Membership Matters - Part 1, 1 Corinthians 12

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  • Date: Sunday, August 7, 2016
  • Speaker: Titus Green
  • Category: Sunday Sermon
  • Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12

This week, I read that there are around 58 million Americans who are members of a health club or gym. I’m a member of a local health club. Here’s what that means: I’ve got a card that allows me entrance into the gym. My health insurance actually provides a gym membership because they know the long-term gain for them if their customers are healthy. Here’s the deal, though. I never go to the gym. I work out on my own about 4 or 5 days a week, but I just don’t have enough time in my schedule to get to the gym…so I’ve given up going and started doing it on my own. But, I’m still a member. Attendance and participation aren’t requirements to membership at my gym, not that it would matter anyway.

The reason I bring that up is because I’ve felt led to teach on church membership this week and next. I’m concerned that when we talk about being a member of a church, we are often all over the map on what that actually means. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of people who have grown so disillusioned with their experience of church membership that they have given up on it all together. I’m also concerned that church leaders have pretty much given up teaching about what it means to be a church or to belong to a church. For both leaders and members of many churches, membership has become a meaningless statistic. That’s one reason why many Americans treat church membership the way I treat my gym membership: attendance and participation aren’t requirements, not that it would matter anyway.

So, I want to take a couple of weeks before we start our next series and consider what it means to be a member of a church and why it matters.

1 Corinthians 12:27.
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

When we refer to being a member, we are using that word the way it’s used in this verse. We don’t mean a member of a club. We mean a member of a body.

And what is it that Paul is saying these Christian’s are a member of? The body of Christ.

And what is the body of Christ that He is referring to here? Look at the very next verse:
28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,

The body of Christ of which these individuals are members is the church that Paul is writing to in Corinth.

The word “church” in the original language of the bible is a word that means “the called out assembly.” So, when you think of church, it’s right that you would think of a group of people. The church isn’t a building. As a matter of fact, church buildings didn’t come into existence until about 200 years or so after the time of the first churches. The church is the people…the assembly of God.

Two Different Uses of the Word “Church”

One way that the Bible uses the word “church” is to describe all of the believers from all over the earth throughout all of time. Many people refer to this as the universal church. So, in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus says He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it, He is referring to the universal church. Or, in Ephesians 5:25 where Paul says that “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” he is referring to Christ’s love for all believers from all over the earth throughout all of time. Jesus gave Himself up for believers today in China and believers 2000 years ago in Israel.

Now, remember that the word “church” means “called out assembly.” When will that church, the one that is comprised of all true believers from all over the earth throughout all of time be assembled? At the end of this age that we are living in. When God brings this world as we know it to its God-ordained end, then the full Church of Jesus will be assembled around the throne of God.

And the way you are made a part of that Church is through your faith in Jesus Christ.
• When you acknowledge
  o that you have sinned against a holy God and aren’t able to make yourself right.
  o that God the Father sent His Son, Jesus, into this world to live the life you haven’t lived
    – a life perfectly pleasing to God
  o and He died a death you should have died
    – a death that suffered God’s wrath as a payment for sin –
• and believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead three days later as the display of His power to defeat sin and death…
• when you turn from loving your own sin and place your faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you become a child of God and a part of God’s called out assembly…His universal Church.

Have you become a part of that group of people?
Are you trusting in Jesus alone to save you?

But, that’s not the only way the Bible uses the word “church.” The Bible not only refers to the Universal Church, it refers to local, visible churches that are the expression of the universal church on this earth.

Let me show you this in a couple of places. Look at chapter 14:33 –
33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints,

All the churches. God only has one, universal Church. But, that church finds expression on the earth in local, visible assemblies of believers. Or, “the churches of the saints.” Churches like First Baptist Church or Club Zion in Cocoa Beach or any one of the churches that we pray for each Sunday. And the entire New Testament takes place within the backdrop of those kinds of local, visible assemblies.

Go to the beginning of 1 Corinthians. Chapter 1, verse 2:
To the church of God that is in Corinth…

This letter is written to a group of believers that assembled in the city of Corinth.

If you go to Galatians 1, you’ll find that Paul writes to the “churches of Galatia.” Why did he write to “churches (plural)” in Galatia? Because Galatia was a large region, not just a local city. And the believers couldn’t all gather in one city, so they assembled throughout the cities of that region. It would be like writing to the believers in Brevard County. The believers can’t assemble in one place, so they assemble throughout the region…they are churches of Brevard, not just the church of Brevard.

And it is those kinds of churches, local and visible assemblies, that make up the backdrop of the New Testament.

• The four Gospels show Jesus calling out and training the Apostles who would be used to establish the early churches.
• Acts is the historical account of churches being started throughout the Roman Empire in the First Century.
• The epistles are written to local churches or local church leaders.
• The book of Revelation is written to seven local churches in the First Century.

There is no pattern in the New Testament of Christian life happening outside the context of a local, visible assembly of believers. Belonging to a local church is the normal pattern of Christian life in the Bible. And membership matters.

We practice formal church membership. What we mean by formal church membership is that individuals have to make a personal and intentional commitment to this local church in order to be counted as a member. And some people don’t agree with that practice.

We don’t know of any way to live out many of the commands concerning the church unless there is a formal understanding of who is actually a part of the church community. Let me share some of those commands with you…

Commands surrounding God-ordained Leaders

Look at 12:28…
28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,

When Paul is teaching about the church, he references the leaders that God has appointed. The most common term for church leaders is the term “elder.” Each church in the New Testament had elders, or pastors, who oversaw the work of ministry within those churches.
• 1 Timothy 5:17–22
• Titus 1:5
• 1 Peter 5:1–5
• Acts 14:23, 20:17

And in order to follow the leadership of those elders, a church fellowship has to know who those leaders are.

Hebrews 13:17…
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Now, just think through that dynamic. In order to obey that command, you have to acknowledge who your leaders are that God has appointed to lead you. Who are you called to submit to and obey?

Is it every leader? Is it the leaders of First Baptist Merritt Island or Calvary Chapel or East Coast Christian Center? If you haven’t identified yourself with a specific local church, then how can you obey that command?

And then the second part of Hebrews 13:17 says that the leaders will have to give an account for their leadership. If there is no point of identification with a local church, then how am I supposed to know who I’m responsible to lead? Am I going to give an account to God for how I led the Christians in Europe? No.

So, there are the commands surrounding church leadership that necessitate formal church membership.

Commands Surrounding Church Discipline

1 Corinthians 5 says that the church is responsible to confront individuals who are living in open, persistent, unrepentent sin…if they say they are a believer.

1 Corinthians 5:12
12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

How do we know who is inside the local church if no one has made a commitment to be a part of the church?

So, because of the practice of church discipline and recognized church leadership, we believe that there are biblical grounds for formal church membership.

Commands Surrounding “One Another”

One last thing. The New Testament is filled with commands that are linked to “one another.” There’s an expectation of committed, connected community among believers.

Who are your “one anothers?”
1. “...Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
2. “...Wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14)
3. “...Love one another...” (John 13:34)
4. “...Love one another...” (John 13:34)
5. “...Love one another...” (John 13:35)
6. “...Love one another...” (John 15:12)
7. “...Love one another” (John 15:17)
8. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...” (Romans 12:10)
9. “...Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10)
10. “Live in harmony with one another...” (Romans 12:16)
11. “...Love one another...” (Romans 13:8)
12. “...Stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:13)
13. “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you...” (Romans 15:7)
14. “...Instruct one another.” (Romans 15:14)
15. “Greet one another with a holy kiss...” (Romans 16:16)
16. “...When you come together to eat, wait for each other.” (I Cor. 11:33)
17. “...Have equal concern for each other.” (I Corinthians 12:25)
18. “...Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)
19. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (II Corinthians 13:12)
20. “...Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
21. “If you keep on biting and devouring each other...you will be destroyed by each other.” (Galatians 5:15)
22. “Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Galatians 5:26)
23. “Carry each other’s burdens...” (Galatians 6:2)
24. “...Be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2)
25. “Be kind and compassionate to one another...” (Ephesians 4:32)
26. “...Forgiving each other...” (Ephesians 4:32)
27. “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
28. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)
29. “...In humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)
30. “Do not lie to each other...” (Colossians 3:9)
31. “Bear with each other...” (Colossians 3:13)
32. “...Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)
33. “Teach...[one another]” (Colossians 3:16)
34. “...Admonish one another (Colossians 3:16)
35. “...Make your love increase and overflow for each other.” (I Thessalonians 3:12)
36. “...Love each other.” (I Thessalonians 4:9)
37. “...Encourage each other...”(I Thessalonians 4:18)
38. “...Encourage each other...” I Thessalonians 5:11)
39. “...Build each other up...” (I Thessalonians 5:11)
40. “Encourage one another daily...” Hebrews 3:13)
41. “...Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)
42. “...Encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:25)
43. “...Do not slander one another.” (James 4:11)
44. “Don’t grumble against each other...” (James 5:9)
45. “Confess your sins to each other...” (James 5:16)
46. “...Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
47. “...Love one another deeply, from the heart.” (I Peter 3:8)
48. “...Live in harmony with one another...” (I Peter 3:8)
49. “...Love each other deeply...” (I Peter 4:8)
50. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)
51. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others...” (I Peter 4:10)
52. “...Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another...”(I Peter 5:5)
53. “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (I Peter 5:14)
54. “...Love one another.” (I John 3:11)
55. “...Love one another.” (I John 3:23)
56. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:7)
57. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:11)
58. “...Love one another.” (I John 4:12)
59. “...Love one another.” (II John 5)

Church membership isn’t like my gym membership. Membership is a commitment to show up and participate…not just sign a card and pay some dues.

Are you committed to a local fellowship? You may want to be a part of this local church.
1. You must publicly profess Jesus Christ through baptism by immersion. We taught on that last week. If you’ve already done that as a part of another church family, we don’t make you do it again as long as you were trusting in Christ at your baptism and completed the picture of Christ’s death and resurrection through immersion.
2. We also have prospective members attend a two-week class that shares who we are and also gives sufficient time for our pastors and spiritual counselors to hear the testimony of how you came to faith in Jesus.
Discovering FBCMI Class in September
September 4th & 11th
9:00am

If you haven’t officially expressed your commitment to a church family, I encourage you not to put it off.

Testimony from a part of our body – Kelly and Ty Weekly
I just wanted to let you know how touched Ty and I were with so many members of the FBCMI congregation when we were going through a scary time recently. It also is a good example of why being in a small group or Sunday School class is such a great support group.

[Ty began to have medical issues and was rushed to the ER]

[Their daughter] Emi was so upset and…asked if it was okay if she asked her Sunday School group of girls to pray. I said yes of course and within seconds she was receiving texts that each girl was praying. Then her phone rang and it was her teacher, Happy K., asking to pray with her right then. Emi was so comforted and I was so grateful. At this point, they still weren't letting us back with Ty. Next thing I know Sharon Cox walked in to the hospital. She had learned what was going on from the text Emi sent out because her daughter is in Emi's class. This enabled me to kind of push my way into where they had my husband because Emi now had someone with her.

…[It was] around 1 am and the doctors still couldn't help Ty. His heart rate was staying above 160 consistently and was irregular. I looked up at one point and saw a couple from our [Sunday School] class walking by… They ended up sharing with other class members what was going on with Ty and we started receiving texts and prayers and calls from everyone. The Sledges and the Hamiltons…were giving us their love and prayers and hearts right in the midst of their own heart aches.

By 3am, they couldn't get Ty's heart on the correct rhythm or slowed down, so they moved him to ICU. At 5pm they came in and told us all they could do was a cardioversion. Our daughters left [the room and went to the waiting room during the procedure].

[Afterward]…Someone went and got our daughters to come back in and they told us what happened to them in the waiting room. They recognized another family from our class, which also happened to be leaders from when Amanda was in Jub over 10 years ago. It was Tim and Wendy Wagoner and lots of family members. Emi said Wendy's step father had just passed away minutes before on the same floor…This entire hurting family all gathered around Emi and Amanda and prayed for Ty at the very moment they were doing the cardioversion. What a testimony of what God's people do!!!

By that evening, Ty was starting to feel a little better and [Pastor] Richard Fuller came in and prayed with us. I had only been to one choir practice before and he came and prayed with us! Then our teacher, Steve Mitchell, came in straight from work and said a beautiful prayer with all four of us.

I feel like I might be missing someone or something, but the point is. we were surrounded by God's love and incredible Christian friends during this time. We had our family members there and some other friends, but we all felt just a little more a part of the FBCMI family after this:-)