September 18, 2016   Romans 12:1 -11 Church


   In Thom Rainer book I Am a Church Member he shares a tale of 2 church members.  Michael and Liam began meeting for Monday morning breakfast at 6 A M over 5 months ago.  They originally thought it would be a onetime event.  They met in a couple’s bible study in church.   For many different reasons they hit it off and became good friends.  When Michael originally invited Liam to meet him for breakfast on a Monday morning several months ago Liam readily agreed. The 2 men enjoyed their time together so much that the onetime event became a weekly event.   It is now rare that the 2 friends not to meet on Monday morning.  

    Early in their relationship the conversations focused on sports, family and politics.  They had a lot in common. Michael was 41 and Liam was 39.  They each had 3 kids and they both were college football fanatics.  Each of their teams was in the same football conference, but they were pretty fierce rivals as well.  They enjoyed trash talking the others team in a friendly spirit.  But on this Monday morning the conversation turned serious.  Michael and his wife had noticed some changes in the demeanor of Liam in their bible study group.  He no longer seemed interested in studying and discussing the Bible as he did talking about their church.  And his comments were often critical about the congregation where the 2 families both had memberships. 

   Still Michael was caught off guard on that particular Monday morning.  Liam loved the poached eggs in the little restaurant it was his regular order.  But on this morning he had not touched them and he was barely sipping his coffee.  Liam did not take long to get to the point.   Michael he began Lana and I have decided to leave church.  The pause seemed to last minutes.  Neither of the men seemed to know who should speak next.  Michael took the initiative and spoke softly and deliberately.  You want to tell me about it Michael enquired?  He honestly did not know if Liam wanted to say any more about it.  His friend seemed resolute.  Nevertheless Liam began to explain his feelings and decision.  Lana and I went to the church to learn deep truths about the bible Liam offered.  But Pastor Robert is not just feeding us.   We are not getting anything out of his messages.  Sitting in the service Sunday morning was just a waste of time.  Michael did not respond he could tell Liam had more to share. 

   There are several great people in this church Liam continued.   You and Karen are the best and there are a few more like you.  He paused and his facial expressions got even more serious.  But honestly Michael our church is full of hypocrites.  Did you hear Jim at the kid’s basketball game?  He embarrassed me by the way he was screaming at the refs.  What kind of testimony is that for a Christian?   And of course everyone knows about Neil.  He was supposedly a pillar of the church and we find out he has been cheating on his wife for over a year.  What kind of church is this with these kinds of people?   Liam was angry but controlled as he continued to vent.  Look pastor Robert acts like he cares for us but I am not so sure that he does.  I told him Lana’s dad was in the hospital for surgery and he never visited him.  Michael knew that Lana’s father was not a church member and he lived 50 miles away.   He also knew that pastor Robert called him and had prayer with him.  But he also knew that any rebuttal would not be appreciated at the moment.  Michael held his tongue. 

   Now it seemed that Liam’s mild rant was winding down.  Liam seemed exhausted and ready to bring the conversation to a close.  He did however offer a few pointed comments and two insightful questions.   Michael Liam began softly.   I really like you and Karen and your kids.  All of you are a clean act.  He paused briefly but you seem enthused about the church.  You keep serving and contributing.  Don’t take me wrong, but I wonder at times if you are blind to all the problems in the church.  Then Liam offered a closing remark that really spoke more than he realized.  We are really 2 different types of church members he stated.  Why is that?  Why do we have such different perspectives? 

   Rainer writes that 9 out of 10 churches are declining or growing slower than the growth in the community. He writes that 2/3 of those born before 1946 are Christian while those born from 1980 to 2000 known as the millennials are only 15 % Christian.  We blame it on the culture, on godless politics, on churches, on pastors, hypocritical church members and so on.  He writes that we need to look in the mirror.  What does it mean to be a church member?  What does it mean to be in the body of Christ?  He says many join churches expecting others to care for us to feed us and to care for us.  He talks about entitlements.  People have tremendous expectations today.  
     Most of the time people do not join to minister to others.  Many will not even join a church.  We do not like the music, we do not like the message, we do not like the building, we do not like this or that and Satan will give hundreds of reasons.  When a person does not join they withhold.  They hold back.  They will not make the commitment.  A house divided against its self cannot stand.  We want the church to be united and be strong but often it is not.  Many will not join the church.   We want the nation to pull together.  The nation is fragmentized.  Society is fragmented.  Even the church cannot get together.  Seems like the church should set the course or example for the nation.  Does the nation see the church together?   Does the nation see unity in the church?    Why is there so much division?    I wonder who is behind that.   Ha.  I am reminded today that Jesus did not hold back for us.  Jesus did not hold back for those that would not accept him.  Jesus loved those at the cross that were mean to him.  Jesus loves his church…Jesus is committed to his church.  Are we on the same page as Jesus? 

     It is very hard to get Christians in church today.   Many have been burned and hurt and it is tough to forgive.   Many have seen the hypocrisy in the church and want nothing to do with it.  I understand it.  I have many times wanted to leave the church.  Many of us are angry on how the church operates today.  We are a strange bunch.  Many churches today are liberal.  In this church we want to follow what the bible says.  Not all churches try to follow the bible.   It is hard to get those in the church committed. It is hard for Christians to love one another and pull together today and be committed to each other but the church needs that.  I think we need to ask what does the Lord want.   How does Jesus look at this?   Is Jesus pleased with my commitment?  I understand that when a person accepts Jesus and becomes born again he or she becomes part a member of the church or the body of Christ.  I guess there is membership in the world wide church but not the local body if that makes sense.  80/20 rule

   If we are going to do what God wants us to do we must look in the mirror once in awhile.  We need to ask the Lord what he wants us to do.   What does God want Bethel to do?  Where are we going as a church?  We have started to discuss in the board about the possibility of youth ministry in the church and doing it is such a way that the community can see the church together and the whole church can be involved.  It is really exciting.  Every member of the church can be active and involved.  We can function as a church.  That is why I think VBS is so good for the church.  The church as a body is involved.  We can serve together and all of us can use our abilities. 

   What does it mean to be a functioning church member?   Is that Jesus will for every Christian?  Usually when we join something it means there are some perks and privileges.  People are into entitlements.  As a member I am entitled to what?   Do we look for what we can get or what we can give?  As Christians we do have perks.  Jesus has blessed us and Jesus answers our prayers.  Jesus has also blessed us with spiritual gifts.   Those gifts are not to be buried but to be used.   Each Christian has the responsibility to learn what their gifts are and use them for the glory of God.  Remember the parable that Jesus told of the servants who were given talents and Jesus did not bless the one who buried his talent. 

     The church is not a country club.  It is a place to minister and to be minister to.   When the bible talks about members or the body of Jesus scriptures talk about service.  The King James mentions members of the body of Jesus 10 times in I Corinthians 12.   The bible talks about members in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4.    In this Romans passage we see how God wants the church to be.  In verse 1 present your bodies as living sacrifices.  Do not be conformed to this world but so walk with God that we know God’s will.  In verse 3 we are told do not have an inflated view of ourself.    Some may think well I am the pastor I am hot stuff.   That is not it at all.   Pastors and teachers have been gifted we have a huge responsibility to serve. 

  God gave us gifts not to be proud but so that we can serve.  We see that each member belongs to all the other.  Then whatever gift God has given us we are to use it.   Use what God has given you to help others.  Paul wrote be devoted to one another.  What does it mean to you to be devoted to one another.  Honor others above yourself.  And never be lacking in our zeal.  Be fervent in our service to Jesus.  From these verses we get a sense of giving and love.   We sense peaceful relationships where people help each other.   That is not the reputation of the church today.  Every church has things to work on.  If we cannot love and accept one another how in world can we invite the world in?   Is Bethel the kind of church you can invite others to?   Would you feel good about bringing others here?   I pray for healing in this church when we meet on Sunday.  I pray the power of the Holy Spirit to be here to minister and to set people free. 

    God has designed and desires His church to function like a loving family that you can invite people into.  We live in a broken world and some of these folks will bring some deep pain and struggles with them.  Is it easier to love broken people than church people?   God tells us to love each other.    God expects and desires that His church grows and He expects us to grow as individuals.    Jesus said the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church.   The church is a hospital in that people can come to and be accepted and loved and healed.  Jesus church is a place for healing.    But the church is also a place to nurture growth.    The church is a place for shepherds, not generals.   It is a place for mothers and fathers to nurture and help new Christians to grow.   It is challenging at times to help others grow in their faith.   At times they do not take your counsel.  They have a mind of their own.   Sometimes it takes years for them to trust you and to listen to you.  Sometimes even after several years you wonder how far they have grown.   It can be hard to love people who are growing in their walk but you will find that God uses that in your own life.     As you commit yourself to help others grow you find that you learn to be more like Jesus.    We grow in love and in faith and patience.    Many times there can be the desire to give up. 

      Paul struggled often with those that he ministered to.   In Galatians 4 he writes my dear children for whom I am again in the pains of child birth until Christ be formed in you.  We get a flavor of family in that.  Paul said I labor like child birth.   Often he said he prayed for the churches day and night.     In Ephesians 4 God gave apostles, pastors, teachers, evangelist and prophets to build up the church.  The body ministers to the body of Christ.   We are called to minister to one another and help each other become mature.    This passage tells us that as we minister to one another we build up the body of Christ.   As we get involved with one another and minister to one another we grow as a body and are no longer tossed about by everything that comes down the pike.   Ministry can have its ups and its downs

     As every Christian grows he or she should be involved in helping others come to Jesus.    The church is a place that exists for the purpose of helping people grow and mature from nonChristians or spiritual babies to being spiritual adults.    There is nothing wrong with babies but when a child is 10 years old he should be a lot more mature than when he was 1 year old.  The body of Jesus is such that all of us can minister.  All of us can be involved in building others up.