Most of us, as we face change are clearly in one of two categories. We are either so fed up with our current situation that we welcome change or we are so unsure of the outcome that we fight against any change.
Which of these two options is healthy? I am not sure either is a healthy option. If we are so discouraged as to accept any situation as better than our current, we could end up in a worse situation, even moral failure. If we fight any and all change we could end up dry, hard-hearted and irrelevant.
We must find the middle ground. This takes a little work. As a church we must consider changing to meet the needs of our culture. But can we trust our leaders to maintain our focus on the important things, the things on which we cannot waiver, like the triune God and Jesus is the only way of salvation, the inerrancy of the Bible, the depravity of man, etc? So what changes? Are we planning to become like the world in our behavior or water down the scriptures as to not offend? NO, MAY IT NEVER BE! But the world is changing. The way people interact is changing. The way people hear and receive information is changing. We must change the way we interact with people and the way we deliver information. The information does not change. The message has been the same for over two-thousand years, it will never change! But if we desire to live out the command to make disciples of every tribe, tongue and nation, we must deliver that message in the most effective way.
Call it change? Be afraid of it? This is not who the God of all creation, the King of kings and the Lord of lords wants me to be. He wants me to change, to be better at being a disciple of Jesus than I was yesterday. So, let’s just call it improvement, no one is scared of better!
I was a little surprised but somewhat confirmed recently reading an article about Gen Z. I have known some of these facts but needed to be reminded. This information was tallied by "Gospel Project", a publishing arm of Lifeway. Here are some of the stats:
78% believe in God Watch 2-4 hours of YouTube each day
Social Media impacts them You have 8 seconds to engage them
76% have a Netflix subscription 40% attend religious services
Are always connected
More than ever I believe this generation wants to connect and be part of a cause. They are even willing for that cause to be the gospel if we connect, inspire and make them a part of it. I have often attempted to impress students and adults with my wise words and lofty speeches. I am reminded regularly that it is a clanging symbol if not from the heart. In I Corinthians chapter 2, Paul is telling the church how he came to them and why. And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Young people have been used to change the world since the days of King Josiah. God can and will use them. We have to connect and inspire them and then empower them. Please do not overlook them.
From John 17
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
This passage is one of the most personal ones in scripture. This is Jesus praying for me and you specifically. He says He wants to be one with us, “perfectly one”. Why? So that the world may know that God sent Jesus and loves us.
So what does this mean to me? What does it look like to be one with Jesus? It means your life looks different than everyone around you. It means your conversations lead to sharing your testimony. It means your mouth is not so foul that you can’t still eat with it. It means you care about others, no matter the color of their skin or where they were born. It means you give until it hurts and you are not sure if you will be able to go on vacation this summer. It means you want to see empty chairs filled with more worshippers, especially younger ones, because you want this church to be here in 50 more years. It means you don’t whine and complain about things that are not contrary to scripture or morally wrong. It means we care so much about each other that we can allow differences…as long as our focus is on Jesus and bringing more worshippers to Him.
Now tell me, what are you going to do with this information? Will you go to work tomorrow and listen to those dirty jokes or will you share the gospel with that one co-worker God has been urging you to speak to?
It’s time to take your relationship with Jesus to a more intimate level. You can be a fan of what God is doing here and around the world. You can come here every Sunday and watch Him do His work. You can read about all the things He has done throughout history in the bible. You can have friends that know Him well. But until you get personal with Jesus there will be no power in it. It will be no different than me being a fan of Cam Newton. I know him, but he does not know me. Does Jesus know you? Or will you hear on judgment day “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
It pays to belong to a group. You too may be a member of Sam's Club, Costco or AMWAY. I can buy an automobile without the haggling. I can book a cruise at a discounted rate. I can buy a box of toilet paper that would last a normal family for decades to come. Membership has it's privileges.
What about membership in the local church? Is this still important to today's Christian? Does it have any benefits to the ever increasingly busy and frazzled families of today?
I submit to you a resounding YES!!!
The following is John MacArthur's definition of church membership:
"When an individual is saved, he becomes a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Because he is united to Christ and the other members of the body in this way, he is therefore qualified to become member of a local expression of that body.
To become a member of a church is to formally commit oneself to an identifiable, local body of believers who have joined together for specific, divinely ordained purposes. These purposes include receiving instruction from God’s Word (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 4:2), serving and edifying one another through the proper use of spiritual gifts (Rom. 12:3-8; 1 Cor. 12:4-31; 1 Pet. 4:10-11), participating in the ordinances (Luke 22:19; Acts 2:38-42), and proclaiming the gospel to those who are lost (Matt. 28:18- 20). In addition, when one becomes a member of a church, he submits himself to the care and the authority of the biblically qualified elders that God has placed in that assembly."
Here are three practical reasons church membership is crucial to today's Christian:
First, it is biblical. The term member is not used in the Bible but the concept of commitment certainly is. The word partnership is used and that is a very good way of understanding membership. In Philippians 1:5 Paul wrote, "I thank my God for your partnership in the Gospel."The bible clearly teaches partnership and commitment.
Second, church membership fosters stability. Membership creates an atmosphere of loyalty and togetherness. It is always easier to endure a trial in a group. It is more efficient and the likelyhood of success is greater when we work together. We are more likely to keep our focus if there is a group of us all headed toward the same goal.
Third, it gives us a mechanism for accountability. "Going" to church is not the same as being a church member. Simply attending allows you to blend in and disappear in the crowd. Just attending inhibits you from becoming the part of the body God can most effectively use for His glory. Members make commitments that you are then held accountable for keeping. Accountability is a critical part of the Christian life and membership gives the church that authority to hold you accountable.
If you have not submitted yourself to the authority and benefits of the local church, it is past time for you step up to this level of commitment and participation in the local church. Come forward at this Sunday's worship service and join up. We will all be stronger together.