Summary: Dealing with the final paragraph of the 1858 John Brown Church Covenant about moving your membership if you must leave the church
Text: Romans 16:3-4, Title: If You Must Go…, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/21/08, PM
A. Opening illustration: For every person raised without religion who adopts a church, three persons forsake the churches for no institutional affiliation, quote from pastor, “it’s not the members who leave and go join another church that bother or scare me, it is those who leave and refuse to join another that should be afraid.”
B. Background to passage: Paul met Aquila and Priscilla in Corinth about 51 AD according to Acts 18:2. They were both tentmakers and believers so they lived and worked and churched together while Paul was there, and became very good friends. Also in Acts 18, they leave Corinth with Paul and go to Ephesus, but stay there while he goes back to Antioch and Jerusalem. Two years later in about 53 AD, Paul mentions them still being in Ephesus (where he is writing 1 Cor) and now with a church in their home (1 Cor 16:19). Three years later in 56 AD, Paul now on his third missionary journey, writing from Corinth now, he mentions them living in Rome, and associating with the Roman church (Rom 16:3-4). Finally, Paul mentions them in 64 AD while he is writing from Rome to Timothy for the second time, and they are now back in Ephesus. For the first century this is a very, very, very mobile couple. But every time that they are mentioned it is in relation to the church or the pastor of their church. They are totally committed to the bride of Christ! Camp out on taking the church lightly or irreverently.
C. Main thought: This is why we have the promise in our covenant that if we leave from this fellowship, we will join another church and carry out these principles. And as Danny Akin said the other day, to agree to one thing in the covenant of a church and then go and do the opposite compounds the problem, making for the believer a problem of integrity in addition to the sin. We have a two-fold concern when people move or leave our congregation that drives the weightiness of this last promise that we make one to another.
A. Concern for the member’s soul
1. First, the NT knows of no concept of Christianity without a church. Every believer, maybe with the exception of the thief on the cross, was involved in a church. We don’t find any members that never participate in the life of the body. And one of the main reasons for this truth is the fact that believers are built to need other believers. And believers are designed to love and thrive in the church. Outside of regular worship with God’s people, faith with dry up. And so this last promise is designed to keep you from falling. It is an expression of love for a church to ensure that its members get involved in another church if they cease to attend theirs. It is a demonstration of self-centeredness and lack of concern if members come and go without ever being pursued, contacted, and held accountable.
2. Heb 10:25,
3. Illustration: Watchman Nee, Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 3.] Alone I cannot serve the Lord effectively, and he will spare no pains to teach me this. He will bring things to an end, allowing doors to close and leaving me ineffectively knocking my head against a wall until I realize that I need the help of the Body as well as of the Lord. I have often wondered what would happen if football coaches approached their work like most youth ministers are expected to. For example, I wonder what would happen if when a player was too busy to show up for practice, the understanding coach simply said, “We’ll miss you. I hope you’ll be able to make it next week sometime.” Imagine the players leaving practice and hearing the smiling coach say, “Thanks for coming. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow.”
4. We have all heard it stated something to the effect that, “I can get just as close to God in the woods (on a boat, in a train, in nature, etc) than I can at church.” Or “you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.” I suppose there could be real debate on the technicality of these statements, but the reality is that you will not ever become what God wants you to be outside of his bride! Maturity is impossible with iron to sharpen the iron. Fullness of joy is impossible with disobedience in life. Fellowship will be lacking without the church. And there is some kind of umbrella of protection for those within the care of the church. We are protecting souls. We have a responsibility to them. Church is crucial to perseverance. Secondly, I think this makes a scary assessment of the reality of faith for those who by their own choice leave the most precious thing to Christ. And if it is a priority issue, they have got to get it together. So another practical application is how long do we give someone who has moved to find a church? How long does it take to find a church? How long does it take to develop the habit of not going to church? Tell about me calling Patricia Feagin. Talking to Brittany York about how long it took them. What if church members knew that New River would be calling to check on their membership status? How long should we wait on people who just quit coming? Are we checking on them now? We must be willing to share with them sweetly, that they cannot continue to be members here and never come.