Pastor's Blog

I’m going to assume that I’ve made a good case and I want to begin to build on the foundational idea that people that become believers ought to become part of a local body of believers. 

It is not good that man should be alone.  We’re made by God to have meaningful connections with others.

The group I affiliate with strengthens me, and the things that I bring to the group strengthen the group – and the group is an effective tool to reach others for Christ.  They don’t have to be Lone Rangers in a hostile world.

That said…

Who should be considered a member of a church? 
How do they get to be one?
Is church membership even necessary?

One of the things that we Americans hate is meaningless formality. 
And many people consider church membership a meaningless formality. 

“What’s the big deal?  As long as I come to church.  As long as I obey Christ, what does it matter if I’m a member of a church?”

A few questions…

Who should vote on whether the church spends money to build a new building?
Who should get to vote on who next year’s leaders are?
Who should get to become one of next year’s leaders?

Just any person that happens to come through the doors?  Anyone who attends?  No questions asked?

Sounds an awful lot like the approach of the Democratic Party to America’s southern border policy, which most of us consider not only irresponsible, but destructive to our American sense of nationhood.

Any time you have a group of people functioning together, the group must have defining boundaries.  Both the group and those outside the group must be able to identify the people who are in and the people who are out.

The first church at Jerusalem understood this principle.

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
                                                                                                                             (Acts 2.41-42)


The word “member” isn’t used, but the concept is clearly present.  Acceptance of the gospel and public confession of the same by baptism admitted people to a voluntary connection with the apostles.  Those people devoted themselves to apostolic leadership and teaching and to connection (fellowship) with the body of believers.


It may be a formality, but not all formalities are meaningless.  Church membership will look quite different when the black light of persecution shines on it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”  (Matthew 23.23)

Jesus didn’t say tithing from the herb garden was wrong. 
He said the Pharisees should tithe from their herb garden AND not neglect weightier moral matters.

Jesus often fenced with Pharisees, so we think they are “the bad guys” of the New Testament.  But I believe Jesus spent so much time with Pharisees – and they sought him out and spent time with him – because of all the sects within Judaism the Pharisees were the closest to what Jesus was teaching

A little tweaking and they would have been right in line with Jesus.  Indeed, some of the earliest converts were Pharisees who made the necessary adjustments and aligned themselves with Jesus.

The difficulty for the Pharisees was that the parts requiring tweaking weren’t insignificant or harmless fringe ideas (like tithing herbs).  Crucial ideas, central ideas, core ideas -- weightier matters of the faith – had somehow gotten lost – and made the Pharisees a stumbling block who drove people away instead of drawing them.

The point wasn’t to condemn the Pharisees for condemnation’s sake – or even for being Pharisees – but to call them to adjust, change, repent and fix the stuff that was broken.

Sometimes people complain that I’m too hard on evangelicals. 
I am – and for the same reason.  Of all the branches of Christianity, I believe evangelicalism has the most to offer to people.  We are the easiest to understand and relate to. 

But sometimes we get so busy taking exact measurements of our dill that secondary matters are put first and the important things are ignored or missed or lost.  And that doesn’t just adversely affect Christians; it causes others to stumble at us – and at the gospel.

Seems to me the love of Christians for one another is the weighty, crucial centerpiece of the church’s effective functioning in the world.  We can’t afford to get it wrong.

There’s a little more wiggle room with dill.

Social connection – friendship – friendliness.  Winning people to connection with you and/or your circle of friends is the first step in leading them to Christ.

Traditional evangelicals sometimes struggle with this idea because it seems to lack urgency.  Building relationships takes time – and what if this person dies tonight without hearing the gospel?  Wouldn’t it just be better to tell them the message?  Won’t it be my fault?

For starters, you’re not the Savior.  God is.  God WANTS to save people.  He isn’t willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3.9).

This, I think, is the proper place for a robust belief that God is in charge and knows what He is doing.  God loves lost souls far more than you or I ever could, but He still wins them through normal means rather than miracles.

Of course, if He’s going to do a miracle, that’s up to Him.  You and I have no control over that.  If He does one – great – and I’ll gladly work within that context.  If He doesn’t – then what else am I left with but to carry on in normal fashion?

Is it socially normal to expect non-religious people to respond to religious messages shouted at them by strangers in non-religious contexts?  How receptive are YOU when Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons are canvassing your neighborhood?  Are you peering through the curtains because you’re overcome with excitement and can’t wait till they get to your door so you can convert – or are you peering through the curtains so you know exactly when is the best time to hide and pretend you’re not home?

Neither Jesus nor the apostles seemed to operate out of a sense of urgency.  They operated out of a sense of commitment to their calling, and they operated within the confines of what was appropriate communication in their social context.  They acted in ways that people at the time considered ‘normal’.  They encountered opposition to their message, but not their method – at least as far as I can tell.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t times for urgency.  I have whispered the gospel into the ear of someone in the ICU who was too weak to respond verbally and asked them to squeeze my hand to respond.  But that method was fitting to the context, not only in my mind, but in theirs and their family’s as well.

Trust God’s sense of urgency – and relax.

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