Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 22, 2016
Today we are stepping away from our walk through the Gospel of John, so that we can focus our attention on the topic of Church Membership. As many of you have heard me say several times over the last few weeks, at Cornerstone take Church membership seriously.
Cornerstone Church has existed as a formal and local Church for a little over three years. Since that time we have had two membership classes and we will be having our third class this June. Currently we have, if I am not mistaken, 28 official members of Cornerstone, and with each year that passes, it is my hope that our membership continues to grows.
If you look around, you will notice that in this room there are more than 28 adults. Why the disparity?
The first reason is that we have membership classes once a year, therefore some of you will in fact become members this summer, and that disparity will be reduced for now.
The second reason is that some of you in this room are not Christians. And to be a member one must be a Christian. It is a requirement. If you are merely a Church attender, and Jesus Christ is not your greatest treasure, then membership is not for you. So if you are not a Christian, don't even bother coming to class, because we will not let you in. Having said that, we do want you to continue to come to Church and participate in Bible study because we want you to hear the Word of God and repent and place your faith in Christ.
The third reason, and perhaps the most pervasive is that some of you are Christians but you are not convinced that membership is important. Today, this message is directed to you. In Matthew 28:19-20 it says – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” My role as a disciple is to make disciples and teach those disciples to observe all that Jesus has commanded. Observe all. Not observe some. All. And to observe means to actually implement the command in your life. Jesus does not command you to ignore all that he has commanded, but to obey it. This is the essence of being a follower of Jesus, to follow him. And I believe being a member of a local church is a command of God. So where shall we begin?
God of Covenant Commitment
To begin, I want to start with a big picture understanding that God is a God of relational commitment. That God is not a casual kind of God, his core is covenant commitment. Commitment is in his DNA.
So, what does this tell us about God’s view of commitment? It tells us a great deal. He has revealed to us over and over and over again in the Scriptures that he puts a very high value on relational commitment. God is not a casual God. He is repeatedly calling people into a deep and rich relational commitment. So for those of you who say, God doesn’t care if I commit myself to a local Church, I just don’t agree. I see a God who deeply cares about your level of devotion to the gathering of his people.
Membership is Biblical
Next, since we are talking about membership into a church, let us take a deeper look into the institution of the Church. Perhaps the most frequent argument against membership is that nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly tell us that we are to be members. I disagree. Where do you think we get the name member from?
Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12:12-26, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[e] yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
The word member is used eight times in the passage. What is it referencing? It is referencing the relational commitment to a local church. And once again, not just any commitment, but a commitment so deep that all the parts form a singular whole.
What a vibrant illustration of what the local Church should be. We are to be so interconnected and intertwined that you cannot see where one person ends and the next begins. We just flow into each other. As I was writing this sermon I was thinking about how seamlessly and unified my body worked. My brain was thinking, my eyes were looking, each finger typing the exact button at exactly the right time, my heart beating, my lungs moving in an out. I would grab for a drink of coffee and my arm would extend and then bend towards my mouth and I would swallow without thought. My body was totally in sync with the task at hand. Not one member of my body sitting on the sidelines, they were all in the game. The human body is beautifully harmonious. Every member of the human body working together for the greater of the whole.
Does this metaphor describe your relationship with the other people in this room? This is to be our goal at Cornerstone Church, to be so committed to each other in the pursuit, knowledge and proclamation of the Glory of God that we are not only seen as one, but we feel that we are one, and this is because we are truly one.
Membership is one way we move ourselves towards this end goal of interdependence. For everyone who becomes a member at Cornerstone Church is saying, “I'm in. I want to depend on you and I want you to depend on me. I want to intertwine my life so much with you people that when you cry, I cry. When you laugh, I laugh. When you are sick, I am sick. When you are well, so am I.” Imagine what this Church would look like if we pursued the call to commit at this significant and Biblical level. Imagine what effect that would have on the those on the outside looking in.
Additional Evidence of a Biblical Call to Commitment
Based on only what I have said so far, some of you may still be saying, I can be a Biblical member without becoming a member at Cornerstone. You are still looking for reasons to reject membership. Well...there is more. Unfortunately, due to time, I will only address four more proofs of Biblical membership. There are more, but time just doesn't allow for us to cover this topic exhaustively in one sermon.