk.
Treasure refers to something that is special, important, or valuable. If we see church membership as something to be treasured, we will not view it as being inconsequential and trivial. We will heed the scriptural admonition 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.
For some reason, the Lord’s Day, once considered a special day dedicated to the worship and service of God, is now treated like any other day by many professing believers. And local church life, once considered the center of indispensable relationships, is now treated like an extra-curricular activity rather than an essential ingredient of the Christian life.
In his book, Set Apart: Calling a Worldly Church to a Godly Life, Kent Hughes lists six disturbing trends among a large number of people who identify themselves as Christians. I find that these trends are all interrelated.
The first trend he terms hitchhiker Christians. Hughes says, “The hitchhiker’s thumb says, ‘You buy the car, pay for repairs and upkeep and insurance, fill the car with gas—and I’ll ride with you. But if you have an accident, you are on your own! And I’ll probably sue.’ So it is with the credo of many of today’s church attenders: ‘ You go to the meetings and serve on the boards and committees, you grapple with the issues and do the work of the church and pay the bills—and I’ll come along for the ride. But if things do not suit me, I’ll criticize and complain and probably bail out. My thumb is always out for a better ride.’”