17 days down, 23 days to go!
It’s hard to believe that I’m almost at the midpoint of this book! This chapter starts by saying, “You are called to belong, not just believe.” And in a time of pastor scandals frequenting the 24/7 news cycle, I get that it is hard for some to think about embracing a local church but this doesn’t prevent the local church from being important. Also, I feel that people do not understand the difference between God and the church, and I don’t know whose “fault” that is, probably a mix of various persons or entities. Anyway, the church and God are not the same thing and they have different functions. I mean its sorta similar to the square is a rectangle but a rectangle is not a square relationship e.g., God is the church but the church is not God.
One thing my pastors say is that there is no such thing as a perfect church and Rev. Warren talks about this in this chapter. Rev. Warren even shares that there are some things that a church should have even in its imperfection so that you have the best probability to grown spiritually but this knowledge and wisdom does not assure perfection.
When I was a little girl, three words were painted on the wall in my church, “Jesus Never Fails.” People will fail you, organizations will fail you, churches will fail you (on some level), presidents will fail you, countries will fail you but God NEVER fails!
Anyway, this chapter does a good job of explaining why having a local church is important and one of the core ideas, several are given, is that being a member of a local church brings accountability and it is a place to receive love and support. I knew this coming in to graduate school and I can honestly say that I would not have made it this far in my program without the support of my church family and the guidance and words of my pastors and the elders and ministers. Every message, every hug, every word of encouragement every lesson helped me stay afloat especially when I felt like I was drowning.
But what does this all mean? What is being a church member? There are four passages in this chapter that I would like to share that get at what being a church member means and why it is important to join a local church.
1) What is the meaning of member?
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. We need to recover and practice the biblical meaning of membership. The church is a body, not a building an organism, not an organization.
2) Effects of US Individualism on Kingdom Spirituality
Today’s culture of independenct individualism has created many spiritual orphans — “bunny believers” who hop around from one church to another without any identity, accountability, or commitment. Many believe one can be a “good Christian” without joining (or even attending) a local church, but God would strongly disagree. The Bible offers many compelling reasons for being committed and active in a local fellowship.
3) Church Membership as a Way to Build Spiritual Muscles
Over fifty times in the New Testament the phrase “one another” or “each other” is used. We are commanded to love each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, admonish each other, greet each other, serve each other, teach each other, accept each other, honor each other, bear each other’s burdens, forgive each other, submit to each other, be devoted to each other, and many other mutual tasks. This is biblical membership! These are your “family responsibilities” that God expects you to fulfill through a local fellowship. Who are you doing these with?
4) Attendance v. Membership v. Committment
The difference between being a church attender and a church member is commitment. Attenders are spectators from the sidlines; members get involved in the ministry. Attenders are consumers; members are contibutors. Attenders want the beneifts of a church without sharing the responsibility. They are like couples who want to live together without committing to a marriage. Why is it important to join a local church family? Because it proves you are committed to your spiritual brothers and sisters in reality, not just in theory.
My answer is yes but I was not always like this. I definitely had my attend but not really be a member days in college and looking back I wish I would have been more involved and fostered relationships with those other young Christian students. I spent so much time trying to chase after the “cool” kids and at the end of the day I missed the folks that had more to offer me as a young Christian woman. However, I don’t regret this because it is a real life personal example of why I should get involved even when I don’t feel like it or even when I’m scared to.
Gosh I went through this whole post without saying that as much as these various responsibilities are laid out for you and are required of you you also get the benefit of receiving all these responsibilities. Kinda like how I shared how having a local church has supported me get through graduate school. I received the actions of other believers fufilling their responsibility as church members while I was giving these actions as part of my responsibilities as a church member. As the cliché says, “You scratch my back; I’ll scratch yours.”
Finally, if you do not have a local church home, I pray that you find one soon. Also, if you do not have a local home ask others in your networks where they go. In a world of tweets, posts and blogs, I am sure that if you Tweet, Facebook or Tumble that you are looking for a church home in a certain area that people who live in that area will respond with where they go. A member cannot function long without its whole!