As we consider what it means for the church to be the body of Christ, in our sermon this week we begin a few weeks of looking at a resource by Thom Rainer entitled, I Am a Church Member. In this little book he shares six aspects or “pledges” that every church member should be committed to fulfilling in their own lives. We included these pledges in the Ministry Commitment cards we handed out a couple weeks ago, which I hope you have saved and have placed somewhere to remind you to be involved and serve in positive ways, which is the calling of every member of the body of Christ. Here’s a reminder of the six pledges.
1. I will be a functioning member.
2. I will be a unifying church member.
3. I will not let the church be about my preferences and desires.
4. I will pray for my church leaders.
5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members.
6. I will treasure church membership as a gift.
We will examine two of these pledges each week as we move forward in our study of the church as the body of Christ. This week it is the first two, that members of the body of Christ are to be actively functioning and involved in the ministry of the church, and that we must actively “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) Paul follows up that statement with the basis or foundation for unity: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)
As challenging as it is for some to accept this foundation for unity, for most of us what is even more difficult is to actively and deliberately maintain the atmosphere for unity that the apostle shares in the first couple of verses: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Eph. 4:1-2) In this last verse is found the attitudes and actions—humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, love—that will be the “bond of peace” and the only way “the unity of the Spirit” can be kept in a church that is characterized by diversity rather than uniformity.
Similarly Rainer in his second pledge calls on church members to be unifying rather than divisive, for we are members of Christ’s body, the church, not members of a country club. Below is an adapted excerpt. Which is it for you?
I began to learn a lesson. [Country Club] Membership means perks. Membership means privileges. Membership means others will serve me. Just pay the going rate, and you can have others taking care of you while you enjoy a life of leisure. And, tragically, this understanding of membership is what many church members hold. “This is my church, so you have to sing the songs just the way I want it.” “Look preacher, you need to remember who pays your salary.” “If you don’t do this program, I’ll withhold my check to the church.” “I’ve been a member of this church for over thirty years, so I have a right to get what I want.” “I don’t pay good money to this church to listen to sermons that long.” Okay, you get the picture. Those unfortunately typical comments come from members of churches who have an unbiblical view of membership. Their view of membership is more aligned with country club membership. For them, membership is about receiving instead of giving, being served instead of serving, rights instead of responsibilities, and entitlements instead of sacrifices.