The following post was written by Andrew Jacobson in 2014 as part of a discipleship blog series. We are revisiting these topics in our current sermon series and publishing his writings here with his permission.
As we continue our series on the First Free Discipleship Vision, we turn our attention to the second component, Church-Committed. Our goal for this area of discipleship is that we want everyone at First Free to be a committed & active member of the body of Christ using their gifts to serve one another, humbly being accountable to the leadership, and participating in the mission to reach the world with the Gospel.
Is Church Optional?
For some this may seem like a no-brainer but given the direction and influence of our culture many find this unnecessary. It’s becoming trendy to say things like, “I like Jesus but not the Church,” or “I’m part of the Church but the Church isn’t a building you go to on Wednesday and Sunday.” What is implied in these statements and others like them is that participating in corporate gatherings of local churches is an optional component of Christianity. But would the Scriptures agree with this popular sentiment. Would the fact that Christ died for the Church (Acts 20:28) and is working even now to build His Church (Matthew 16:18) mean that a “churchless” Christian is an oxymoron? Or would the picture of the early Church in Acts who met together regularly to learn, pray, and love each other (Acts 2:42-47) serve as a warning to those who refuse to follow their example? We think so.
Christians are saved into a family, and that family finds expression throughout the globe in local churches where brothers and sisters in Christ gather regularly to worship their Father and Savior together. You cannot claim to have God as your Father if you reject His children as your brothers and sisters (1 John 4:20). Moreover, we need one another to receive and practice the “one anothers” of Scripture that are so vital to our growth as Christians.
7 Church Commitments
As we have searched the Scriptures we have boiled down what it means to be a true member of the Church to seven commitments. We would ask that you examine your own commitment to the local church in light of these and pursue growth in them as well. Someone who is Church-Committed:
1. Submits to the spiritual leadership of the church
Hebrews 13:17 gives this clear command to Christians: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (cf. I Thessalonians 5:12-13) Among other things submission to leadership means honoring the direction of the mission of the church, praying for them, speaking graciously of them and being accountable to them.
2. Engages consistently in corporate worship
Hebrews 10:25 offers a cautioning reminder to believers that they should not forsake “meeting together, as is the habit of some.” In Acts 2:42 this picture of the early Church is painted as an exemplary model for us: “They [the believers] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” As believers we ought to prioritize and devote ourselves to the corporate gathering of worship and see it as an essential aspect of our membership and discipleship in a local church.
3. Utilizes their gifts for the building up of the local body
Membership in a local church is the opposite of a consumer mindset: “What do I get and what goods and services do they offer me?” It is a servant mindset: “How can I use my gifts to advance the mission of the church and edify the body?” I Peter 4:10 clearly lays out this mindset: “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” The question of serving in a local church is never ‘if’ but ‘how’ and ‘where.’
4. Promotes relational unity within the church
One of the core concerns of Paul’s writing to the churches was a desire for unity, which is spelled out in Ephesians 4:1-3: “Then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” All the relational qualities that Paul calls Christians to have in verse 2 are for the purpose of upholding and bolstering verse 3 - “unity.” This component of church membership is the summation of all the “one another” commands in the New Testament.
5. Matures and maintains an honorable witness to Christ
Believers, as part of the Church, are called to be ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are called to represent Jesus to a watching world of unbelievers (I Peter 2:11-12). This is exactly what Jesus calls us to in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” The body of believers is to act as a light pointing to The Light of the World. One essential way we do this is by continually and increasingly conforming to the character of Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8; Titus 2:10).
6. Supports the mission and ministry of the church financially
In order for some who are called to devote themselves full-time to ministering to the church family, there is a financial need that members are called to meet (Galatians 6:6; I Timothy 5:17-18; I Corinthians 9:14). The example of the early church shows us that we ought to care for and meet the financial needs of those in our midst (Acts 4:32-35). If we are going to minister the Gospel to the world, especially to the unreached peoples of the world, then we will have to use the wealth He has given us to spread His worship (Psalm 67:1-3). As believers our understanding of the sacrificial love of the Savior should lead us to sacrificially support the mission and ministry of the church (2 Corinthians 8:7-9).
7. Multiplies themselves through making and maturing disciples
At the end of His life Jesus was clear on the calling of all churches and the Christians who comprise them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20). This isn’t a calling only for the “super spiritual” or “paid pastors,” it is for all who claim the Name of Christ, because to be a disciple of Christ is to be a disciple-maker.