Road 101: Session 5: Member of the Family

February 12, 2017 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Road 101

Topic: Gospel Passage: Hebrews 10:23–24

Christopher Rich – February 12, 2017
ROAD 101
Wk #5 Member of the Family | Hebrews 10:23-24

Introduction |
Good Morning! Welcome to Damascus Road Church where we are Saved by Jesus Work. Changed by Jesus Grace. Living on Jesus Mission. Today we concluded our Road 101 sermon series covering who we are, why we exist, what we do, and why we do it. This is a time to reinforce for those who have been a part of our church and integrate for those who are new so we can be unified as a family on mission together. Today we will look at How the church is like a family and how the new testament prescribes a church family to be arranged and function. In a family everyone has both relationships and responsibilities so everyone is to be connected and contributing as family on mission together. A family is not a family without members of it, otherwise it’s just a name an idea. We can have weird relationships with churches that look more like long term dating, attending an event, joining a club, or consuming resources then practicing a covenant.
Culturally, the world is reticent to make commitments without “benefits” they can tangibly measure. When church membership is properly understood as more than a Costco or a gym membership, even Christians begin to adopt a similar mentality. At the core is misunderstanding of commitment itself. Sadly, there are many relationships today where people live together for a long time without covenanting in marriage. In the same way, Christians often “date” a church (or two) like a girlfriend without even truly committing to her like a bride. They leave themselves a “back door” in case their personal preferences are offended, or as a way to avoid accountability, service, or sacrifice. We believe this attitude prevents the individual from enjoying the community God wants them to experience, as well as lessening the effectiveness of the body they are designed to contribute to. Because of this Damascus Road believes for us to flourish as a church practicing covenant membership is culturally necessary.

What is covenant membership and why have it at all? A “covenant” is simply a formal agreement between two parties. In Scripture, we read about covenant agreements between two parties certain obligations. Beginning with Adam, then through men like Noah, Moses, David, and finally Christ, we see God making sacred agreements promising His favor to men. When anyone enters into relationship with God by grace from, and faith in, the person and work of Jesus Christ they are entering into two covenants. The first is to journey with God for the rest of their lives and love Him fully. The second is to journey with His other children in the community of the local church. Church membership is simply an official recognition of this second covenant with a local body symbolizing a spiritual participation in the body of Christ.

Damascus Road believes membership is biblically encouraged. We believe every Christian is called by God to be passionately committed to a specific local church. Some argue that membership is unbiblical because it is not explicitly taught in Scripture. Because membership is implied, but not explicitly mandated in Scripture, some churches choose not to have formal membership. We believe that there are solid reasons to believe membership was part of the early church necessary to be obedient to the Scriptures.

Metaphors for the church There are a host of metaphors the Bible uses to explain the relationship of Jesus to his people, and Jesus’ people to Jesus – bride, flock, branches, building, crops, harvest, priesthood, house. Most of these highlight that our relationship to Jesus is not merely individual, but corporate. Four metaphors seem to be central: citizens, body, temple, and family. God chose these particular metaphors to describe a brand new people that are vitally and organically committed to one another by nature of their faith in Jesus Christ. With membership we live out our corporate identity in Christ as citizens, the body of Christ, the living temple of God, and the adopted family of God, with other followers of Jesus, in a local context. There are simply no examples of Christians in the Bible that lived separately from the local church. Because Jesus loves the His church, Essential to following Jesus is belonging to a specific, local family (church) of Jesus.

In Acts the first Christians corporately identify themselves as “churches”. The Apostle Paul planted churches not isolated Christians. Throughout the book of Acts the Apostle Paul’s aim was to plant churches, not merely convert isolated, independent individuals. We see this not only during his three missionary journeys, but also in his epistles which comprise the bulk of our New Testament – written in church (Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Corinthians, Thessalonians, etc).
Additionally, we see intentional records were kept of who was in the church, new “members” were added to their number daily as people were baptized they become part of the church. These members were mutually dependent and committed to one another. Church membership is an acknowledgement that God’s primary plan for the spread of the gospel is through the planting of local church-planting-churches.

Acts 20:28 | Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
Pastors/leaders are responsible for specific “sheep” and accountable to their members These verses tell us that the pastors/leaders knew who they were responsible for (i.e. the “flock”) and who they were to give an account for before Jesus Christ. In order to give an account, the pastors must know who they are accountable for. Clearly, this cannot mean that pastors/leaders are responsible for everyone, but only those who are part of their “flock”. As leaders we commit to lovingly caring for you and seeking your growth in Christ. Help you become equipped to serve Christ. Pray for you regularly, particularly when you are sick, and help in times of need. Provide preaching teaching and counsel from the Scriptures and that this teaching will span the whole counsel of God’s Word, to be on guard against false teachers, and help equip the saints for the work of ministry. We seek God’s will for our church community to the best of our ability as we study the Scriptures and follow the Spirit. We also set an example meeting the character criteria assigned in scripture and join you in fulfilling the duties of church member. Church membership allows the pastors to know who they are ultimately responsible for and ultimately responsible too.

Hebrews 13:17 | Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Christians are responsible to follow specific pastors/leaders. This command assumes that you have a covenant with certain spiritual leaders. They are responsible for you and you to them. Some people may say, “I am accountable only to God”. Ultimately, only God has authority over you. But the doctrine of sin should sober us about making ourselves the sole judges over our own hearts, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). Heb. 3:13 say we need others to exhort us “daily” lest we become hardened by sin. Just as pastors and leaders must know who they are responsible for, the church must know who they are to follow, emulate and honor. By becoming a member of a local church you are placing yourself under the watch and care of specific leaders who have been given the task of shepherding your soul. Impossible obey these verses without being a member.

What is the purpose of church membership? At Damascus Road Church, membership means being part of a family. It is a group of different people, with different personalities, different experiences, and different gifting who share one identity in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. This family is loved and led by biblically qualified leadership who work to proclaim Jesus’ teaching, call men to Jesus mission, and guard the purity of His bride, the church. By becoming a member at Damascus Road, you are in a sense marrying into a family - people willing to celebrate with you when things are good, cry with you when things are bad, to encourage you and lovingly stir you to remain steadfast especially when you are tempted to stray. The purposes of Damascus Road Church Family Membership are: To join the Spirit in forming authentic community that reflects the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. To clarify the ongoing blessings and responsibilities of each member. To encourage consistency, accountability and loving unity within the church family. To accomplish God’s call of mission for the Damascus Road Church Family.

What are the membership blessings? We don’t want to “sell” you on the benefits of membership so that you’re persuaded to join us. Joining a church will not save you any more than your good works, your education, your culture, your friendships, your financial contributions, or your baptism will save you. Non-Christians should not seek to join a church, but learn more about what the Bible says a Christian is. But, for those who are confessing Christians, we believe that living the Christian life alone is neither healthy nor wise. We believe that are some significant benefits to taking ownership in a church:

We shamelessly identify with Christ and His people, encourage other believers to commit to the local body versus consume and keep from being independent Christians. Our hope is that you can speak with confidence and love about your identification with Christ and His church community. Without doubt, we desire to see a committed group of people share, talk about, and declare their love for Jesus. We also desire to see people declare their love for Jesus’ bride through their own participation as well as their desire to invite others to belong. Because our world encourages consumerism, we believe it is a good thing to encourage commitment. Consumers exhaust resources without giving of themselves—they’re users. In the church, this manifests itself out in church-hopping where the believer skips around to different services looking for their next “fix.” Asking people to make a covenant, or a promise, encourages them to take their participation in the body seriously by owning it. Ownership will always produce more satisfaction than renting. Gospel Community is a core value because God’s very nature declares it. We are not made to be alone. As a part of our community, you have a family to love you, to cry with you, to laugh with you, to learn with you, to learn from you, and to serve you, as you do the same.

You participate in a stronger more unified effort of God’s people. Ecclesiastes 4.9 teaches that TWO people can accomplish more than TWICE as ONE. There is strength in numbers. There are very few things, if any, that are ever accomplished by one person. God has called a people, not a person, to join His mission. If we are to fulfill the calling of Jesus, we need each other. You have greater opportunities to use your giftings

You may have opportunity to lead church ministries or serve as a church leader. You will not find a verse that says you must be a member to lead a Bible study. It does say, however, that pastors must watch over and protect the flock from false teachers and false doctrine. Membership is one means through which we can protect the purity of the word and the church. As a member, you agree to uphold the teachings of the church and respect its leadership decisions. It is both practical and wise to ensure those leading the flock do so from the same foundation under the same authority.

What are the membership expectations? We encourage all of our members to live out their membership in the context of Scripture’s expectation for the Christian life. God wants more than just a name on a list. He expects that you will actually grow into active membership at Damascus Road and flesh out your promise to “support the Church” through involvement in the mission, not just your checkbook. There is, however, a proper balance between active involvement and over-commitment. Damascus Road seeks members who are thoughtful in their involvement levels. We feel it is important to serve but not to “burnout” in the name of the Lord. Our ministry activity should not become a barrier to living a God-honoring life but simply one expression of it. As a member of DRC, we hope, encourage, and expect all of our brothers and sisters to pursue both relationship and responsibilities. To only have relationship is to be a consumer and rely on contributions of others. To only have responsibilities is be a duty driven worker only and miss out on the connections that make for a joyful flourishing family. To best foster Relationships and Responsibilities as a family on mission together we live this out in 4 ways.

Hebrews 10: 23-25 | 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
GATHER | My journey in Christ will be evident through my regular participation in the corporate worship services, and involvement in a community group Flourishing Gospel Communities are those defined by a deep desire, love, and affection for one another that compels them to gather. Depth of displayed commitment to gospel communities has decline dramatically in our lifetimes. We are quick to church hop, looking for better programs, teaching, etc. We consider ourselves all in when we gather twice a month or less. Blogger regular wax poetic about Jesus but bemoan the church. You should have a good and right desire to be face-to-face with the people of God. To flourish as a disciple in your relationship with God is nothing LESS THAN having a flourishing relationship with God people. This is why we gather. You can get great teaching online. You can hear better music (well not on Christian radio) and sing in your car. Don’t “Like” your church gather with it. Your church may exist online and it may be a tool to help bridge gaps when teaching is missed or you want to go back and reference teaching you’ve had before but it is just a supplement not a meal. Oh I just had 5 vitamin C’s for dinner. No! There is a reason watching a game on TV is fun and exciting but going to a game in person is special. It is the power of gathering in community. There is a deep desire which leads to intentional action. Pastors get all the lame excuses on the planet, for not gathering. Some are legit, most are not. Most are people making a conscious or unconscious choice to prioritize something else OVER and ABOVE the gathering of God’s people. For some reason people seem to believe it necessary to give their excuse to us as if we’re the ones who it matters. We hold accountable, not grant approval. The reality is God knows your schedule, your responsibilities, and your desires, he has prescribed regular gathering with God’s people as essential for the Gospel community to flourish.

2 Cor 9:6-8 | 6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

GIVE | I will strive to properly manage the resources God has given me, including my time, body, gifts and talents, attitudes, finances and possessions This includes regular giving to Damascus Road Church that is sacrificial and cheerful (2 Cor 8& 9). Many do not give because they simply do not know how much should be given—they need to be taught how to give of their time, energies, or resources. Damascus Road does not require a certain percentage in order to be a member. Below are some questions that God’s Word challenges and guide us on our giving:

Cheerful - Our giving is rooted in an understanding of the gospel. That understanding leads to belief; our giving is a confession of that belief. Our giving should spring from a cheerful heart which God loves. God is not interested in your money but your heart. Our sacrifices do not mean as much to him as our repentance. We are do to all things, including giving, without grumbling and with joy, we do not give reluctantly or under compulsion so we ask Am I properly motivated in my giving? In essence, our motivation comes from a desire to give back to God as He has given to us. Secondary motivations include a love for others, a desire for reciprocity and a reward from God.

Intentional – Am I giving purposefully and regularly? Our giving should be on a regular basis, that is, weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc. Although there is nothing wrong with spontaneous giving, our giving should not be blind. Scripture suggests that we be more mindful and systematic about our giving. Therefore, giving should not be an afterthought or derived from “leftovers”. It should be a result of the firstfruits of our labor and intentionally planned as part of our budget (1 Cor. 16:1-2).

Sacrificial - Am I giving proportionally? Am giving generously? Our giving should be in accordance with how each of us has been prospered by God; according to our ability Many of us have been blessed by God abundantly, others have not. Some people can give much more than 10%, others much less. This is an issue that must be worked out in your own heart—but it must be worked out. We are called to give generously, even sacrificially, but not to the point of personal affliction

Ephesians 4:11-16 | 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
GROW | I will endeavor to maintain a close relationship with the Lord through regular personal Bible reading, prayer, fellowship and practice of the other spiritual disciplines. (Ps 119:97, 105) Walking with the Father: This is the regular, intentional, disciplined, use of the “means of grace” such as Bible reading, prayer, etc. We want all of our members to feast methodically for your own spiritual growth as you develop a deeper relationship with God. Humble, teachable spirit, taking opportunities to intentional grow in godliness and giftedness. Engage with Bible Studies, retreats, cohorts, and conferences. Being life long students who are always seeking to grow as disciples for their joy and they building up of the church.

1 Cor 12:12-20 | 12 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, yet one body.

GO, GET TO WORK | As part of the body of Christ, you serve a particular purpose. Without you we’re missing parts! The body might function, but it certainly is not robust. When you are using your God-given skill, gift, talent or resource for the body, you are fulfilling God’s ideal for His community.
We expect to use our God given giftings to the building up of the church, both at Damascus Road and universally. On two occasions the Apostle Paul addresses the great reality that God gifts individual followers of Jesus in order to build up the church. Now some of these gifts benefit the universal church (e.g. apostleship), but the vast majority are given by God to be used for the benefit of the local church (serving, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, mercy, etc). Specifically we ask everyone who is a member of the family to serve on one team one Sunday a month. If you have kids in Kids Road, one parent should be in KR once a month. A family member we are saying “I belong to this particular body and commit to exercising my God-given gifts here for its up-building and flourishing, alongside others who are doing the same. We don’t join a church so we can be served but to more effectively serve together.

Because Jesus actively pursues us we can actively gather with his people. Because he gave us his very life we can cheerfully, sacrificially and intentionally give. Because His 33 years of obedience is gifted to us we can continue to grow as disciples. Because he came to us on a mission not be served but to serve we can Go on mission and get to work as one member of a larger body of members who Trust Jesus.

 

More in Road 101

February 5, 2017

Road 101: Session 4: Doctrine

January 29, 2017

Road 101: Session 3: Leaders

January 22, 2017

ROAD 101: Session 2: The Church & Mission