Don’t Join the Club
1 Corinthians 12
14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?
18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
Next Sunday March 7th, First Church will be having New Members Sunday. New Members Sunday will be a time to celebrate new believers and newcomers to First Church, publicly making a commitment to join our local body as members. It truly is a fun time for me personally, as a pastor, to see others passionate about what God is doing in our church. It gives me a sense of renewed energy to pursue all of what Jesus is calling us too. After all, this is about one person and one person only, his name is Jesus. When a group of people unify around his name anything is possible (Matthew 18:19).
So in light of this, I thought this would be a good opportunity to write a blog to set the record straight (again) on Church Membership at First Church. Like anything we do it's important to remind ourselves why. We do not do things for the sake of tradition around here. No, we are only interested in habits that honor the Holy Spirit. So, I thought I would take a few paragraphs to explain what Church membership is, isn’t, and why we do it:
What Church Membership Isn’t...
If you were ever a part of a denominational church, you may have had a bad experience with church membership. While the concept of church membership is beautiful and very much scriptural, when the Holy Spirit is not in charge it becomes a form of religiosity. Yuck!! Membership at First Church is NOT…
1. A social status. Unfortunately, being a member does not get you through lines faster at DollyWood or help when applying for your next big job. You’re not joining a church club, you're committing to the local body of Christ.
2. A way for leadership to leverage and control the members. Honestly, I hear people say this sometimes and chuckle. There is not much benefit for me to prioritize membership in our body. In fact, it makes my job more challenging, but I know it is right so we will press on.
3. A way for us to measure success in our church. We do not count the members here, but we do count on them to carry the load of walking out the vision God has birthed here. Whether we have two members or two hundred makes no difference.
4. A means of salvation. Being a member will never replace the finished work of the cross.
5. Your permission to participate. Do you have to be a member to attend First Church? No way! You can come, serve and fellowship with us at First Church, all without being a member. We do require our leadership to be members.
What Church Membership Is...
1. A means of Grace, that teaches us the power of living out commitment. Commitment in the year 2021 is not a popular concept. A lot of well-meaning Christians believe that the less they commit, the more available they are for the Holy Spirit. This is deception. Read the Gospels. Jesus committed to establishing the Church because he is eternally committed to you.
2. A way to publicly affirm, what you internally believe. Declaring beliefs out loud in front of peers is like pouring cement over the truth stored in our hearts. It’s one of the reasons Jesus had Peter tell him three times he loved him. (John 21)
3. Encourages unity, and covenant family. As detailed in Paul’s writings above. When we come to Church, we come with our differences. Diversity can be difficult at times. Committing to one another as a covenantal family gives us permission to live in community despite each other’s quirks. You're free to be yourself because we have committed to Jesus and each other in his Church family.
4. Provides a covering and protection for you to walk out the call God has on your life. When you commit to leaders in the Church, you are committing to their care for your soul and spiritual walk. Living outside covering as a Christian is like living in a house without a roof. You are left exposed to the weather. Covering provides a safe place for you to make mistakes and grow as you continually discover your gifts and calling.
5. Provides a way for the Church body to receive your gifting and calling. I don’t understand fully how this works in the spiritual, but in the physical when you commit to any group of people, you give them permission to receive your anointing. There is a grace that is released in your ministry when the people you're ministering to know you are there for them first.
I hope this helps. It’s never our intention as leadership to pressure people into anything. While at the same time it’s important that we have a clear understanding of why we do the things we do. Church Membership is healthy and very much an important aspect of our local body. Whether you are a member or not, I pray you feel God’s love and acceptance as you fellowship in this body of believers.