The divorce rate, we’ve all been told, is no different among professing Christians than those of the world. “One out of two marriages, including ‘Christian’ marriages ends in divorce,” we are often reminded. It makes for shocking headlines, except for the fact that there is no data that actually supports this. Thankfully.
The reality is that the gospel empowers those it saves to be promise keepers. It empowers Christians to persevere amid relational and other tensions that sometimes arise in a marriage. Thankfully, the majority of Christians exercise integrity regarding their covenant of marriage. Christian discipleship calls for and expects followers of Jesus Christ to be people of their word, to be people of integrity, to be people who keep covenant. Including their covenantal responsibilities as church members.
In our Sunday morning Family Bible Hour, our congregation is spending eight weeks looking at our church covenant. The goal is to do this together; that is, church members gathering to be reminded of both our privileges and responsibilities as members of this local church. Hopefully, the classes will not be merely monologues. Rather, our time together is designed to stimulate helpful dialogue whereby church members encourage one another with insights, and perhaps even an occasional admonition.
The financial services company American Express at one time (perhaps still?) used the slogan, “American Express: Membership has its privileges.” I often think of that when thinking about church membership. It certainly has its privileges!
For example, think of the privilege of the Lord’s Supper, in which we are privileged to recognise both the immanent and the transcendent blessing of the “many becoming the one.” At the Lord’s Supper, we are privileged to look around at our fellow members, thanking God for his saving grace in their lives, as in ours; marvelling that God, in his great kindness, has placed us in the same local church to worship and to serve him.
Think of the church membership privilege of serving one another, using our varied gifts to build up one another in the faith, pointing one another to Jesus Christ who is our all in all.
Consider another privilege of church membership: that of mutual accountability, lovingly coming alongside fellow church members to encourage one another to keep on following our Lord and Saviour. What a privilege to belong to a family that is concerned enough about our welfare to speak truth to each other.
Another privilege of church membership is the mutual commitment to help one another to keep marital covenants as well as principled and practical assistance in raising children for the Lord. “Heaven help the home” is a prayer that is answered in the community of committed church members who have a vested interest in our homes thriving under the lordship of Jesus. This is a privilege of meaningful church membership that only the short-sighted, or foolhardy, would ignore.
Finally, church members also have the privilege of having spiritual shepherds who are committed to feeding, leading, and giving heed to the spiritual welfare of their souls. Though these shepherds will disappoint at times, nevertheless, as they and the church pursue covenantal integrity, the flock will grow in its Christ-centred discipleship.
More privileges of church membership could be enumerated, but let these suffice to stimulate us to appropriate, to apply, and to appreciate these privileges. As we do so, not only will our own devotion to Christ be strengthened, but so will the Christian discipleship of our fellow church members. May God help us through our studies to grow in covenantal integrity as Christ’s disciples—together.
Grateful for the privilege,