What does it mean to be a faithful church member? Our churches are filled with members and attenders, but what distinguishes a "faithful" church member? In his book, I Am A Church Member, Thom Rainer provides 6 characteristics that describe this person:
1. A faithful church member is a unifying member.
2. A faithful church member will not let the church be about his/her preferences or desires.
3. A faithful church member will pray for the leaders of the church.
4. A faithful church member will lead their family to be healthy church members.
5. A faithful church member will be a functioning church member.
6. A faithful church member will treasure church membership as a gift.
While all of these characteristics are important, I want to pull out one - #5 "a functioning church member."
When I think of a functioning church member I think of a "committed" church member. Unfortunately as I look across the landscape of the church today, I see a lack of commitment. Maybe you're thinking, "well, I attend church every Sunday morning." That's great, but there's much more to being a church member than just showing up on Sunday morning. A "functioning, faithful, and committed" church member is committed in at least 3 specific areas of the church–stewardship, worship, and service!
A faithful church member is committed to financial stewardship. This person regularly supports the the ministry and work of the Lord through their tithes and offerings. The Bible is clear in Malachi 3:10 that we are to "bring the whole tithe into the storehouse." This isn't an outdated, Old Testament, principle. It is the responsibility of every church member to support the ministry and work of the Lord through his or her local church body.
A faithful church member is committed to worship. Hebrews 10:25 reminds us to "not forsake the assembling of ourselves together." I believe this speaks to the regular practice of corporate worship. As Christian American's we should never neglect this opportunity. Many people in our world do not enjoy this freedom. Remember this about worship - corporate worship is a rehearsal for heaven! That's right! When we gather together on Sunday morning we are just "warming up" for eternity! Don't neglect this privilege!
A faithful church member is committed to service in the body. In Ephesians 4:12 Paul reminds us that pastors had been called to "equip the saints for the work of ministry." This means my job as pastor, and the job of our staff, is to prepare and equip you, the body, for service and ministry to the Lord. Let me ask you - where are you serving? Are you serving?
Do you know why the Dead Sea is called the "Dead Sea?" It's because water flows into this historical body of water, but never flows out. As a result of the gathering of this water, the Dead Sea is the saltiest body of water in the world, with 33.7% salinity. Because of this high level of salt, no fish or aquatic plants exists in the Dead Sea. Don't be a "Dead Sea church member!" Let the Living Water of Christ flow through you as you faithfully serve the Lord.
I hope we will all take a few minutes to examine our hearts. Will you join me and ask yourself - "Am I a faithful church member?" Not just a church member, but "faithful" church member!
Do you support the ministry of the church through your tithes and offering? If not, begin today by giving through the means your church has made available.
Do you regularly attend corporate worship with our church family at Temple? If not, make a commitment to be present this Sunday! Don't wait, jump in now!
Do you serve anywhere in the body at Temple? If not, contact a staff member about opportunities to serve. We would be happy to connect you to a ministry where we know the Lord could use you!
If we can't answer "yes" to these questions, I hope we'll take a minute to examine our hearts and motives. Let's do all we can to be faithful church members for the glory of God!
Over the last few days there has been a lot of conversation on the recent release of William Paul Young's book and blockbuster, The Shack. While much has been, and will continue to be said, about the book and the movie, I feel it necessary to share some thoughts and comments. For the sake of full disclosure I have not read the book, nor have I seen the movie. However, I do not feel it necessary to fulfill either of these obligations in order to speak to the concerns at hand. My comments are based upon reviews and hearing Young speak about his life and work.
A few nights ago I watched a couple of episodes of "Redeeming The Shack" on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Honestly, this is a network I do not often watch, nor do I agree with much of the theology espoused by the founders or leaders of TBN. Nonetheless, the network has recorded several episodes with Young sharing his personal story and the motivations of The Shack. Young was very open about his intentions with the book and the theology he hopes to convey through the continued sale of the book, and newly released, movie.
Having listened to Young share about the story, the characters, and their roles I do have some concerns with the movie. My goal is not to bash Young. In watching the TBN special I was moved by Young's honesty and transparency in discussing his personal story–the good, bad, and ugly. Without a doubt Young is a man of sincerity, but that does not mean he is orthodox in his theology. One should never sacrifice truth on the altar of sincerity.
One of the concerns I have about this movie is not necessarily with the movie itself. While I do have my concerns about the message and imagery of The Shack, my greater concern is with the Christians who flock to this movie, as they have others (such as Heaven Is For Real), looking for answers to questions and meaning in life, which should ultimately be sought in God's Word. Never should our theology be built upon a book (other than the Bible) or a movie. The Scriptures should be our guide in all matters of faith and practice. If we have to look to a novel, movie, or any other source for these issues, we all are most to be pitied.
From hearing Young speak, the clips I have seen, and the reviews I have read, I do think there are some problematic issues and concerns with Young's understanding and presentation of God, Jesus, and the Trinity. I concur with Dr. Al Mohler's analysis, "The theology of The Shack is not incidental to the story. Indeed, at most points the narrative seems mainly to serve as a structure for the dialogues. And the dialogues reveal a theology that is unconventional at best, and undoubtedly heretical in certain respects." There is no question viewers will be entertained by The Shack. Like every good movie, The Shake includes all the elements of relationships, tragedy, redemption, and hope. It's a best seller! However, those who seeks to uphold a Biblical worldview must use use caution when viewing this movie, or any movie, for that matter. This movie will in now way enhance my understanding of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, because much of its espoused theology is heretical, and at best faulty. Among my concerns with The Shack is it's teaching of universalism, the belief that all mankind will be saved; it's inaccurate theology of sin; and it's unorthodox misrepresentation of the doctrine of the Trinity.
Yes, I understand The Shack is a work of fiction. However, too many professing followers of Jesus simply fall down to anything and everything that "looks Christian." As one review from GotQuestions.org noted - "if you're going to have God as a character in your fiction, then you must deal with God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. By using the Trinity as characters, The Shack is clearly indicating that it’s talking about the God of Christianity. But God has said certain things about Himself in Scripture, and much of what’s in this novel contradicts that."
We would be wise to head John's words in 1 John 4:1 - "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false profits have gone out into the world." Do I intend to read the book? No. Do I plan to watch the movie, probably not. In all honesty I have no desire to see the movie. Should you? Well, in the end it's a matter of conscience and conviction. James said, "to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is a sin" (James 4:17).
As the page turns on another year, I have been thinking about the possibilities of the year ahead. Personally, professionally, and familially, what will the year hold? For most of us there are more questions than answers, however, there is one word that best describes the coming year for me–faith.
The author of Hebrews defines faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). There are alot of things that cannot be seen in the year ahead. I do not know the future, but I know who holds the future. I also know that His plans are good plans. Why? Because God desires the end to be His glory. He desires all things to be for His glory! In this profound truth I find my rest. I have faith that my God is able! I have faith that in His timing He will work. By faith, I trust in Him!
So, what's your word?
Every January as the page turns on a new year we tend to make resolutions. We resolve to spend more time with our families, to lose weight, to eat more nutritiously, to read our Bibles, etc. If the truth be told, we often break many, if not all, of these resolutions by the end of January. This year, I've decided to not make any resolutions! That's right! No resolutions! I have decided to simply do my best to love Jesus more today, than I did yesterday. To this end, here are 3 suggestions that I pray will help all of us start the New Year with Jesus...
1. Start the New Year in Worship, becase Jesus deserves it!
The writer of Hebrews tells says, "Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another --and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:25). In short, we are told to not miss gathering with the people of God to worship God. Much like the audience to whom Hebrews was written, there are many today who have fallen into the "habit" of not gathering regularly for worship. One of the reasons we should do this is simply because Jesus deserves it! He deserves our worship and adoration. He deserves our gathering together. One day, soon, He will return. So, let us eagerly gather in worship as we wait for His approaching!
2. Start the New Year in Community, because we need it!
We need each other! I need you and you need me! Did you know that there are dozens of "one another" statements in the Bible? The Bible tells us to "love one another," "pray for one another," "encourage one another," etc. Life was never meant to be lived alone, but in community! We need the encouragement, support, and accountablity of a group of believers to be successful in living life as disciples of Jesus. I once heard James Merrit say, "You can be a Christian without going to church, but you won't be a good Christian without going to church." This is true becuase we need a community of believers, i.e., the body of Christ, to help us reach our fullest potential in Christ.
3. Start the New Year in God's Word, becuase you can't live without it!
In Matthew 4 Jesus found Himself in the wilderness being tempted by the devil. This was just after His baptism and the beginning of His ministry. While in the wilderness He was tempted three times by the devil. In Matthew 4:4 Jesus responds to one of those temptations saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Jesus knew that to survive and thrive, He must find His hope in God's Word! In fact, with each temptation, Jesus quoted Scripture (from Deuteronomy). If Jesus needed the Word of God, how much more do we?
Will you join me in 2017 as we commit to living and loving Jesus? No, resolutions! Just whole-hearted commitment! I'd also love to have you join me for worship on January 1, 2017 at Temple Baptist Church!
Last week I wrote a blog on the Rhythms of Life. As promised I wanted to follow up that article with a series of blogs on what I believe are essential beats that must be included in the rhythms of our life. The first is personal time with the Lord in prayer and study of His Word.