given on Sunday, August 14, 2016
Ephesians 2:19-21 19 So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. 20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord.
Ephesians 4:12-13 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
How many of us have moved from one community to another? We are living in an extremely mobile society and communities are so different in our country that stepping into a new community is frightening.
When I first moved into Lexington, I knew it would be a challenge as I had always called Winter Wonderland in Montgomery County home. Certainly I had moved to Columbia for my college years, but home was still that farm about three miles from Buell, population around 30, and eight miles from Montgomery City, population around 2,400 and the county seat.
I knew the community and its people. I knew its values, it economic base, and the traditions that were all part of that community. Lexington was a state away and I knew no one on the west side of Missouri. I moved into the new community and felt totally alone.
The one place I recognized and knew was the Methodist Church, and that is where I felt safe and accepted. The church was my community even on the opposite side of the state from where I grew up. I stepped into the sanctuary and was at home. The stained glass window was the same one I had in my home church. The music was the same; the messages were the same. I was at home.
Belonging to a Methodist Church created a home wherever I was. Even the move from Lexington to Warrensburg was easier because I simply moved into my church. The setting was different this time as the stained glass window I knew was not there, but the music, the liturgy, and the messages were familiar.
The people there were still the same family members I had known in Lexington and in Montgomery. We all believed in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. My baptism as a child was just as valid in any church as it was in my home church. Only a request to change membership was necessary to be automatically included in the ‘new’ churches I attended.
When I hear someone ask why he or she should be a member of a specific church, I cringe. Church membership is not the same type of membership that one might have in a professional or social club. Church membership is merely a step in one’s spiritual journey that is unique to each individual.
Today belonging to a church may be more important than ever. Our 21st century culture brings each and every one of us into close proximity to each other. There is a global community and what affects us in our own homes may very possibly affect someone else half the world away.
The same sense of proximity makes the role of Christians even more critical. What we do can have a ripple effect that really can provide a positive—or negative—influence on someone in a different country with different life circumstances, different traditions or customs.
What we do in our church does make a difference and as a member of a local church community, we are empowered to make a difference that can be combined with other local church efforts to create a powerful difference in ministry.
Believing in God, our creator, and in Jesus Christ, our redeemer, is personal, true. But when joined together with other believers the power of community worship and service grows our faith journey in ways that can only be explained by understanding how the Holy Spirit works within us.
This is why we need to be church members—to make a difference as a body of Christ rather than as a lone believer doing all that one can do by one’s self. Stephen Covey, one of the most respected authors in time/business management, would say that working in a team creates synergy making the results more successful, more dramatic, and more lasting.
The value of being a church member depends on understanding what church membership means. Answering that can be as basic as understanding the principles of team dynamics, but church membership goes beyond a work setting or a sport competition.
Church membership places believers in settings that Paul and the earliest disciples knew first hand. Church membership is designed to spread the Word in ways that change lives and the world that one could not do alone.
John Wesley saw that working in small groups addressed spiritual growth in a systematic way holding each other accountable for their actions as well as assisting in understanding God’s Word and its application in one’s immediate culture.
Small group study leads to small group actions. Small group actions spread God’s love and grace more effectively than any person could do by his or her self. Small groups working collectively with other allows for God’s Word and work to grow even faster and further—mathematically it is called exponential growth.
Rick Warrens, even though he follows the Baptist doctrine, his message of living purpose-driven lives follows the Wesleyan format of using small groups or class meetings to grow in faith and in service, also. His spiritually successful movement is one our generation has witnessed.
In all of the small, early churches that Paul established to the Wesley’s class meetings and Warren’s small groups, the role of the church member is the same: live a Christ-centered life and do whatever you can to spread the Word and make disciples of Christ. At the same time, all the work that one does to meet the needs of others in all the different ways possible is what Christians do.
Being a church member looks like Jesus. Being a church member looks like being Wesley and Warren. Being a church member looks like the members of our church who have served one another in our own community with love and grace in so many different ways. We recognize them and we try to model their examples in our own lives.
Being a church member and working side by side with others who believe in God and serve as God’s emissaries in our own communities makes a difference in our own faith journeys as well as in the lives of those around us. As a church member teaming up with others in the church, God’s actions can reach out to others more effectively and efficiently.
Being a local church member provides us a personal safety net when challenges become so overwhelming we feel lost. We can turn to each other with confidence that our church family will guide us and put their arms around us to provide the grace and the love that we need as we struggle through the challenge.
Being a church member means we can join together to defend ourselves from evil but also work to keep evil from invading our community. As a team, we can rally to the needs of others struggling with financial battles, with addictions, with broken relationships, and with life challenges of raising families.
Being a church member creates a family when forced to leave one community and relocate in a new community. Church members hold in common the same values whether in one’s home community or whether located in a community in a different town, state, or even country because God’s love reaches everywhere in this world.
Question: Why are we church members?
Answers: (1) We are church members because we believe in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (2) We are church members because we can grow in our own faith journey through the small group studies, fellowship and Christian relationships. (3) We are church members because as a team we can make a difference in a world–whether local or global–that is challenged with all types of evil challenge whether man-made or nature-made. But maybe most importantly, (4) we are members of The Church because God commissioned us to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world; and working together we can accomplish more than we can by ourselves.
The Word clearly tells us that we need to be in fellowship
with other believers.
Thank you for this community of faithful believers
with whom we join in fellowship.
Jesus demonstrated how fellowship and worship
with other believers strengthens our faith.
Thank you for those who lead our small groups
as we work to learn study and to serve.
The earliest disciples accepted their responsibility
to grow the church by telling the story.
Thank you for our brothers and sisters in faith
who encourage us in our local and global missions.
Faithful leaders throughout the millenniums
have guided The Church’s growth.
May we work together to learn and to grow
in our personal faith journey.
Today a revival is underway in order to spread the Word
in as many ways as we can whenever we can.
Guide us, Lord, to find the best ways to preserve
and to spread the good news of your grace and love.
In your holy name, amen.