Let me call this article “A Practical Guide to Christian Discipleship.”
No one hands new members a manual with the do’s and don’ts of being a member, or disciple of Jesus, in a modern church setting. Certainly, we receive a Bible to provide us guidance, but that document is much to decipher, digest and apply.
Thru this newsletter, I want to offer several suggestions for navigating church membership/discipleship issues on a practical day by day basis.
The first truth to learn about membership is that it is rooted in our Lord’s command to love others, as He loves us. Love is a positive and not a negative response to conflict. If someone says or does something we dislike, respond in a positive way. Offer constructive suggestions, rather than negative criticism. The Apostle Paul says love builds up. Build up the other and work together to achieve the goals Christ sets for us, as His disciples.
Churches and their members may say or do things that aggravate or offend others. How do we respond in those situations? The Apostle Paul reminds us “we are to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit…” We have a responsibility to maintain the unity of the congregation, despite disagreements.
Anger bubbles right to the surface when we are upset by what we do not like. Step back and cool down before responding to others. Think about what your response will be. Respond in a manner that does not anger the other person but encourages them to join in thinking through a better way to express feelings or accomplish the task at hand.
Inevitably, mistakes will be made. Others make mistakes and so do we. Martin Luther once said, “Simul justus et peccator.” We are both sinner and justified at the same time. Despite our best intentions, our words and deeds do not always accomplish the goals we set. Let the past failures go and focus on creating a better future. Forgiveness expresses love and maintains church unity.
Church membership is an expression of discipleship. Everything Jesus says about discipleship applies to membership. Membership implies commitment. Christ commits to us, and we commit to him. Commitment is an expression of our love for others within the congregational setting. That congregation is the incarnation of the body of Christ. Commitment is the corner stone of church unity. No commitment, no unity. No unity, no body of Christ.
I once knew a couple who joined one church after the other, but sooner or later left the congregation in a huff. They didn’t just forsake a church, but their discipleship as well. Christ expects us to bond with our congregation, as an expression of our love for others and discipleship.
Remember this. The local congregation is the visible body of Christ. Membership is an expression of discipleship. We are called to love and forgive one another to maintain the unity of the congregation. Most importantly, we recall that church membership and discipleship coexist in the congregation through us. They can’t be separated for our convenience or in anger.