Let me be honest right out of the gate–this is a hard article to write. I am sure it will be received well by some and not-so-well by others. Nonetheless, the biggest problem in your church, my church, and EVERY CHURCH needs to be addressed. This is not an isolated problem, but a growing problem in many churches. What is this problem? It is the problem of commitment! I do not like to talk about problems. Who does? I would rather view problems as possibilities. After all, that is the positive approach, right? But, I am afraid we need to be positively honest about this problem! There is just no other way to put it.
I have heard it said, and I have even said it myself, "Our problem in the church is a lack of commitment." Honestly, it's more than a lack of commitment, it's "no" commitment from many of our "members." One of the most amazing things I have noticed as a pastor is that often the "attenders" to my church are more faithful than some "members" of my church!
In his book, I Am A Church Member, Thom Rainer speaks of church membership as "functioning membership." Rainer writes, "We who are church members are all supposed to function in the church. The concept of an inactive church member is an oxymoron. Biblically, no such church member really exists" (p. 16). At the end of the day we are either committed church members or we are not committed church members.
One thing I have learned, personally, is that I am committed to those things which are important to me...
I am committed to my walk with Christ. I cannot depend on anyone else for my spiritual growth. Yes, we are called to disciple one another in a maturing walk with Christ, but at the end of the day I am ultimately responsible for my relationship with Jesus. As a pastor I have had to come to terms with the fact that I cannot "make" someone have a passion for Jesus. That work rests in the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am also committed to my family. My wife and kids are the most important people to me on this earth. Next to God, they deserve the best of my time and energy. One day someone else will pastor the church where I lead. Another man will sit in my office and stand in my pulpit. But no one else can be the daddy to my kids like me, their dad!
I am committed to my church. Not only am I the pastor, but I am a church member. Yes, God has uniquely called me to lead this particular group of people, but I am called to serve and function in the local body, just as every other member. Part of my functioning means that I am to support the ministry of the church through consistent tithing, actively serving, and faithful praying.
As I look across the landscape of "the church," I cannot help but see a tremendous lack of commitment. It is no secret, in our own Southern Baptist Convention, baptisms are declining, less people are serving, and fewer are supporting their local church through tithes and offerings. The more I think through this problem, the more I realize that it actually goes deeper than commitment. It is a matter of love. I am afraid many believers have followed the steps of the Ephesian church and have "left their first love" (Rev. 2:4). You see when we love Jesus, as we should love Jesus, we will be committed to Him and His church! No excuses!
So, how do you know that your commitment to Christ and His church is waining? How do you know if you are on a path of "leaving your first love?" Here are some signs that your commitment to the local church might be waining...
I am sure there are other signs, but these are a few of the first thoughts that popped into my mind. So, what can we do to avoid these landmines?
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!
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!