Wednesday, February 20, 2008

sunday leftovers

Membership Matters: A Bride with a Spot February 20, 2008

Acts 20:25-31 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again. 26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.

I address this passage because Paul makes the pastor, aware that the world is not safe and we need to take care and protect the Bride of Christ.

We live in a day when in a day of non-commitment. Marriage is noncommittal now as we have more divorces in the church than we do out side the church. We have no-fault divorces. If you are found with child, you can abort the young one. If you begin to feel bad about having sex outside of marriage and think you might be pregnant you can take the morning after pill. If you do have baby and decide it would just be too hard to raise or that raising one would cramp your style then you can drop it off at the firehouse – no questions asked. If you commit a crime, it is no longer your fault as you can blame society, your parents, poverty, genetics, chemicals, and a myriad of other things and the court of law will not hold you accountable.
  • This is evident is our churches. We have lackadaisical Christians who find the Church not worthy of time, tithe, energy or attendance because such little emphasis is placed on membership.
  • Membership is a one time commitment in the standard, modern, Baptist Church. Simply raise your hand, walk down the aisle, or worse yet, just fill out a card and you will be counted on the roll. It would seem that numbers are all about. May be this is why a church will a membership of 1,200 will fill blessed to have an attendance of 300. While this is appalling, many pastors are proud as peacocks to tell you of their membership numbers but know the shame of an unredeemed and apathetic membership.

While there are numerous problems with this, it seems to stem for two common sources: 1) Consumerism and 2) Biblical Ignorance.

  1. The first of these, Consumerism, has eaten away at the American Church and now infects Churches around the world. Consumerism was turned churches in the wrong direction as their focus has been more about their commercial success and customer satisfaction than their Relationship of Christ and their responsibility with His Church. This influence has further caused a rash of easily believe-ism, once heretical thoughts are okay, backslidden Christians just need a hug, unregenerate membership ruling the voting of the Church as well as the self-serving Christian. Furthermore, Pastors have been transformed from Elders, Bishops, and Shepherds to Managers, CEO’s and Life Coaches. The sweetness of Consumerism is rotting the teeth of Church and now the Church as no bite in the community.
  2. The other source of our blight is the Biblical ignorance of the day. This has only compounded as people are moved by emotion and personal devotions as they fail to consider Holy Scripture and enter into prayer. With out attention to the Word feelings have ruled the day and Churches have gained the attendance of the World. The overwhelming ideas that have perpetrated the Church are well intended even if misguided. The have been done for Aunt Sally and to widen the gate to open the Church to as many people as possible. Yet this is not what Christ said, Mat 7:13-4 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Jesus says the road is narrow and hard. Yet for most Churches, to it is easy to enter membership.
    But Christ warns us that there are problems with allowing wide open entrance to the Church.
  • The next verse of Scripture reads, Mat 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
  • Jesus warns us that Jesus’ own brother, Jude even wrote to us about this.
  • Jude 1:3-4 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
  • The King James puts it better, crept in unawares, while the NIV read that they, have secretly slipped in, and The Message put it this way, some people have infiltrated our ranks.

Sneak thieves and unsaved hornswagglers fill the membership of most Churches. As spiritual dead people the vote and make decision on spiritual matters, vote for teachers, remove pastors, and adopt doctrines for the Church

These are powerful word left by Christ and his follower/brother. Words that needed to be heeded like those written in Eph 5:24-27, Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Christ Died for His Church! And the Church is to submit to Him! Yet in Churches just like this and in those not at all like this, they have a horrendous habit of submitting Christ to their ideas, their preferences and even their whims. But Christ purchased the Church with His blood. He washed her in the Crimson that flowed from His wounds. And when he returns he expects a splendorous Church. One that is without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Not a Church that makes excuse for what it has: approved, allowed, overlooked and purposely done. Woe to us if we are not more watchful in our care of His Church for what Groom awaits a Bride pilfered over and tattered by inappropriate relationships.
While this is a high calling, we are responsible for achieving this and held accountable for doing so.

The double headed snake of Consumerism and Biblical Ignorance is manifested in members who do not know what they are getting into. The either do not have a Biblical background or do not have a proper Church History. Furthermore they lack knowledge of the Purposes of the Church. They don’t see the value of membership nor understand its requirements and responsibilities.

  • In truth, your satellite provider requires more of a commitment than the local church. They require a minimum commitment of service while the church does not. They require you to financially support them on a predetermined amount that you are notified about upfront. The church hopes you will and celebrates with dancing when you do!
  • Many clubs and fraternal groups hold to a greater expectation of devotion. They require you to actually attend their meetings and work special projects. And if you miss more that two or three scheduled meetings you are dropped from their roll. They church will beg you for your support and keep you on the roll like this would save you. They will keep your name in their membership even if you they can’t find your pulse or find an address for you.
    To go to work for a new employer they will run background check and you will sign a contract, the church will take you simply at your word and not investigate your testimony and it is modernly considered inappropriate for to have you sign a Church Covenant that you are expected to uphold.
  • To enter into a purchase of a new car the future owner would take the car out for a drive, check the gas mileage, read consumer reports, have their credit checked and sign on the doted line before they took the keys. The only thing typically required of to enter into membership is … well you know how little.
  • It is odd how the word requires more from us than we require of ourselves as the church. If we hold such a low view with such a minimum entrance then it is easy for us to see why others do not see it as worthy of their time, energy or attention.

Lowering the standards of the Church does not make us more evangelistic or loving. Just less holy. The standard for Church membership is ever lessening to the point one must thing of the Caribbean Limbo as you hear the would temp us with cries of “how low can you go” The world temps us to reject the high calling of Christ. Yet the very word that we use to describe ourselves, Church, comes from the German word Kirk which is from a corruption of the Greek word, Ekklesia. That word means to be called out from. As a church we need to be a truly born again membership that is called out from the rest of the world. Yet our membership requirement many times is less than the local bar. They require you to have a card.

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