Church


In my possession is a card proclaiming that I, as a graduate from the Mesquite (TX) High School Mighty Maroon Marching Band, am a “lifetime” member of the Band Alumni. The card proclaims that at any home football game for which I have a ticket, I am entitled to sit with the band in their special section of the bleachers. I’ve not tried it, but some of my fellow graduates say that the card itself is worthless. Still, it delineates me as a member.

There are some groups, clubs, or organizations that allow membership for a fee, and give the member in good standing certain rights and privileges within the group. Being a member of the church is a bit different. Membership was bought by the blood of Jesus, bestowed on those who accept His sacrifice, and bears (not so much privileges, but) responsibilities. Membership in God’s Church at large (the Body of Christ) is a gift, a treasure, that He grants to those who believe. Membership in a local congregation is not so much a position from which we demand service because we attend faithfully (working our way in), give large sums (buying our way in), or have the right pedigree (inheriting our way in), but an opportunity to serve—to serve our fellow church members with our time, talents, and blessings; and to server our community with the love of Christ.

What does your church membership look like? Are you waiting for someone to do your bidding because you feel you deserve it? Or are you looking for ways to serve others because, even though you don’t deserve it, God gave the gift anyway?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   —Romans 6:23

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Family is a big thing in our society. And well it should be. God designed and created family to be the building block of society. Family is so important that we use the imagery of family to address a big variety of the relationships we have. When I was a teenage boy, there was a lady (who happened to be part of our local church) who spent her career as a “lunch lady.” She was so loving and caring to the community of children she ministered to through the local public school that she was not “Miss”, “Mrs.” or “Ms.” to anyone who knew her. Nor was she called by her first name (which was the beautiful name of Shirley, by the way). No, to her two biological daughters and to the entire church and community, she was “Mama.” Why? Because she lived out the family-style love built into all of Christ’s children, and we saw it.

Family is also important in the church. It may be why we call our home church our “family” even if we aren’t related by birth or marriage. And because we are family, and family is so important, it is the responsible for Christians (starting with Christian dads) to actively seek out church participation and lead the family to be constantly in and among God’s people. Being family has less to do with what we prefer, and more to do with how we choose to relate to one another. And this, too is important for the church.

So let’s be family, bring our family to church, and enjoy our relationship with Christ and each other.

“As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord.”  —Joshua 24:15c

In recent months, I have heard of and/or counseled with friends (fellow pastors) who have faced discouragement, firings, or left the ministry altogether because of struggles with discord in their church, personal burn-out, or any variety of other issues. As I look back over these months, I think of how stressful and difficult it is to be a local church leader in our day and age.

In a time when it is more fashionable to let church commitment be a matter of convenience rather than conviction; when members are looking for all manner of reasons to excuse their lax attitudes; when society at large has all but turned her back on the church (making decisions to make church a preference rather than a persistence all the easier), it is no wonder that those who are called to spend their lives and their livelihood in God’s service are feeling crushed to the point of abandonment.

In such a time as this, it is more important than ever for us to rally together to lift up our leaders in prayer. Pray for lay leaders who volunteer their time to prepare and guide Bible study lessons on a weekly basis. Pray for others who fill important places of leadership within the local congregation. Pray for staff members who have given their lives to a calling (whether they serve in volunteer, part-time, or career-level capacity). Pray for all the spiritual leaders that you can think of for protection from the battles they face. Particularly pray for your pastor (and other local pastors) who feel the pull away from their calling often.

Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”  —Jesus, Matthew 9:38

About four years ago, I received a book from a fellow pastor as a gift. The book was called I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference. It didn’t take long to read or to process. It was Thom Rainer’s advice on what makes a good church member, including what the church should expect of her members, and what members themselves would do well to commit themselves to so that their local church can become the expression of the Church that God (her Maker) wants her to be. I read the book and was inspired.

If I decided that I wanted to be the best church member I could be, the first step that I should take is to deliberately decide to be actively involved in contributing to the church. Rather than sitting back and soaking up what is doled out by the church like a sponge it is time for me to pick up my role in the church.

This means that I have to identify (with the help of the Holy Spirit) my role. Based on who I am and where my abilities lay as well as what I am willing to allow myself to do (which is sometimes the scary part because the Spirit may direct me out of my comfort zone), I must do what God directs me to do. This, of course, is without pointing fingers at others, but concentrating on my own role. It means that I am a part of the team–God’s team–and must do my part so that others can do their part. Suddenly, I am concentrating on doing my calling as a member of the church and I don’t have time to point out how everyone else is falling short. And so, in the church, I have a function. And I will do my best to (with the Lord’s help) fulfill my function.

“Jesus said, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.'” –John 21:22

The Resurrection is difficult to fathom. People just don’t die and come back to life—especially on the third day. There are books that convince us that people who are declared dead for a few minutes (up to 90 minutes if you read one book about Heaven and life after death and resuscitation-type miracles), but on the third day? To accept that takes real faith.

Once our faith has developed to the point of accepting Jesus’ Resurrection (which is real, by the way), then we have to deal with the purpose of the Easter story. You see, the Resurrection was not just a parlor trick to wow the masses. Jesus was not a first-century David Copperfield trying to do a trick that was just too good to be true. The purpose of the Resurrection is to provide the foundation for a future. The events of Easter weekend all have deepest significance.

Jesus died on a cross to provide the perfect sacrifice for the unforgivable. We could not pay dearly enough to restore a relationship with God that was broken by the sinfulness of mankind. Jesus, having lived a sinless life in our sin-filled world, made the only payment possible.

Jesus was buried, and His disciples fell into discouragement because the hope they had placed in Him seemed to be gone with Him. That silent second day—the Sabbath of the week—forced early disciples to reflect on what it was—who it was—that they had followed and believed. This kind of reflection makes or breaks our faith. For those early disciples, their faith triumphed.

On the first Resurrection Day, Jesus conquered death as a promise of a future for those who believe. It is this foundational promise on which the church builds and operates even into the twenty-first century. Hard to believe? Yes. Imperative to believe? Absolutely. Christ is risen—for you, for me, for all who did believe, for all who do believe, and for all who will ever believe. He is risen indeed!

“’Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”  — an Angel, Luke 24:5b-6a

Building anything that will last starts with a strong foundation. It doesn’t matter whether you want to build a house, a skyscraper, or some free-standing structure, you want to have basic foundational material that is sound and worthy.

In the case of a permanent building you want to have a foundation made out of strong material that will stand up to anything that nature might throw at it over the course of the long haul. If you are building, say, a car, you want to use the best materials for the frame—something that won’t give way and crumple at the first high wind.

God gave the church the foundational stone of Jesus Christ—a worthy material if ever there was one—and then sound teaching and committed foundational members that would allow for her to grow strong and weather the ages. She’s done pretty good so far, with the only minor chinks attributed to faulty materials in the superstructure, not in the foundation.

As we build on the foundation laid for us, we want to test the material that we are providing through our faith and commitment to be sure that what we add to the structure of God’s church is worthy to be used in His building. This requires faith in the Messiah (Christ), commitment to the mission (Church), and obedience to the message (Scripture), and then we can continue to build a strong house of faith.

“Let each one take care how he builds upon it.”  —1 Corinthians 3:10b

Often when we think of the title “disciple” our minds go directly to the Twelve Chosen to be called Apostles. Truth be told we hardly ever think of ourselves as disciples. We like the label Christian, even with the modern baggage that has been attached to the word, because it identifies us as part of the group who believes in Jesus. For that matter, some people are more comfortable with the label “believer” because it focuses on the belief and not the following.

Then there are those of our number who have latched onto the label “Christ-follower” to emphasize the difference between what we believe and what believers in other faiths believe. I’m still partial to the name Christian because – regardless of the stigma (or maybe because of it) that has latched onto that name – it still means “one who is like Christ” or “Little Christ.”

In any case, we are still called by the One we follow to be and make disciples. So what does that look like? To begin with, a disciple is a person who initially comes to Christ for life. And he continues to come—daily, weekly, constantly—to Christ for his existence. Won’t you come to Jesus today?

  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Jesus (Matthew 11:28)

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