Several weeks ago I finished Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s “Why We Love The Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion” and in preparation for my sermon this Sunday on membership I’ve picked it back up to help me think through this very important issue. With regards to the word “decorpulation” DeYoung says that
If decapitation, from the Latin word caput, means to cut off the head, then it stands to reason that decorpulation, from the Latin word corpus, should refer to cutting off the body…There is a growing movement among self-proclaimed evangelicals and in the broader culture to get spirituality with out religion, to find a relationship without rules, and have God without the church. More and more, people are looking for a decorpulated Christianity. (DeYoung, Kluck, pp. 13).
In addition to reading DeYoung and Kluck’s book, I read through Joshua Harris’ book “Stop Dating the Church.” Despite being a short read it has some very helpful and profound insights that I’m certainly going to use in my upcoming sermon. One such insight/point was a comment Harris quotes from pastor/theologian/author John Piper, which is “sanctification is a community project” (Harris, pp. 50). Harris also shares what a “profile of commitment” looks line in the life of a believer, which I found very helpful. Here they are:
- Officially join so pastors and others know you’re part of the team – Hebrews 13:17
- Make the local church a priority – Hebrews 10:25
- Try to make your pastor’s job a job – Hebrews 13:17
- Find ways to serve – I Peter 4:10
- Give financially – Malachi 3:10
- Connect with people – John 13:34; Romans 12:5, 10, 15
- Share your passion – Matthew 28; Acts 1:8
So he gives several characteristics of committed believers, and though the list isn’t exhaustive they did help me in quantifying and qualifying my commitment to the church and then Harris gives another list developed to help a believer “explore and understand” a specific church they’re considering to join. Here they are:
- Is this a church where God’s Word is faithfully taught?
- Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?
- Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed?
- Is this a church committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel?
- In this a church whose leaders are characterized by humility and integrity?
- Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s Word?
- Is this a church were I can find and cultivate godly relationships?
- Is this a church were members are challenged to serve?
- Is this a church that is willing to kick me out?
- Is this a church I’m willing to join “as is” with enthusiasm and faith in God?
And just in case the list becomes a little much, Harris has broken down these ten things questions into three points:
- You want a church that teaches God’s Word
- You want a church that values God’s Word
- You want a church that lives God’s Word
As I’ve been studying this morning and will continue throughout the day, I’ve realized that one Sunday will hardly scratch the surface concerning the importance and significance of healthy church membership – maybe I’ll just preach for a couple of hours (because that would certainly propel people into membership right?!?).