Pastor’s Pen

“I am a church member BUT…”

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). There is a book entitled “I Am A Church Member” by Thom S. Rainer. That talks about what it means to be a member of a church. I believe it is a good reminder to all of us as to why we are part of the Christian church. Rainer states: “Based on our research of 557 churches from 2004 to 2010, nine out of ten churches in America are declining or growing at a pace that is slower than that of their communities. Simply stated, churches are losing ground in their own backyards. Another way of looking at it is generational. About two-thirds of the Builder generation, those born before 1946, are Christians. The Millennials are the largest generation in America’s history with almost eighty million members. They were born between 1980 and 2000. And we have all but lost that generation. We can blame it on the secular culture. And we often do. We can blame it on the godless politics of our nation. We do that as well. We can even blame it on the churches, the hypocritical members, and the uncaring pastors. Lots of Christians are doing that. But I am proposing that we who are the church members need to look in the mirror. I am suggesting that congregations across America are weak because many of us church members have lost the Biblical understanding of what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.

We join our churches expecting others to serve us, to feed us, and to care for us. We don’t like the hypocrites in the church, but we fail to see our own hypocrisies” This is tough stuff. I don’t know if I like it, but I believe there is some real truth to it. You see, we are church members, “BUT” we have all kinds of reasons for not really fulfilling what that means. Rainer goes on in his book and explains the commitments that one makes to the body of Christ when they join a Christian church or take on church membership. Yet we often allow all sorts of things in this life to become more important than our relationship with the body of Christ. You name it and people are doing it right now in place of being fully committed to their brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. But why? It is the world in which we live and the low standards that we have set for ourselves as the body of Christ. The standard that says I am a good church member as long as I attend church once in a while, but nothing else is really required to be a member. This is not what the Bible says. God tells us that we are all parts of the body of Christ, and as such we each have roles to play and skills to use for the greater good.

How are you going to do battle with the spiritual forces of evil if you cannot even make a commitment to the body of believers that you see before you? If our faith is not being nourished on a regular basis in the Divine Worship service, where we meet together with fellow brothers and sisters who struggle and rejoice in the same ways that we do or have, how will we be able to overcome the tempter and the evil that will assault us on a daily basis? As it says in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The body of Christ is a gift to us. St. Paul makes it clear that each member of the body of Christ is needed. We cannot do it without you. We are one in Christ and yet very different in our various roles and gifts. “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body…If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:18-20, 26-27). In chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, Paul explains that all of this is because of love. Without God’s love, we cannot do anything. It is the love of God in Christ Jesus that makes us whole. “Love never ends” (vs. 8a). We cannot be the body of Christ without Christ being the bridegroom and dying for the church (us). “…as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). The chapter after this (Ephesians 6:10-20) speaks about spiritual warfare. We need each other in the body of Christ. You are a church member but even more, you are a member of the body of Christ. In Christ, may we always set our priorities for the body of Christ ahead of any self-centeredness?

In His service,

Pastor Stockman