This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 19th, 2020.
Three weeks ago, we began our current series titled “Neighborhoods and Nations”. This five-week series is designed to help us look at and talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church. Ultimately, we will discover how we can effectively be a neighborhood church (local) for the nations (global). Last Sunday I talked about the church and how the church is not an organization (programs, leadership, and building) Church≠ Building + Clergy + Program, but is an organism (a body made up of multiple parts and Jesus in which Jesus is the head) Church = Body (people) + Mission (our objective) + Kingdom (God’s plan).
Today, my aim is to continue to talk about the church, but more specifically the local church and the importance of being connected to a local congregation through membership. Now, some of you may be thinking, “I do not need to be a member of a church in order to be a Christian.” And you would be technically be right. However, I would challenge your statement by saying that a person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and does not see the value of corporate worship, to the extent of neglecting regular attendance and participation in the local church. In fact, the idea of believers living outside of fellowship with other believers was a completely foreign idea. When you look back to the Ancient Church of the New Testament, the evidence of salvation was synonymous to joining or gathering regularly with an assembled group of believers. So, essentially, when one became of follower or believer in Jesus Christ it meant they entered in to fellowship with other believers. I like how John MacArthur answers the question of why the local church matters when he writes, “The church is the only institution the Lord established and promised to bless. Why would anyone who claims to love the Lord want to keep His people at arm’s length?”
Church Membership vs. Church Attendership
Now, the goal for today is not to guilt you, make you feel bad or twist your arm to join the church, if you haven’t already, but it is to encourage you to see the importance being connected to a church body where you regularly attend and worship. In a few moments I will be talking primarily about church membership and expectations, but before I do this, I think it is important to define the difference between Church Membership and Church Attendership.
Romans 12:4 – 5, “ Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.”
The word “expectations” tends to scare people when it comes to the church. Often people join a church with ulterior motives, (i.e. a place to bury and marry you, it’s good for your social status, some even use it as “fire insurance” … If I am a member of a church, then I will go to heaven.) I am not quite sure why expectations scares people. But, not only does it scare some, it also offends others. People are offended because the church desires and asks that members be active and moving so that the body of Christ can function properly. The text above talks about the various parts that make up the body of Christ and 1 Corinthians 12: 18 – 24 says, “But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted. 19 And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. 23 And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, 24 which our respectable parts do not need.” And this tells us that parts of the body need to work together in order to work effectively. So, the expectation for each church member is that you be a fully functioning part of the body so the other parts can function properly as well.
At West Bradenton Southside we do have expectations of our members. I don’t view these expectations as overbearing or demanding, but life-giving and edifying to the church body as a whole. The following are six expectations of every church member…
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.