Worthwhile:March 22, 2019

Well Spring has sprung and March Madness has kicked off. How is your bracket?!

Today I am looking forward to attending the Valued Conference here in San Diego. It is for equipping the church to prevent sexual abuse and help heal where it has happened. Fathom Magazine has a nice piece about the conference and I am hoping to share reflections afterward.

A couple of items this week to enrich you and send you into the weekend. First on church membership (a favorite topic of mine and timely given last week’s sermon on Awkward Community). Then some reasons to desire and seek the spiritual gifts… Word and Spirit all day over here!

The fine folks at Saturate want to equip the church to be the deepest of communities on mission where ever we are. So Nathan Cedarland invites us to see community from a new angle in the first of his posts on church membership.

I think he is tackling some important questions and will be an encouragement to you.

What does it mean to belong to a local church? Some Christians argue that if they are already members of the Universal Church then becoming a member of a local church is unnecessary or even unbiblical. On the flip side, there are some churches which seem to handle membership as an excessively complicated administrative procedure. Are our convictions about the church being a family on mission compatible with official church membership? Does our heavy emphasis on relationship make a formal membership process unnecessary or even counterproductive to the organic Spirit-led community we seek? Is there another angle on this that we’re missing? And why does it matter?

Next up is a post on Desiring God from five years ago that is as timely as ever. Bryan DeWire compiles 10 Reasons to Desire All the Spiritual Gifts. I found this helpful as I am preparing to preach on the gifts this Sunday and we want to be a church that zealously desires the gifts.

Mostly because its biblical, and because we on the road to maturity and mission we need the power of the Spirit. Check for yourself.

That’s it. Have a wonderful weekend and may you see Jesus as you seek him today and always!

Book Review

How the world knows

To this day I can remember the interview with the deacon at the Assemblies of God church I grew up in. My family, of which I am gladly the youngest child, had just completed the multi-week membership class and we were taking the plunge to become members of the church. Its just what your do as a Christian, right?

Thankfully, for the reputation of the church, I was only made a “junior member” and had to wait until I was 18 to obtain full membership. In the ensuing years, I actually became a gospel believing and professing Christian and have been a “member” at a few churches. I have to put that in quotes because each church had its own understanding of membership (from none, to name only to actual, accountable membership). And now as a pastor of a church in transition, membership is an important part of the life of our church going forward.

I will one day tell stories of the guy that left the church because he couldn’t be considered for eldership because he refused to be a member, or the time that only “leaders” could be members and that was just for insurance reasons… But the purpose of this post is to recommend the little book Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus by Jonathan Leeman. This short book is a perfect primer for church membership for churches thinking through the process of having members, those thinking membership isn’t biblical and everyone in-between.

Leeman knows church membership. He has written more extensive material like his book The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love (I still have the copy Michael Lawrence gave me when I was part of a church plant that was toying with membership). This new volume is part of the vastly beneficial 9Marks Building Healthy Churches series and it brings church membership to the digestible and biblical level.

Leeman’s writing is casual in this books and many of the stories are from his experience in church life. The book is accessible and worth a read. Here are some choice quotes:

“We’ll start with what the local church is not. If you are a Christian, the local church is not a club. It is not a voluntary organization where membership is optional for you. It is not a friendly group of people who share an interest in religious things and so gather weekly to talk about the divine.”

“A local church is a group of Christians who regularly gather in Christ’s name to officially affirm and oversee one another’s membership in Jesus Christ and his kingdom through gospel preaching and gospel ordinances.”

“It’s true that a Christian must choose to join a church, but that does not make it a voluntary organization. We are, in fact, obligated to choose a local church just as we are obligated to choose Christ. Having chosen Christ, a Christian has no choice but to choose a church to join.”

“How should we respond to the person who claims to belong to the body of Christ universally but never actually joins a body of Christ on earth? We should say the is self-deceived and should repent.”

“Churches must not look for the people who are never jerks, but for the people who admit that they are jerks and are willing to fight it.”

“It’s not as if there is some area of our life that is exempt from considering the interests of others better than our own. Specifically, we should give ourselves to our churches publicly, physically, socially, affectionately, financially, vocationally, ethically, and spiritually.”

Leeman also gives you helpful insights into church discipline and if membership should look the same at each church. One area I would like to hear more on is member longevity and committing to a church, through membership, for a long time.

Grab the book. It’s helpful.