How we learn to live together as God’s people will affect how we live in the wider world. This was a point made early on in our teaching series from 1 Corinthians. It means that talking about church life isn’t, or at least shouldn’t be an introverted, naval gazing exercise.
So, throughout that series on what kind of church we should be, we talked a lot about the church being a community or family of God’s people, where because God is faithful in his love to us, we should be faithful, loving and accountable to one another.
This means that when we talk about church membership, we are not talking about a social club with a form to fill in, a membership card and benefits. We are not talking about an organisation that you opt into if it suits you and then if it does not meet your expectations, you first of all fill in a customer complaint and then if you are still not satisfied, you go and join another, better club.
There are some good reasons for this. First of all, a couple of gooreasons for your own spiritual health and that of the church.
1. Discipleship is relational and takes place over time. We grow to know and trust one another. We take time to listen to God’s word together and over time, we grow in Christ. Sanctification takes time.
2. Committed, faithful church members are able to grow in their gifts and learn to serve.
3. Committed, faithful church members provide stability, a sense of family and a welcome to others coming in. Often those coming in have experienced turmoil and chaos in their lives and so the church family can offer faithful love that they may not have experienced before.
4. Committed faithful church membership means that we learn to persevere through tough times together and share in the joy together of seeing the fruit of this.
5. Committed faithful church membership also protects us from triumphalism where we only get to experience the good times.
However, if we are meant to take these lessons out with us then:
1. We will learn to be faithful in relationships. What do you do when your marriage hits the rocks? How do you keep going when a bereavement knocks everyone back. How do you stick together when childlessness brings pain, frustration and disappointment. How do you find the energy each day to care for a chronically and/or terminally sick spouse or child. We find the strength and hope to do this in knowing that God is faithful to us. We learn this faithfulness together as a church family by going through the ups and downs together.
2. We learn to be faithful in the workplace. Now, there are good reason for changing job and there are necessary reasons too. Sometimes we are expected to move to a new job by the company. Sometimes, our sense of vocational calling means that the best way to a hi everyone this is through accepting a promotion or transfer. However, at times our society treats each job merely as a stepping stone on the individual career ladder. What would happen if we saw our work as a vocation? What if we weren’t looking out for the next promotion, the next move? Loyalty and faithfulness in the workplace can be deeply rewarding as relationships with customers, suppliers and colleagues grow. It also means we see the long term development of a business. We get to pay forward to future generations the benefits of skills and experience passed on from our mentors. If we are believers, we build up a reputation as honest, caring, hard workers and this gives us permission to witness.
3. This applies to community life too. As with work and church, sometimes moving on is necessary. You may have to move because of work or to help with a church plant. You may need somewhere bigger as the family grows. However, there is a huge benefit to putting down roots into community. This means not simply seeing your home as rung on the housing ladder and looking for the next step up. One huge benefit of this is that if you are buying your house, then the day comes when you can see the redemption date for your mortgage in sight! More importantly you get to build friendships with others. You build up trust. Once again your in a position where you increasingly have permission to witness.