Back to school, back to church
Oh, the sweet days of summer. Watermelon, fresh vegetables, red tomatoes, Fourth of July, beach vacation, Vacation Bible Schools, youth camp, peaches, homemade ice cream, plenty of Braves games!
I’d love a few more months of summer, but that’s not how the calendar works. Summer break is winding down and families are getting in “back to school” mode.
Pastors like back to school mode because members who have been on vacation hopefully will settle back into regular church attendance and participation.
For many congregations, back to school translates into back to church. That’s a good thing.
Your attendance, participation, and support are good for your church. And your commitment to being in God’s house with God’s people on God’s day of worship is good for you. You are nurtured and your church is blessed when you show up each week.
Yet, church membership is more than just showing up. Too many people approach church membership like a consumer wanting to be entertained, or like a country club member focusing on the club’s perks and privileges.
In I Am a Church Member, Thom Rainer writes, “God did not give local churches to become country clubs ... He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the gospel.
“Many churches are weak because we have members who have turned the meaning of membership upside down.” We need to rediscover biblical church membership, and learn to give and serve rather than feeling entitled, he says.
Biblical church membership involves belonging, supporting, encouraging, serving, giving, and doing our part to keep our church strong and healthy.
Rainer suggests six pledges that he encouraged church members to take that will help us return to membership as the Bible intended.
First, I like the metaphor of membership. It’s not membership as in a civic organization or a country club. It’s the kind of membership given to us in I Corinthians 12 ... Because I am a member of the body of Christ, I must be a functioning member ... As a functioning member, I will give. I will serve. I will minister. I will evangelize. I will study. I will seek to be a blessing to others ...
Second, I will seek to be a source of unity in the church. I know there are no perfect pastors, staff or other church members. But neither am I. I will not be a source of gossip or dissension. One of the greatest contributions I can make is to do all that I can in God’s power to keep the church in unity for the sake of the gospel.
Third, I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires. That is self-serving. I am in this church to serve others and to serve Christ. My Savior went to a cross for me. I can deal with any inconveniences and matters that are not my preference or style.
Fourth, I will pray for my pastor every day. His work is never ending. His days are filled with constant demands for his time ... My pastor cannot serve our church in his own power. I will pray for God’s strength for him and his family every day.
Fifth, I will lead my family to be good members of this church as well. We will pray together for our church. We will worship together in our church. We will serve together in our church. And we will ask Christ to help us fall deeper in love with this church, because He gave His life for her.
Sixth, this membership is a gift. When I received the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, I became part of the body of Christ. I soon thereafter identified with a local body and was baptized. And now I am humbled and honored to serve and to love others in our church. I pray that I will never take my membership for granted, but see it as a gift and an opportunity to serve others and to be a part of something so much greater than any one person or member.
How do you view membership? How well do you support your church?
[Dr. David L. Chancey is pastor, McDonough Road Baptist Church, Fayetteville, Ga. The church family gathers at 352 McDonough Road and invites you to join them this Sunday for Bible study at 9:45 a.m. and worship at 10:55 a.m. Visit them on the web at www.mcdonoughroad.org.]