Summary: A member of the church will protect the unity of that church.
Sermon for 9/22/02
Protect the Unity
Crayons can teach us a lot about Christians: some crayons are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, each is a different color and many are never used to their full potential. However, they must all learn to live in the same box- the church.
A. Many Christians in North America are what can be called “floating believers.” Anywhere else in the world, being a Christian is being connected to a local church. We rarely find lone-ranger Christians in other countries. Many American Christians, however, hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. They have not been taught that the Christian life invovles more than just believing- it also includes belonging. We grow in Christ by being in relationship with other Christians.
B. C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay on church membership, reminding us that the word membership is of Christian origin, but it has been taken over by the world and emptied of all it originial meaning. Today, most people assoicate the term membership with paying dues, meaningless rituals, silly rules and handshakes, and having your name on some dusty roll.
C. What is a member at Bell Arthur? 300 people on roll but only 75 attended. 6 meetings a year. Should have more in attendance than on the roll.
D. Paul had a very different image of membership. It was more like an organ of Christ. If Christ is missing an organ, the whole body suffers. Our rampant individualism is ruining the church and making it weak and sick.
E. We need to reclaim this image of the Body of Christ. Any organ that is detached from the body will not only miss what it was created to be, it will also shrivel and die quickly. The same is true for Christians that are uncommitted to any specific congregation.
F. Many churches mistakenly assume that once a person has received Christ, the sale has been done, and it is now up to the new Christian to follow through with his commitment. Imagine if we did this to a baby.
G. It is the church’s responsibility to take the initiative in assimilating new people into the congregation.
H. Why do churches have so many people on their membership rolls who give little or no evidence of Christian commitment or even conversion? Why do many churches find it difficult to motivate members to give, serve, pray, and share their faith? You get what you ask for.
I. Paul mentions two different types of commitment in 2 Corinthians 8:5: First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will, they gave themselves to us as well.” Commit yourself to Christ for salvation and then commit yourself to other Christians for membership. Part of the Body.
J. From New Convert Class. What is expected? Went over these 4 things. Going to give this to new members. This is what we and the Lord expect. A good guide. Leadership might change some things but we expect these things.
K. This is really the bare minimum as we look at last week Scriptures. Want to get by.
L. If we expect these things, people we go away. You are right there will be some who will go away. But people are going to leave our church no matter what we do. Snapshot of people 5 years ago. Focus on those who have left. Some for godly reasons, some for neutral reasons, most because of silly and ungodly reasons.
M. Help us to have a challenging vision if all members are doing these things. I would rather have 50 people committed to the cause of Christ than 500 people who could care less.
N. What is expected? First point.
Thesis: I will protect the unity of my church.
A. Restoration Movement was started to bring about unity. People fed up with denominationalism and just wanted to go by the Bible simply. Wanted to transcend sectariasm and denominational walls and just be Christians. Didn’t want to start a new group, wanted all the group to unite around Primitive Christianity.
B. Must be an example of unity in our church or we are hypocrites. People like Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell are probably turning over in their graves. Lord Jesus probably looks down and cries.
C. Must want what Jesus wanted in the church, among his disciples. John 17:23- I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
D. We are not converting the world. Why? One of the reason is that we are not united ourselves.
E. Ephesians 4:3- Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.