Summary: There is a strong connection between being a Christian and being united to Christ's Body, the Church.
“Building Quality Relationships: With the Church – Sign the Dotted Line”
It’s been many years since I placed in my files a little list entitled “How to Be a Church Member Without Being Religious.” Some of the behaviors listed are (1):
• “Put your name on the membership roll but let everyone know that you don’t want to get involved.”
• “Be sure to take off for most weekends so you can worship in the great outdoors.”
• “Squeal like a stuck pig when someone gets on the subject of money. Jesus never asked anyone for a donation.”
• “Criticize the leaders of your congregation. They probably need someone to keep them humble.”
• “Chauffeur your children to and from church school. Let God know you are trying your best to be a Christian parent.”
I have saved the list because in my 38 plus years of ministry I have encountered all those attitudes in members of the Church. It serves as a reminder that Christians, and the Church, are still in the process of what we call sanctification – still growing towards perfection.
But today my focus is not just on church members but on non-church members. My intent is not to step on any toes but, rather, to prick all our consciences. The basis of these pricks is Eph. 5:32. Two weeks we looked at what Paul had to say in the previous verses about the marriage relationship. But at the conclusion of his words on marriage he makes it clear that he held forth marriage as a human echo of the relationship between Christ and His Church. (32) “This is a profound mystery – but I am talking about Christ and the church.” That indicates that there is a strong connection between being a Christian and being united to Christ’s body, the Church.
To underscore and lift up the importance of church membership, I’ve chosen to address the issue by way of analyzing some of the most common excuses for avoiding church membership. First, there is the SEPARATIST. He or she thinks they like life outside the church. After all, they claim, “I CAN BE JUST AS GOOD A CHRISTIAN OUTSIDE THE CHURCH AS INSIDE IT.” We hear this one frequently. But here’s the question. Can you be just as good a soldier outside the army as inside it? Can you be just as good a volleyball player outside the team as on it? It’s possible – but highly unlikely. We will be better and more valuable on the team and in the church. Paul, in fact, makes it very clear earlier in this Ephesian letter, in chapter 4. He states that the purpose of church leaders is (12, 15-16) “…to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” GROWTH AND LIFE COME FROM BEING PART OF THE BODY. The Body provides the structure for life.
Jacques Costeau once related the story of a dolphin that was listless in the water. Thinking it was sick they netted and examined it. Finding nothing wrong they injected it with a stimulant – but an hour later the dolphin died. The conclusion was that the dolphin may have been ostracized from the other dolphins – and when that happens dolphins often allow themselves to die. From Jesus Christ the whole body, as each part does its work, receives life. The danger for the separatist is lack of growth and slow, spiritual death.
A second excuse is offered by the PESSIMIST. She claims she’s just never sure. “I’M NOT SURE I’LL LIKE IT. WHAT IF I DON’T FIT?” Consider this. Someone tells you that the water temperature is 67 degrees and invites you to go swimming. You can hesitate and wonder if that’s warm enough for you or not. How’s the only way to know? Dive in and stay in the water for a while. THE ONLY WAY TO KNOW IS TO JOIN AND DIVE IN FULLY AND STAY FOR A WHILE. It’s better to be active somewhere than nowhere, to be involved somewhere than inactive anywhere. What if Jesus’ disciples had waited to follow Jesus until they were sure they were a good fit or positive they would like it? Instead they left everything and dove in – for three years – before they fully understood what it was all about and how they fit into the plan. The danger of the pessimist is that she will miss the chance to be part of a much greater plan.