Membership in a local church isn't about having your name on the membership rolls, but about being an active participant as a part of the body of believers. Each member of the body must function effectively within the body for God to use us as God would.
Any professional race car driver will tell you that the race can be won or lost in the pits. Each member of the pit crew must coordinate their work with the efforts of others, and take the initiative to do whatever it takes to deal with unanticipated problems. Similarly, we need the full participation of everyone on our team for our church to come out ahead. How can we succeed in our mission if we won't stick together? God can only help the church to fulfill its design as each member functions effectively as a part of the body of Christ.
We read in Romans 12:4-6: "For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them..." Every Christian possesses a gift and is called to use it in service within the body to build up the body of Christ, to strengthen the body and to carry out its purpose within the world. Every member is also called to serve the church not only through his or her spiritual gifts but also through his or her natural talents and abilities. Each of us has a function to perform or a job to do within the church. And when one of us does not fulfill his or her responsibility the church fails to hit on all its cylinders. Like a motor that is misfiring on one of its cylinders will backfire, jerk, stop suddenly and move forward only with difficulty, so the church fails to be operating as powerfully and effectively as possible when not firing on all its cylinders.
There are many reasons why people are not involved in church. Some feel inadequate or useless. These individuals feel as if they do not have anything significant to offer in ministry. They minimize their strengths and believe that they personally are not qualified to serve. Some have been hurt by others through criticism or slight and are hesitant to get involved in service again. They don't realize everyone who has served in church for any period of time has been hurt by someone or something. Some have been waiting for just the right moment or for the perfect circumstances in the perfect church. For such sentiment, this poem says it all:
I think I shall never see
A Church that's all it ought to be:
A Church whose members never stray
Beyond the Strait and Narrow Way:
A Church that has no empty pews,
Whose Pastor never has the blues;
A Church whose Deacons always deak,
And none is proud, and all are meek:
Where gossips never peddle lies,
Or make complaints or criticize:
Where all are always sweet and kind,
And all to other's faults are blind.
Such perfect Churches there may be,
But none of them are known to me.
But still, we'll work, and pray and plan,
To make our own the best we can.
Though we may be an imperfect team, God has assembled us together for a purpose. If we look at the early church, they gathered together to become equipped to go out and proclaim the good news of the Gospel making disciples of others and teaching those disciples to replicate that activity of making disciples. Individually, they were perhaps not the best, the brightest, or the most able. They were a virtual hodgepodge of flawed men and women. Still, when they pooled their talents and abilities together around their devotion to Christ, they built the church and changed the world.
Remember the scene from the movie Hoosiers when the coach is talking to Jimmy about using his gift to play basketball. Jimmy had a gift but he refused to use it and the team suffered. Later in the movie when Jimmy joins the team, the team goes from average to a championship contender. In church, when we come together and use our varied gifts to serve Christ, we will strengthen the church and make our ministry more effective to the glorious end of changing lives. So, how about joining this team at Bethany? You are needed, wanted, and invited!
~ Dr. Bob