Building a Godly Community (Membership Class #5)
We conclude the membership class with exhortation to mutual love and ministry, practiced through discipline, service, and giving. For review the notes from Class #1 are here and the notes from Class #2 are here and the notes from Class #3 are here and the notes from Class #4 are here.
Through love and discipline
Matt 18:15–20; Rom 12:10; Eph 4:25; Heb 3:13; 2 Tim 4:1–2; 1 Pet 5:1–4
Church discipline is a taboo subject today. It is indeed an aspect of the life of the Church that is often fraught with danger, with some too eager to exercise discipline while others are too reluctant. But church discipline is a vitally important ministry of the Church, and is an exercise of Christian love.
We may take “church discipline” in two ways. First, taken in a broad sense, it entails the members of the church speaking the truth in love. Sometimes we keep silent when we notice sin patterns in another believer. Indeed, experience teaches us approaching someone concerning their sins is often dangerous. It is risky. But we ought to see the difference between what is a loving thing to do vs. what is the easy thing to do. The easy thing to do is to ignore sin, let the elders and pastors handle it. But Christian love means loving someone with a costly love, doing what may be hard. “Church discipline” in this broad sense means accountability.
“Church discipline” may also be taken in a narrower, more technical sense. In this case it involves the ministry of the elders, who, through appropriate counseling, encouragement, instruction, and rebuke, seek to restore the erring believer. Too often, church discipline gets shortchanged because it is simply too easy to go to another church to avoid discipline. But membership vows include a commitment to submit to the elders. In turn we will not receive as members those who are under discipline at another church.
The goal, however, of church discipline, is restoration of the erring person and growth in holiness.
Through serving the saints
Rom 13:8–10; Gal 5:13–14
Membership vows also entail a commitment to be present and serve the body. In the context of Grace Fallbrook, the fact that we do not have a facility of our own, as well as the geographical distance of the members present certain challenges. It takes an extra measure of effort to stay connected and to function as a body during the week, and not merely as passing strangers who happen to meet in the same room one day a week.
How, then, can we serve the body? Make it your priority to keep the Christian Sabbath day holy. Be present in worship, and participate in fellowship. Fellowship, of course, means more than enjoying the refreshments after the service. It means to spiritually engage the members of the church, asking, for example, how we may pray for one another, and seeking opportunities to exercise love and care. Also, seek out ways to devote the Lord’s Day for spiritual purposes. This may include participating afternoon / evening studies, hosting a church member / family for lunch or dinner, or perhaps inviting a new visitor for a meal. Let us devote the Lord’s Day to God and his people.
Acts 20:35; 2 Cor 8:9–15; 2 Cor 9:7
We build a godly community through giving. Giving is an acknowledgement that we may not enjoy anything without first acknowledging the Giver (Calvin). Giving is also a spiritual discipline that will help us maintain spiritual focus of our lives. There are, indeed, circumstances where financial giving is not possible. If so, the Lord knows our situations and we do not need to fear. This is especially the case knowing that financial giving is not the whole of our Christian service, but only a part. People who love the Lord give themselves away in more ways than one.
The ordinary pattern of Christian life is to acknowledge God in all areas of our lives, to live in such a way that we are storing our treasures in heaven. This certainly means making sacrifices in some ways. It also means a long term planning of our finances. We should strive to be good stewards of God’s gifts.
How much should we give? That is up to you. One part of OT commitment was the tithe, giving a tenth of our possession to the Lord. The NT standard is to strive for generosity and sacrifice.