Thursday, April 21, 2011

Life-Giving Church Membership

Baptist congregation of TashkentImage via Wikipedia
Baptist Congregation in Tashkent
What is a Healthy Church Member?[1]  A healthy church member is a healthy Christian. Local churches and their members grow as they organize their lives around God’s Word and the Lord Jesus Christ

Here are several ideas that make a church member healthy and their membership in the local church something that is life-giving and honoring to the Lord Jesus Christ. A life-giving church member is characterized by the following traits:

1.      Passionately saved. Life-giving church members have a genuine relationship of repentance and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, some church members are not genuinely converted to Jesus Christ. Man is a sinner by nature (Rom 8:5-8; Eph 2:1-3). Simply walking an aisle, praying a prayer, being immersed or sprinkled, or doing any outward act that does not communicate the inward fact of submission to Jesus does not a Christian make. 

Self-examination of our own souls is the first order of business (2 Cor 13:5; Phil 2:12; 2 Peter 1:5-11). Life-giving church members have the evidence of Christ’s grace in their lives. They trust in the finished work of Jesus alone for their salvation. They are growing in the grace, knowledge, and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-24; Matt 5:3-12). They do not habitually walk in blatant, unrepentant sin (1 John 1:6-10; 3:5). They love God as Father and not the world (1 John 2:15, 22-23). They love other Christians (1 John 3:14-15, 18-19; 5:1). They have the testimony of the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:24b; 4:13-14; Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15-16.) Those who are genuinely converted persevere in the faith because of eternal security (1 John 5:4-5; Eph 1:13-14; 1 Peter 1:3-5).

2.      A passion for God’s Word. Life-giving church members listen to Bible teaching and sermons not just to claim their ‘word’ or for the how-to’s of life or to build their self-esteem, but they listen for the voice and message of God revealed in His Word in order to follow the Lord’s leadership in their lives (John 10:27). These members hunger for God’s Word (Psalm 119:103-104; John 17:21). They encourage faithful pastors (1 Tim 5:17). They can spot a fraud in life or doctrine and support their church’s statement of faith (Gal 1:8-9; Phil 1:27; 2 Tim 4:3-4; Jude 3). They bring unity to the local congregation and have a maturity that avoids needless disputes (1 Cor 1:10; Rom 12:16; 2 Cor 13:11; 1 Peter 3:8; 2 Tim 2:14-17; Prov 20:3). They are learning the big picture story and themes of the Bible (Heb 1:1; Luke 24:27, 44-45). 
Life-giving church members ask each other, “How did the Scripture challenge or speak to you today?” or “What about God’s character encouraged or surprised you?” (Heb 10:25). They cultivate the art of listening to the Word preached and taught (Heb 5:11-14). They listen and act in humility (1 Cor 1:8; Col 2:18; 1 Peter 5:6) on the sermon and their own personal Bible study throughout the week (James 1:22-25).

3.      A passion for prayer. Life-giving church members want their church to be a house of prayer for all the nations (Isa 56:7; Matt 21:13; Mark 11:17; Acts 1:14; 2:42). They pray constantly (1 Thess 5:17; Rom 12:12; Col 3:1-2; 4:2, 12). They pray under control and in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26-27; 6:18). They pray for laborers and shepherds (Matt 9:36-38; Phil 1:20; Eph 6:19-20; Col 4:3-4). They pray for their fellow church members (1 Thess 4:3; Matt 26:41; Gal 5:16-25; Col 4:12). They pray for those in authority (1 Tim 2:1-3; Rom 13:1-2; Eph 6:1-3). They pray for those who abuse and persecute them (Luke 6:28; Matt 5:10-12, 45-47).

4.      A passion for God’s people. Life-giving church members attend regularly (Heb 10:24-25). They seek peace in the congregation (Rom 14:19; James 3:18). They edify, exhort, and encourage others (1 Cor 12, 14; Eph 4:11-16; Mark 10:45). They pursue reconciliation (2 Cor 5:18-21; Matt 5:23-24). They bear with others (Matt 5:5; 18:21-22; Rom 15:1; Gal 6:2). They do not neglect the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. They support the work of the ministry through their spiritual gifts (Rom 12:6-8), giving generously to the work (2 Cor 8-9).

5.      A passion for the Great Commission. Life-giving church members have a strong desire to see the nations come to worship and be disciples of the King of Kings (Matt 28:19-20; Rom 10:14-15). They long for the day when we will gather around Christ’s Throne to worship forever the Lamb who was slain (Rev 7:9-10).

Life-giving church members are saturated with the Gospel, the Good News. They realize that the Gospel is not that (a) we are okay, (b) God is love, (c) that Jesus wants to be our friend, or (d) that we should live right. Neither is the gospel that all our problems will be fixed if we follow Jesus or that God wants us to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. None of these are sufficient statements about the Gospel. 

The Good News of Jesus is that God the Father, who is righteous and holy, is full of wrath against sin and must, for His character’s sake, punish sinners. Man, who disobeys God, is alienated from God’s love and in danger of an eternal and agonizing condemnation at God’s hand. But God, who is rich in mercy and great love, sent his eternal Son, born by the Virgin Mary, to die as a ransom and substitute for the sins of rebellious peoples. 

Now, through the perfect obedience and covenant of the Son of God with His Father through his willing death on the cross as payment for our sins, all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ, following him as Savior and Lord, will be saved from the wrath of God to come, be declared just in his sight, have eternal life, and receive the Spirit of God as a foretaste of the glories of heaven with God himself.

These Gospel-saturated church members organize their lives around the Good News. They look for opportunities to build relationships so that they can have gospel conversations. They use vacations as short-term mission trips. They volunteer in the community to be an influence for the Gospel. They invite neighbors and friends for dinner or parties and talk with them about Christ. They host Bible studies in their work place. 

They join neighborhood clubs to build relationships for Gospel opportunities. They invite friends to church and to special events where the Gospel will be clearly center stage. These church members realize that it is not their job to bring people to faith in Christ, but it is the Holy Spirit’s (Isa 55:11; John 6:44). They are only his witnesses (1 Cor 3:7, 9; 2 Cor 5:20; 6:1). They understand that Jesus is the exclusive avenue of salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).

What Is a Healthy Church Member? (IX Marks)[1] Adapted from Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).