In today’s world we have become so good at “just attending” church that the role of an effective church member has become diluted. There are many aspects of being an effective church member, but for the brevity of this post we will discuss just a few. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12 about the function of the body of Christ. This gives us the framework of the characteristics of effective church membership. Here are just a few thoughts concerning what this looks like:
The body is created to operate in unity in order to fulfill its purpose.
When church becomes about our preference and our opinions, division takes place. Division will cause the body to stand still rather than moving forward, and there are enough challenges that the church will face in the future, let alone us having division on direction. Unity is a must.
One of the greatest challenges facing unity in the church is the consumer driven model focused on preference. It seems the chatter about the church is about what style we desire, what aesthetics we prefer, and somehow we have all formed opinions on the way things “should operate” in order to see sustained growth. I believe that the success of the church can be driven by those that make up the body, but a body fighting against itself will quickly diminish and have major health issues.
Unity requires putting our agenda on the back burner to grasp the vision and direction of the church. As we are planted where God has called us, our goal should be to know the vision and work to see it fulfilled in every way possible.
The body is more effective when each part functions to their highest capacity.
Individuals that make up the church should strive to assist in carrying the burden of ministry. It is common enough for us to rely on the key leaders to fulfill the mission of expanding God’s kingdom. New Spring Church in Anderson, South Carolina has changed their language from church ‘membership’ to “ownership”. Their statement is “that members have rights, yet owners have responsibilities”. This statement sums up our role as effective church members: we have a great burden to fulfill the mission God has called us to, and it isn’t solely placed on the shoulders of a lead pastor or ministry leader.
There are several ways in order to help assist in fulfilling God’s mission. First, we are called to support the mission with our finances. There are two sides that lack in this area: the neglect of giving faithfully and others who justify giving as their sole contribution. We should make sure we are giving faithfully as it is a vital part of sustaining ministry, but it can’t replace our call to serve. Secondly, we must give of our time to get in the trenches. In order to stay an effective part of the body, I believe that church members should find areas to serve and contribute to the mission. I am often reminded of the Good Samaritan and how people continued to pass by the need while continuing on their way. I believe there are too many needs within the churches that are being passed by due to the busyness or priorities of church members.
The body is created with defense mechanisms to protect.
As effective church members we are called to protect the body. The easiest way to let down our defense is to lose control of our mouth and our actions. It seems so easy to walk out the doors of a building on Sundays and fail to realize that the church isn’t a location, but it is the people. That means that we are carrying the church with us wherever we may roam. The way we carry out our speech and our lifestyle is a reflection of the body of Christ. Regardless of whether we may experience frustration, pain, disappointment, this does not give permission to become divisive in speech or conduct. We must fight to protect the institution of the church by living as a reflection of Christ. Effective church members fight to build unity, carry out the mission, and protect the sanctity of the church.
These are just three thoughts on what it takes to be an effective church member. What are ways that you contribute where you are planted? Can you be more effective where you are? If you could add to this list, what would it be?