I Am a Functioning Member

I Am a Functioning Member

If you spend some time with Melinda and me, you will know that one of our favorite places to shop is COSTCO! If you’re not a member, then you are missing out on amazing benefits and perks. Last week, someone called me the spokesperson for Costco. There are so many perks to being a member and I want to share a few of them with you.

First of all, they have great prices and great items! Second of all, Costco allows you to shop risk-free. You can literally return anything at ANYTIME! They have delicious food in their food court, they have an optical department. It’s where I got my glasses. We went to the dentist on Friday, using our dental insurance, from…you guessed it…Costco! And the good thing about all of this is: after you become a member, if you don’t like it, you can return your membership. There’s really no risk. It’s truly a dream come true. Every time I enter Costco, I feel like I’m on vacation. It’s a wonderful place to be.

Now as much as I love being a member at Costco, the reality is we live in a time when many people think being a church member is the same as being a Costco member. I’ve been a pastor for almost 6 years now and I’ve seen many examples of people with different views of what church membership is all about.

I have witnessed people come into the church, join, and love EVERYTHING about the church until they discovered issues with the church. Then they left. People have said that the time of worship isn’t long enough. I’ve had people tell me I need to focus more on casting out demons. People have said, “The music should be a different style. We need to sing more sings.”

“Pastor Tim, you don’t go deep enough into God’s Word.

“Pastor Tim, you go too deep into God’s Word.”

And the list goes on and on and on.

But then there’s another kind of person that doesn’t treat church membership like a Costco membership. I have witnessed these kinds of people. They see issues in the church but they continue serving and contributing. They voice some things we should change but they don’t demand it. While everyone else was jumping ship and it felt like the church was about to die, they stayed on the ship, with water up to their knees, saying, “Let’s have faith in God! Let’s keep going.”

Those are two very different views on what it means to be a church member. There’s the “country club view” and then there’s the biblical view. The person that views church membership like a country club will never be satisfied. When I became a pastor, I started the ministry trying to please these kinds of people, and I failed miserably.

Thom Rainer, a well-known writer and speaker, did some research on hundreds of churches. They found that:

Nine out of ten churches in America are declining or growing at a pace slower than that of their communities.

thom rainer

Why is the church declining so much in our country?

About 100 to 200 churches are closing every week. Why is this happening?We can blame so many things right? Our culture. All of the sin in the world. We can blame the fact that churches need to compete with the entertainment industry to attract more people. While all of that might be true, I believe there’s a deeper issue.

Last Sunday, after service, Rita reminded me of an important question we need to ask ourselves: If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Churches today are weak because many people have forgotten what it means to be part of the body of Christ. I believe with all my heart that the church is the hope of the world. But church, if we don’t know what it means to be a Christian and we think being a member of a church is like being a member at Costco, then eventually, our church will also die. This has been pressing on my heart for a long time. And so I want to dedicate 6 weeks to answer the question: What does it mean to be a church member? I wholeheartedly believe that if we allow God to use this series to shape us and mold us, it will change our lives forever.

I’m basing this sermon series on Thom Rainer’s book called “I Am a Church Member” so a lot of the information and layout I use will come from his book. So I encourage you to buy yourself a copy. Let’s begin by grabbing our Bibles and turning to 1 Corinthians 12.

Feel free to download our church app and follow along with our sermon notes.

What does it mean to be a church member?

From this passage, we will find four answers to that question. Let’s check it out.

12 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.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14

Let’s pause right here.The Apostle Paul, a man Jesus handpicked to help start the church, wrote a letter to a church in the city of Corinth. This church had some serious issues! There were relationship issues, division, people were getting drunk during Communion. This church was having issues with matters of personal morality such as sex, marriage, and virtues. They forgot what it means to be a church member so Paul wrote this letter and in chapter 12, he explains what a church member is by giving them an illustration. The church is like a body with many different parts. So Paul continues using this illustration throughout the chapter.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

1 Corinthians 12:14-20

 What does it mean to be a church member?Here’s the first answer.

1. Membership means we are all necessary parts of the whole.

The fact that the church is so diverse is what makes it so amazing, so beautiful, and so strong!

Pastor Francis Chan gives a really good illustration that I want to share with all of you here today.

Here’s the video of the illustration.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:21-27

What does it mean to be a church member?

2. Membership means we are different but we still work together.

Paul’s point here is that there are different kinds of members but we all need each other. Paul breaks it down into three categories.

External parts, internal parts, and unpresentable parts.

The external parts are the members in the church that we can see, like the ear, foot, and hand. These are the preachers, people on the worship band, children’s ministry teachers, and greeters.

The internal parts are the members in the church that are more behind the scenes, like the brain and lungs. No one sees them, but they are so vital to the church! The church needs intelligent people, people who are good with numbers, administration, and computer geeks.

The unpresentable parts are the church members that do not want to be seen at any point but we’d be lost without them!

Paul is saying, the body of Christ needs all of these parts to work together for the body to function! We all need each other. If one part does not do its job, the whole body does not function well. If one person suffers, we all suffer. If one person rejoices, we all rejoice! If one person doesn’t show up on a Sunday to serve and help out, things become more difficult.

That’s very different from country club membership right? With a country club membership, you pay others to do the work for you. At Costco, there’s no self-checkout. They scan all of the items and they pack everything in your cart for you. With church membership, everyone has a role. Everyone has a function and a job to do.

But this can be tough right? Sometimes, we just don’t feel like serving. We don’t feel like coming to church. We just rather stay home and watch Netflix or Hallmark. I’m no exception!

This is why Paul wrote chapter 13. This is the well-known “love chapter.” It’s usually read at weddings but the original reason Paul wrote chapter 13, is to describe how we must love each other in the church.

What does it mean to be a church member? Here’s the third answer:

3. Membership means everything we say and do is based on a biblical foundation of love.

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

When we’re a church member, everything we say and do should be based on a biblical foundation of love! We might be helping out with the kids, singing songs, greeting, setting up the coffee station, helping with sound or the computer, preaching, and helping the poor! But if we’re not doing it in love, we gain nothing!

Paul continues.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

We don’t come to church and serve because we have to.We do it because we love Jesus and we choose to love each other. We don’t forgive each other and use kind words because it’s an obligation. We do it because we love Jesus and we choose to love each other. When I send our Dream Team a request on Planning Center to serve in our church, the reason a church member commits and says “Yes, I will serve,” should be because they are doing everything in love.

And guess what? True love never ends.

Churches die because people aren’t truly loving. It’s why people leave when they see issues in the church and things get tough. Now, are there good reasons to leave a church? Yes, but I think most of the time, people leave for dumb reasons.

We live in a society where “till death do us part” is an option in our marriage vows. We live in a society where love has been associated with what we see on TV and music so we hear people say things like, “I just don’t feel love for you anymore.”

Love is not a feeling. It’s a choice. A commitment.

The night Jesus was betrayed, in fact, right after Judas left the others to go betray Jesus, Jesus turned to the disciples that stayed and said in John 13:34-35.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:34-35

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?Jesus said that the evidence that will convict you is not how you feed the poor and how well you preach, or what you put for your religion on Facebook. The evidence that will convict you of being a Christian is your love for other people in the church. That’s what will convince the world! We do not love because people are loveable. We do not love just when it’s convenient for us. We love because Jesus first loved us.

Who am I to say I’m better than someone else? Who am I to say, “This church is filled with hypocrites. I’m leaving.” When I encountered the love of Jesus I realized how sinful I am. I realized how much I need His forgiveness. I realized that Jesus loved a sinner like me, why shouldn’t I love others in the church?

Love is the foundation of church membership.

If we could abide by the principles of the love chapter, we would have completely healthy churches. It would be a revolution.

thom rainer

I agree. Before we do or say anything, we should read through that list on chapter 13 and see if what we’re about to do or say is done in love.

Let’s go back to chapter 12 and check out our fourth answer.

28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.

1 Corinthians 12:28-31

What does it mean to be a church member?

4. Church membership is functioning membership.

Every year, my Costco membership expires, unless I do what? Pay my dues. As long as I pay them every year, I will remain a member. Do you know how to remain a biblical member of a church? Give abundantly and serve without hesitation.

Wait Pastor Tim. That doesn’t make sense. So you’re saying if I don’t give and serve without hesitation, I can’t be a part of this church?”

Notice, I said how to remain a biblical member of a church. Because sure, someone can remain on the list of church members and never even show up or give. Some churches allow you to be an active member as long as you are a CEO Christian: Christmas and Easter Only. But this is what I want us all to undersand. That kind of church membership is not biblical. That is man-made stuff. It’s self-centered. It contradicts everything the Bible teaches us.

Biblical membership is a functioning membership.

There are no strings attached. We give without demands. We view tithes and offering as joyous giving. Biblical membership views serving as a natural way of doing things. It’s a given. In the same way the hand grabs, the feet walk, and the eyes see, a church member functions. We should never ask, “Should I be serving my church?” We should always ask, “How can I best serve my church?”

Here’s what I want you to walk away with today.

A functioning church requires functioning members.

According to Thom Rainer’s research, he discovered that with most churches, only one-third of the members are functioning members. Only one out of three gives abundantly and serves without hesitation. Our church is probably at that same number. I don’t say that to guilt anyone or to shame anyone. I say that because I’m calling all of you to commit to biblical membership. It will truly change your life. Make a commitment to be a church member the way God designed it to be. Commit to give cheerfully and abundantly. Commit to serve without hesitation. Allow love to be the foundation of everything you do.

God has such big plans for your life and if you’re single and aspire to someday get married, commit to the church. You will be a better spouse for doing that because while marriage is a beautiful thing, it can get ugly at times too.

But here’s the thing, our church doesn’t have any formal way of knowing who’s a member. There’s no formal way of knowing who’s committed to our church and who’s not. We have people come and go. Some stick around, some don’t. Others have been here since day 1, some others have joined us along the way, and others recently started! But I think it’s biblical and very important for us to know who is committed to be a member of our church.

So in March, we will start the Growth Track

The Growth Track is a process that helps us grow as Christians. It’s something totally new we’re going to implement in our church. There are 4 steps. Right now, I want to focus on stepONE.

stepONE is all about discovering church membership.

This will be a one-time interactive and engaging class where I will share the vision and mission of our church, our core values, our beliefs, what you’re committing to, and getting to know me and others a little bit more. By Tim Ottinger’s suggestion, we’re going to make it available on two different Sundays after our service. One on March 10th, and the other on March 24th. That way, if you can’t make it to one, you can make it to the other.

I truly believe this will strengthen our church and bring about more unity. Steps 2 through 4 will happen later on in the year. For now, as a church, let’s just take this next step.

You can sign up for stepONE on our church app by clicking on the Growth Track button or go to www.PureWordChurch.org/growthtrack.

It’s really important that you sign up because we will provide free lunch so we want to make sure we have enough food for everyone. If you have any questions, please let me know!


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