I Will Not Let My Church Be About Me

I Will Not Let My Church Be About Me

I want to start off by asking you a very important question. I want you to just think of the answer truthfully. If I told you that starting next Sunday, by attending a church service, you will risk being thrown into prison or receiving the death penalty, would you still show up next Sunday?

What if I said, “Ok fine. This building looks like a church, it will stick out like a sore thumb. Let’s worship God together but let’s meet at someone’s house instead,” would you show up next Sunday?

You might have never had to answer this question but I want to remind you all that there are Christians who have to answer this question every single day.We have the freedom to get involved and not get involved in the mission and life of the church. However, for other Christians, it’s not even a choice between attending and not attending, between serving and not serving. The choice they have is either risk their life by standing up for Jesus or live in safety by turning their back to Jesus. For them, you either commit to Jesus or you don’t.

The problem is: we have commitment issues.

We run from commitment. And this is not just in the church, this is with everything in life. We are afraid to commit to one person, we are afraid to commit to one job, we are afraid to commit to anything and so we run and we avoid. The only way we commit to something is if there’s a way out. We live in a world where if we want to avoid commitment, by the click of a button, we can block someone from our life. So yes, preaching a sermon series entitled, “I Am a Church Member” probably won’t fill the pews.

The problem is: the Church in North America and our Western Culture hasn’t quite helped with our commitment issue. I read some articles by Carey Nieuwhof, the pastor of Connexus Church in Canada, and he explained how many years ago, attending church was normal and automatic. It was a no-brainer. You go to church on Sundays. So to reach people for Jesus, church leaders started making church as attractive and accessible as possible. What happened? It actually worked! People started to flood into the church. People were saved and baptized. Lives were changed. But this method fed into consumerism. It worked really well but it came with a side-effect. Check out what Carey wrote:

It’s easy to build a church on being cool or by promising what you can do for your members. It’s hard to build a church based on what you can give away and how you can sacrifice.

Carey Nieuwhof

Now, there’s nothing wrong with attractional churches, but in every attractional church, there is a core group of Christians who sacrifice, who give, who serve, and who invite. They don’t do it for themselves; they do it for others. The goal is to have everyone commit to Christ and His Church. I want to get everyone of us there!So we’re going through a series called, “I Am a Church Member” based on Thom Rainer’s book and we’re answering the question: What does it mean to be a church member?

Let me quickly recap what we’ve learned so far.

In part 1, we learned that a functioning church requires functioning members. We all have a role. We all need to serve. We are the body of Christ.

Last week, Pastor Norman preached part 2 and he challenged us to not look for perfection in your church; but to promote unity in your church.

Today’s sermon is entitled, “I Will Not Let My Church Be About Me”.

In Philippians 2, Paul is challenging us to rethink Christianity and to rethink the whole purpose of being a Christian. Who’s Paul? Paul was called by Jesus to be an apostle and to start churches. The first church Paul started in Europe was in the city of Philippi, and his first members included a business woman, a girl who used to be possessed by demons and used to be a fortune-teller, and a suicidal Philippian jailer. Although this church was healthy compared to other churches, they had issues. They were arguing and disagreeing with each other and not growing in their faith.

Paul wanted to fix this. So he wrote them a letter while he was in prison for preaching about Jesus. He is going to answer our question: What does it mean to be a church member? He’s going to give us 3 answers!

1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:1-4

What does it mean to be a church member?

1. Membership is putting others first.

I don’t know how you feel about those four verses, but if you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah right. That’s a bit unrealistic. I mean come on Paul! This kind of church does NOT exist!”

But the truth is: it does. We’re just so used to seeing it one way, that we don’t realize there’s a better way. Paul is saying that it’s good for us to experience Jesus. Not everyone who will read this message is a Christian, but let me tell you, I absolutely LOVE being a Christian! I can relate to what Paul is saying in verse 1, maybe you can too.

Yes! I am encouraged to belong to Christ!

It’s like back in middle school when they chose teams to play kickball in gym class. I made the cut on the Jesus Team! Not because I’m great and deserve it, but because Jesus loves me so much and wants to be my friend!

Yes! I am comforted from the love of Christ!

There have been times in my life where I’ve neglected Him and gave into my own sinful desires, and guess what, He kept reaching out to me and Jesus NEVER gave up on me!

Yes! I love the fact that the Holy Spirit is in me!

I have experienced the power of God because He changed who I am. I am so glad I’m no longer the man I used to be. Today, I am a new man because the Spirit of Jesus lives in me.

And yes! My heart is filled with affection and sympathy for other people.

Because I want everyone to experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ! Paul is writing to this church saying, “Is this how you feel? That’s wonderful, but I still have one request.” He’s saying, “Hey guys, it’s wonderful that you had an individual encounter with Jesus and that your experience made your faith grow, but as your pastor, my joy isn’t complete. Do you know what will complete my joy? If you made membership less about you, and more about others. If you put others first.” In verse 2, Paul is challenging this church to be of the same mind and the same love. How do we do this? By puttin others first.

It’s so easy to make Christianity about me, myself, and I right? 

If we allow pride to crawl into our lives, we’ll find ourselves serving and doing the work of God, but we’ll do it for the wrong reasons. We’ll end up doing things so others notice.

Oh I’m just picking up this trash here.”

“Look at me, I’m just serving on the Dream Team!”

I remember my single days when I would go to youth events to look for a woman I could marry. Growing up in church all my life, I became really good at showing others what a “true worshiper” looked like. So I’d sing praises to Jesus. Lifting holy hands, while keeping one eye open to make sure any girls were watching.

If we’re not careful, we’ll start to use our experiences to puff ourselves up. It’s ok to serve and to do good things and feel good about it. It should make us feel good. But while we serve and do good things, are we doing it for ourselves or for others? Membership is putting others first.

Paul says in verse 3 to count others more significant than yourselves. The New Living Translation says, “Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” 

What you are doing is very important.

Just last week, I was talking to Melinda and said, “You know, I’m so glad that I don’t have to be everywhere at once when I come to our church services. Everyone is helping each other, encouraging each other. It’s rare that anyone can come to our church, leave, and feel forgotten and alone, unless of course, they choose to not open up.”

That is so important! I can’t do this alone. I need you to be here. You are more important than me. Being a church member is waking up on Sunday, tired, and exhausted, not wanting to show up, but thinking, “You know what? There could be someone at church today who needs to be encouraged. There could be someone who I can comfort today.”

By showing up, being here, serving, and giving, you are part of the mission of Christ.

Church, we have a higher calling. Our calling is not to be comfortable. Our calling is not to be right all the time. Our calling is not to do whatever it takes to avoid conflict. Our calling is to put others first. It’s to be the church for others.

Membership is putting others first. But this is so difficult to do. Maybe Paul’s second answer will help us.

5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Philippians 2:5-8

What does it mean to be a church member?

2. Membership is following the example of Jesus who put us first.

After reading verses 1 through 4, we might think, “I can never do this! I can never have this kind of mindset. It’s impossible to put others first and truly believe that others are more important than me.”

Then Paul explains that, “Yeah. It used to be impossible, before you were in Christ. Now that you are in Christ, you have His mind.” Then Paul beautifully takes us back to the Gospel and reminds us of what Jesus sacrificed for us.

Sometimes we just think it was the pain He felt on the cross as He was being tortured, which by the way, is more than ANYONE would ever do for me and you. But Paul goes further and explains that before Jesus became a human, He was FULLY God!

Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God! The world was created through Jesus. If ANYONE could put others down it’s Jesus. If anyone could be proud and have selfish ambition, it’s Jesus, because through Him the world was created but the world rejected Him. But instead of giving us what we deserve, He wanted to save us from His own wrath. He knew that only He is qualified to save humanity and in order to do that, He had to become one of us!

So the almighty God, Creator of all things, Perfect and Holy, and All Powerful, stepped down from His throne of glory and put on flesh and became a servant. He didn’t expect us to reach Him, He reached out to us instead, by becoming one of us. So there is no position, social status, amount of money, amount of education, and amount of experience that should ever bring a Christian to think that others are not worth their time.

Paul said, “You don’t think it’s possible to consider others more important than you? Well look at Jesus!” Sometimes we look at other people and think, “They’re not worth it.” But Jesus looked at you and me and thought, “You’re worth it. You abandoned me and you rejected me, but I’m going to do whatever it takes to make things right between us.”

So Jesus humbled Himself so much, that He was willing to crawl on a cross, bloody, and naked, humiliated for the entire world to see. He had the power to take out all of those soldiers and save Himself. But Paul says in verse 6, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped”

Meaning, He made Himself vulnerable. He chose to not use His supernatural strength and abilities. Who humbled Jesus? Who forced Jesus to die? It wasn’t Herod. It wasn’t Pilate or the Roman soldiers. It wasn’t the Jews either.

Jesus said in Mark 14:34, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” He knew exactly what His death would be like.

What is Paul teaching us here?

Humbling yourself is a choice. Jesus allowed Himself to be cursed, and tortured, and to die on a cross. Why did He do it? Because He put us first.Membership is following the example of Jesus who put us first.

It’s when we remind ourselves every day of the love of Christ for us. Some people become Christians and then say “Ah, sin isn’t a big deal. I’ll change sometime when I get the chance.” I don’t know if you’ve heard, but your sin is what put Jesus on the cross. My sin is what caused Jesus to give up His life so that I may live. But the story doesn’t end there. Paul has one more answer to our question.

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11

What does it mean to be a church member?

3. Membership is believing that Jesus is and will always be first.

Jesus was given a name and a title: Jesus Christ is Lord

Jesus means that He’s our Savior

Christ means that He’s the chosen one to save us.

Lord means all authority is His!

Paul is saying, “Guess what? Jesus comes first whether you put Him first or not! He is Lord whether you call Him Lord or not!” Paul is reminding us that one day, every knee shall bow! Every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. NO EXCEPTIONS! Every rational being will confess it. Every believer will cry it at the top of their lungs along with the angels. President Trump will declare it. Democrats will declare it. Republicans and Libertarians will declare it. Atheists will declare it. Communists will declare it. Nero, Hitler, demons, and Satan himself will someday bow down and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord! We all will declare it, the question is whether you will declare that now or when it’s too late.

Membership is believing that Jesus is and will always be first.

Membership is putting others first, it’s following the example of Jesus who put us first, and it’s believing that Jesus is and will always be first.At the end, Jesus wins, so I want to do whatever He does. After reading all of this we might think, “Well we can never measure up to Jesus. How could we even try?” That’s why, if you finish reading the rest of the chapter, Paul gives us three examples of Christians who lived this way. He talked about himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus.

Here’s what I want to leave with you today:

Don’t go to church for yourself; be the church for others.

Make the commitment today to not let church be about you. Make the commitment to be the church for others.

It won’t be long after making this commitment that you will come across a fellow church member whose attitude is, well, nothing like the attitude of Christ. She will tell you what’s wrong with the music or the preaching or the pastor, you name it. It will be tempting to chew her out, to tell her to let go of her lousy attitude. And while a gentle rebuke may be in order, you need to remember something about your commitment. This cantankerous and ornery church member is one of those you have pledged to serve.

Thom Rainer in “i am a church member”

Let me remind you that church will be messy! When you read the New Testament, you’ll find that after Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the rest is all about church problems and how Christians chose to commit to Christ and commit to His Church in order to bring Jesus into the world.

Our church doesn’t have the best preaching, the best programs, and the best perks. You can find other churches out there that can provide so much more for you. But let me challenge you by saying this: don’t go to church for yourself; be the church for others.

We will never find joy in church membership when we are constantly seeking things our way.

Thom Rainer

He’s right. After a while, you might get used to my preaching. After a while, serving on the Dream Team might annoy you. There comes a time, sort of like when running a marathon, when you hit a brick wall and you don’t want to be part of this anymore. But when you commit to Jesus and commit to being the church for others, we find strength in Jesus to keep going.

That’s why Paul said:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:13

Don’t go to church for yourself; be the church for others.

Don’t miss out on what God can do in and through you when you show up, serve, and take part in the mission. According to the Bible, there will be a day when it will be illegal to be part of the church. On that day, the ones who remain are the ones who are truly members of the church.

I hope this encourages you, but I also hope it convicts you to rethink what it will look like to be a church member. When you encounter someone in the church that is grumbling, complaining, and being difficult, love them and put them first. Try to understand where they’re coming from. When you disagree with someone in the church or even leadership, love them and put them first. Don’t talk about them, talk to them.

So what do we do now?

Take the next step by taking stepONE of our Growth Track starting in March. This is a time when you will know about our purpose, our vision, our mission, and what you’re committing.

Click here to sign up!

Don’t go to church for yourself; be the church for others.


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