Est. 33AD Part 3: People and the Church
I’d like to think I am working on an argument here. If you would like, read parts 0, 1, and 2 prior to reading this installment.
By definition the church is people. It is not a building, it is not a campaign, and it is not a single person. At the same time, the church is bigger than people and wider than the narrow focus it is often given. It is a God glorifying, Christ-indwelt, miracle of the Triune God. The Sovereign Lord has set-up the relationship to be interdependent. Without either the Godhead or the people He has called, there would be no church. Yet, God has made it clear that He loves His church (Ephesians 5:25 testifies that God loves the church so much that Jesus died for it).
This truth forces me to wonder what a person’s relationship with a church should be like. If the church is the relationship between the God of the universe and those whom He has redeemed, what should an individual’s connection to the church look like? As far as the universal church (all followers of Christ throughout all time) it is a bit more simple. We should love our brothers and sisters in Christ, share the good news of salvation through Jesus alone with others, and work for God’s glory in the world. A person’s relationship with the local church is a bit more complex.
Allow me to suggest an idea and a plan of action. Covenant membership. Just as God has orchestrated an interdependent relationship with His church, so a church should enter into an interdependent relationship with one an other. As in all things, Christ is our model. Philippians 2 says,
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus sacrificed much on our behalf and it is in Him that we find the ultimate example of covenant membership. You may not prefer every aspect of a church. You may disagree with a decision here and there. Everything may not be to your liking. Please allow me to make a suggestion when it comes to you and the local church. Pray about the place you should attend. Make a list of reasonable, non-negotiable distinctives such as theological position and philosophy of ministry. Visit a few places to see whether or not they match up with where you feel the Lord calling you to go. Pray a little bit more. Make a decision. Commit. Be there. Call it home. Serve there. Pray for it. Pray for its leaders. Fellowship there. I could go on and on, but make it your church.
My generation (a younger generation) does not embrace the idea of church membership. I frequently hear people say that is because it is an outdated concept. They suggest that you can be equally committed without putting official titles on that commitment. I disagree. We don’t embrace membership because we are afraid of it. We are not taught how to do it. We have not been shown the value of it.
In part 4 of this series I hope to make a case not just for membership, but for covenanting together to be a church. I believe both as a Christian and as a pastor that this is what is best for us, best for Christ’s bride, the church, and, ultimately, what will bring the most glory to the only true God.