Sunday, September 4, 2016

Church Membership and Costly Discipleship, Part Two

Rick Warren was right-on when he said that church members should commit themselves to three things: one worship experience weekly, one small group experience weekly, and one ministry area in the church where they serve weekly.  

The only way for a church or ministry to work is for people to take responsibility to make things happen weekly.  Not just to attend.  Not just to give.  But to serve.  To make things happen.

Does it cost something?  Does it inconvenience?  Does it take time?  Absolutely.  But that is part of following Jesus in the life of His church. 

Believers serve not because their life is not busy.  They serve because they make serving a priority.  Most of the faithful servants in churches I have known through the years are also the busiest people I have known.

I remember watching my mother during my high school years.  A high school French and English teacher, she had five different subjects which meant she had five different preparations.  She worked hard, staying up many nights until nine or ten working on school.  She cleaned the house, shopped, and cooked.  And then every Sunday morning she taught Sunday  School for senior high girls.  That meant that every Saturday afternoon, she sat down for two or three hours and prepared for Sunday School.  During the school year it meant she attended a youth teachers' meeting many Wednesday nights.

In today's church culture, she could have easily said, "I don't have time.  I am too busy.  There are other people who can do this.  This doesn't make me happy.  This is too inconvenient."  But she believed to honor Jesus she needed to serve weekly in her church.

Today, thirty years later, she battles chronic pain daily.  She has numerous ailments causing much discomfort.  And every week she spends hours preparing and on Sunday morning standing up and teaching about twenty ladies a Bible lesson.  Serving is not convenient.  But she believes it is the lifestyle of a faithful disciple of Jesus.

·       Martha Fowler, a young senior adult, taught my fourth grade Sunday School class.  I remember how seriously she took the Bible, revered God, and loved her students.  

·    Della Thomason, who just turned 100, taught third grade Sunday School in one church I served for decades.  She finally “retired” from teaching children when she was about ninety years old.

What a wonderful example Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A, left.  He faithfully taught Sunday School to elementary boys in his church for more than forty years.  A busy, successful CEO of a billion-dollar company preparing and teaching little boys the Bible weekly.  Why?  Not because it was convenient.  But because as a servant of Jesus he believed it was better to build boys than mend men.  And he knew Jesus would reward him on his service, not his chicken sandwiches.

Henry and Melvin Blackaby discuss the inconvenience of serving God in the local church in their workbook study Your Church Experiencing God Together.

Jesus never hid the cost of being His disciple.  He made it clear that His disciple would have to deny self, take up his cross, and follow Him.

All God's people would share in the cost when any part of the body was suffering.  The cost of following Jesus would be real, personal, and at times deadly.  The cost could only be endured faithfully in the context of God's people corporately.  Unfortunately, I have found that today we intentionally avoid the cost of discipleship.

Members deliberately abandon the people of God during times of cost in order to go to another church where they can find times of blessing instead.  What a tragic misunderstanding of discipleship!  What an affront to God's great salvation that our generation can be so self-centered, forsaking God's will when the cost of discipleship gets hard.  Church hopping usually arises out of a selfish desire to be happy, when the Lord desires that His disciples be holy.  He desires for them to make a difference where He has put them and not simply go to the place where their needs are better met.

Too many people today look for shortcuts in their Christian life or substitutes for the hard, painful, and weary work of a disciple.  They want instant gratification but no cross.  They look for ease and comfort in life, but they're unwilling to count the cost of following Jesus.  If they don't receive honor, position, and recognition, they search out other churches that will grant them recognition so they can be satisfied in their Christian lives.  The thoughts of scars or wounds, like their Master's, doesn't enter their heads.

This comfort-zone mentality too often characterizes individual believers, but more tragically it reflects the same mentality in the churches.  

'Make us successful so my family and I can be happy!'

'Don't ask me to help start a mission church; it would cost our family too much!'

We can't remain comfortable and go with Christ at the same time.  There will be a cost when He leads us.

For those thinking, "I need to go find a church that is enjoying true fellowship," you may need to stay where you are and be the one to open the door for your church.  God may have put you in your church so that HE could work through you to express His love to the rest of the church.  If one person recognizes it is Jesus who is knocking, and that one person opens the door, He will come in.  Don’t leave the church; the church needs you.  If you are walking with God, thath love will begin to touch everyone in the life of your church.  I have watched that happen.  I have watched God do it.  Could you be that one?  Are you willing to be that one?

Or, as John Piper writes, "Coronary Christians are like the heart in the causes they serve.  Adrenal Christians are like adrenaline – a spurt of energy, and then fatigue.  What the church and the world need today is marathoners, not just sprinters.  People who find the pace to finish the (lifelong) race.

Oh, for coronary Christians!  Christians committed to great causes, not great comforts.  I plead with you to dream a dream that is bigger than you and your families and your churches.  Un-deify the American family, and say boldly that our children are not our cause; they are given to use to train for a cause.  They are given to us for a short season so that we can train them for the great causes of truth and mercy and justice in a prejudiced, pain-filled, and perishing world."

-  John Piper, Life is a Vapor

Yes, John.  Oh, for more coronary Christians!

The study by the Blackabys has also been made into a book called A God-Centered Church

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