(Pastor’s note: This sermon is part of a series of messages based on the book “I Am a Church Member” by Thom Rainer.)
“9 out of 10 churches in America are declining or growing at a pace slower than that of their communities” (Thom Rainer). There are various reasons that contribute to this, but the main reason, according to Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay, is that “many congregations in America…have lost the biblical understanding of church membership.” In other words, churches are weak because many members are not functioning biblically. For example, rather than giving abundantly and serving without hesitation, too many neglect both or do them reluctantly. The result is that churches are inwardly focused with little to no gospel impact in their community. How do we change this? Let us consider the following ways to become a functioning church member:
- You are a necessary part of the whole (27-28). Every member of First Baptist is valuable and necessary. But your value as a church member is different than the value you would have as a member of a country club. Country clubs see your money and your presence as valuable. Desiring both, it entices you to join by entitling you to perks and privileges. So long as you are a member in good standing, you are entitled to have others serve you. Biblical membership is vastly different. 1 Corinthians 12 uses the imagery of a human body to describe a local church. Just as a human body needs functioning members (arms, legs, ears, etc.), so too the church. Every member of a church is given a role or function and is valuable and necessary. If a member ceases to function, the body suffers.
- We are different and we work together (26). Each member is necessary and different. Our differences make us more effective as a body. Just as a body needs a nose, eyes, and ears to function properly; the local church needs those who serve in a variety of ways. Each part of the church body has work to do and must do its own work. The church suffers when we fail to do our part or if we do not function in unity with the other members. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “So if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
- We speak and act out of love (1 Cor 13). Did you know that the Biblical context of the “love chapter” (1 Cor 13) is a demonstration of how church members should relate to one another? Imagine a church that is filled with members who love and are patient, kind, not full of envy or boastful, not conceited or selfish, not easily provoked or kept a record of wrongs. True love doesn’t just love the lovable, doesn’t just encourage others when they do what we want, and doesn’t serve only when it is convenient. Love is the foundation of church membership and only possible through Christ.
- We are functioning members (12-26). Thom Rainer writes, “Do you know how to remain a member of a country club? Pay your dues. Do that and people will be available to serve you. Do you know how to remain a biblical church member? Give abundantly and serve without hesitation.” Biblical membership is a functioning membership (1 Cor 12:12-26). Simply being on a church membership role does not make you a Biblical member of the Body of Christ. Your church needs you and you need the church.
Have you made the commitment to give abundantly and serve without hesitation?
Grow Group Guide
I Will Be a Functioning Church Member (1 Cor 12:12-31)
As a result of this sermon, prayerfully consider making the following pledge to God to be a functioning Church member:
“I am a church member. I like the metaphor of membership. It’s not a membership as in a civic organization or a country club. It’s the kind of membership given to us in 1 Cor 12: “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it “(1 Cor 12:27). Because I am a member of the body of Christ, I must be a functioning member, whether I am an ‘eye’, an ‘ear’, or a ‘hand’. As a functioning member I will give. I will minister. I will evangelize. I will study. I will seek to be a blessing to others. I will remember that if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. (1 Cor 12:26).”
Questions for Reflection:
- Explain how country club membership and church membership are so different. Give scriptural references to support the difference in church membership.
- Explain why church membership is a biblical concept, using 1 Corinthians 12 as your biblical foundation.
- How is the “love chapter”, 1 Corinthians 13, related to church membership? Explain using all 13 verses of the chapter.
- How are the different parts of the body (ear, nose, mouth, hand, foot, eyes, etc.) related to church membership? How do the parts play out in our church?
- In relation to church membership, why is it important for members to know and use their spiritual gifts? Relate your answer to 1 Corinthians 12.