Good evening my dear friends – God has really blessed me and in the last few days my son, Steven and his wife, Chelsea and my grandbaby – Samuel are visiting. It is so wonderful. We live in a 1 bedroom apartment so it is a little crowded. Tonight I am in a small closet so not to disturb anyone else especially my sleeping grandson.
I have walked more than 25 miles over the last 5 days. All to show them the sights of Washington DC. I am unusually tired today.
So that said, I am not prepared as I normally would have been.
We will finish Mark tonight and I will give you a review on the book “I am a Church Member” by Thom S. Rainer
Parallel Texts: Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-8, 12; John 20:1-10
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robes sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him,just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[a]
When Jesus was born in that manger in Bethlehem nobody would have noticed, but God sent choruses of angels out to the fields and they were seen by the shepherds… and there was this star in the sky. When Jesus rose from the grave, there were no choirs to be seen, no great star lighting the sky, just chirping crickets and the sounds of the night.
Thus came the Kingdom.
John the Baptist prepared the way teaching the people that the Kingdom was at hand. Jesus preached the Kingdom far and wide and demonstrated its power as He went along, but when all of the work was finally completed, nobody knew about it at first. Shortly after sunrise on that fateful day at the very abyss of human history, a group of very faithful women arrive at the tomb to finish the dressing of the body, only to discover that there was no body for them to dress; He had risen!
I can’t help but recall these two verses:
Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!”
Final Thoughts on Mark
I didn’t want our tour through the gospel of Mark to end; I was having too much fun. But alas, there are only 16 chapters.
I have decided to leave these alone, for I am really not so sure that they belong; they aren’t included in the older manuscripts, and my best guess (and “guess” is all I have) is that they were added later to complete the story in light of the endings in the other three gospels. In this, they seem to me to accurately reflect the truth of Scripture and the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but I doubt Mark put them there. With that said, let me restate that I could be mistaken on this point!
None of that takes away from the amazing impact of Mark’s gospel. His pithy writing style leaves out a great deal of the detail surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus that is found in the other three, but in doing this, Mark’s is also easier to follow for someone who isn’t well versed in either the Old Testament or in theology generally, and that is a great contribution.
The Kingdom of Heaven is much discussed in Christian circles today. Did Jesus establish that kingdom when He was on the earth, or did something go wrong, and He’ll try again when He returns? This is a question that persists to this day, particularly when we sit down together with our brothers and sisters with fundamentalist or evangelical perspective. Our answer to this question colors the way we perceive Scripture itself, and this has been true for several centuries now.
When I read Mark, I see a vibrant and dynamic Kingdom at work in Jesus’ ministry, and I see it as having been established at His death, burial and resurrection. I see it continuing throughout the centuries that have elapsed since that time, sometimes more and sometimes less actively than others as the Kingdom ebbs and flows on this earth. I believe that God is willing and anxious for it to flow always, just as Jesus Himself was all during His ministry, and yet God has given us free will, and we don’t always use it wisely. I see the Adversary challenging Jesus during His ministry in various ways, not wishing to concede an inch of ground, and Jesus pushing him back when it suits Him to do so, and exercising restraint when it does not, and I see that going on for 2,000 years to date
Yet I remain filled with hope and optimism going forward, for whatever God’s timetable may be, whatever larger issues are going on “behind the scenes” I know how the story will ultimately end, because Mark has set this out so well in his gospel. May each and every one of you retain the same optimistic view of both this life and the next as all of us move forward on our path the forever together as His Body
Finishing Mark, I was left with about 15 + minutes of my radio program. As God always provided, he bought my son here with a book. I am a Church Member
I love Tom’s acknowledgement in the beginning- he tells and thanks all his family and co-workers…until he says… Ultimately, though, I give this book to the glory of God. It is a book about Christ’s Church. The Father so loved the world that he sent his son to die for His church. It is my prayer that this little tome will strengthen local congregations. And I pray that those who are members of these churches will see the incredible gift of belonging to the body of Christ.
1. I will be a functioning church member: The church is a unified body made up of many parts. All parts must function in their role or the church becomes weak.
The First Pledge
I am a functioning church member.
Church membership is not membership to a club or a store. Instead, I am a
member of the body of Christ. I will be a functioning member. I will give, serve,
share my faith, I will study, and be a blessing to others.
I will remember these words: “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ…All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:12 & 27 NLT)
2. I will be a unifying church member: Unity is every church members’ responsibility. Gossip and unforgiveness break down unity.
Story: God desires for Christians to get along. Jesus was clear when He said: “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). The world will know if we are Christians by the way we act toward one another. Have you ever been to an ugly business meeting in a church? Do you think an outsider would have been impressed with the “Christian” behavior he/she witnessed? Have you ever heard Christian gossip about other Christians? Is that loving one another? When you become a Christian, God expects you to be a part of His church. He wants you to be a unifying presence there.
I. That Thing Called Unity
a. Unity is important. Unity is critical.
b. When church members don’t work together, the church is weaker as a whole.
c. Unity is vital to the health of the church. That means every church member, you
and I included, must contribute to the unity of the church.
d. Paul said a lot about unity when he wrote his letter to the Ephesians.
e. Paul wrote,” This is why, since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your
love for all the saints, I never stop giving thanks for you as I remember you in my
prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16).
f. Paul was thankful for those church members. He was thankful for their faith in
Jesus and for their love for all the saints. Paul was thankful because these church
members were showing love for one another.
g. Unity is critically important.
h. Paul urged the members “to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with
all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting on another in love, diligently
keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” (Ephesians 4:1-3,
i. You have a responsibility as a church member.
1. You are to be a source of unity.
2. You are never to be a divisive force.
3. You are to love your fellow church members unconditionally. That doesn’t
mean you agree with everyone all the time, it does mean you are willing to
sacrifice your own preferences to keep unity in your church.
j. Paul’s writes: “Above all, put on love-the perfect
bond of unity” (Col.3:14).
k. Unity is really important in your church. Leave this section with a question – Are we doing your part?
3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires: Church membership is about servanthood.
4. I will pray for my church leaders: Without ongoing prayer for leaders by church members, our churches will not be healthy.
5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members: Show your children and spouse how to love the church unconditionally.
6. I will treasure church membership as a gift: When we view membership as a gift, our sense of entitlement fades.
If you have a chance to pick up the book please do… book “I am a Church Member” by Thom S. Rainer
6 Reasons to Be a Faithful Member of a Local Church
September 19, 2011 by Paul Tautges
It is our conviction that every Christian should be an active member of a Bible-teaching local church. As believers in Christ, we are members of His body and must discipline ourselves to be actively involved in ministry as a way of life. Here are some specific reasons why you should be a committed member of a solid, Bible-teaching local church.
1. You follow the pattern set forth in the New Testament. Although the word “membership” itself is not used the principle is present in the New Testament. For example, most of our NT books are letters that were written to specific groups of people who had chosen to identify themselves with Christ and each other. The word “church” is almost always used to refer to a specific group of people who in some way had committed themselves to serving the Lord and one another in the same ministry location.
2. If you are a part of the body of Christ by virtue of repentant faith in Jesus Christ then you should want to make that association visibly known through church membership.
2. You have a greater opportunity to use your spiritual gifts. At the moment of your conversion the Holy Spirit came to live inside of your body (1 Cor 6:19). When He did this, He brought along the spiritual gift(s) that He freely chose for you to possess for the blessing of the church (1 Cor 12:7, 11). As we use our gifts, we are being good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Peter 4:10). Can you use your spiritual gift without joining a church? Yes, but in most churches many ministry opportunities are limited to church members only. This is as it should be. Unity in doctrine, purity of life, and submissive accountability to one another and leaders are necessary for a healthy Christian life. The process of becoming a member also gives the existing leadership the opportunity to discern one’s agreement in doctrine, ministry purpose, and goals; thus enabling them to know where best you may serve.
3. You become a more committed part of a spiritual family. Joining a local church demonstrates a certain level of commitment. It shows that you want to be more than a bystander, that you want to be involved in ministry in a more significant way. Joining a local church is like entering into a covenant relationship with other believers in order to love them as an active part of a spiritual family (1 Jn 4:7). We also need the spiritual oversight and soul care of faithful shepherds (Heb 13:17).
4. You ensure a balanced Christian life. By nature we all have the tendency to gravitate toward extremes. God’s design for the church—as a multi-faceted body whose members are interrelated and interdependent—provides the ideal atmosphere for balanced Christian growth. As we sharpen each other, our continual contact with other believers promotes balance. In his book, Spiritual Disciplines within the Church: Participating fully in the body of Christ, Donald Whitney writes, “No one develops the proper spiritual symmetry just by listening to Christian radio, watching Christian television, or reading Christian books. You can’t get this kind of maturity merely by participating in a group Bible study. Unless you’re an active part of a local church, your Christian life and ministry will be imbalanced.”
5. You avail yourself of the wisdom of a multitude of counselors. God never intended for us to live our lives independent of others, or “above” them. He desires for us to develop relationships of accountability with other Christians. According to Proverbs 11:14, in the abundance of counselors there is victory. The local church is a great place to find wise counsel and direction from spiritual leadership and older, more mature believers (Titus 2:1-8). These relationships will help guide you in the many decisions that you face in life so that you may discern God’s good and perfect will.
6. You experience the joy of serving others. God has re-created us in Christ Jesus for the purpose of bringing glory to Him by bearing fruit (Eph 2:10; John 15:2). The fruit of the Spirit is primarily manifested in our relationships with others (Gal 5:22-23). Believers are to follow the example of Christ the Master Servant (Jn 13:15). By joining a local church, you are agreeing with God that one of the ways to bear fruit in the Christian life is by serving others.
I have seen the death of churches, I take the next section from Thom Rainer’s book called the Death of the Church
The church’s peak attendance was 750 in 1975. By the time I got there the attendance had fallen to an average of 83. The large sanctuary seemed to swallow the relatively small crowd on Sunday morning.
The reality was that most of the members did not want me there. They were not about to pay a consultant to tell them what was wrong with their church. Only when a benevolent member offered to foot my entire bill did the congregation grudgingly agree to retain me.
I worked with the church for three weeks. The problems were obvious; the solutions were difficult.
On my last day, the benefactor walked me to my rental car. “What do you think, Thom?” he asked. He could see the uncertainty in my expression, so he clarified. “How long can our church survive?” I paused for a moment, and then offered the bad news. “I believe the church will close its doors in five years.”
I was wrong. The church closed just a few weeks ago. Like many dying churches, it held on to life stubbornly. This church lasted ten years after my terminal diagnosis.
My friend from the church called to tell me the news. I took no pleasure in discovering that not only was my diagnosis correct, I had mostly gotten right all the signs of the impending death of the church. Together my friend and I reviewed the past ten years. I think we were able to piece together a fairly accurate autopsy. Here are eleven things I learned.
1. The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.
2. The church had no community-focused ministries. This part of the autopsy may seem to be stating the obvious, but I wanted to be certain. My friend affirmed my suspicions. There was no attempt to reach the community.
3. Members became more focused on memorials. Do not hear my statement as a criticism of memorials. Indeed, I recently funded a memorial in memory of my late grandson. The memorials at the church were chairs, tables, rooms, and other places where a neat plaque could be placed. The point is that the memorials became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past.
4. The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.
5. There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.
6. The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent; business meetings became more bitter.
7. With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged.
8. The church rarely prayed together. In its last eight years, the only time of corporate prayer was a three-minute period in the Sunday worship service. Prayers were always limited to members, their friends and families, and their physical needs.
9. The church had no clarity as to why it existed. There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.
10. The members idolized another era. All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. And they all remembered fondly, to the point of idolatry, was the era of the 1970s. They saw their future to be returning to the past.
11. The facilities continued to deteriorate. It wasn’t really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. Simple stated, they no longer had “outsider eyes.”
Though this story is bleak and discouraging, we must learn from such examples. As many as 100,000 churches in America could be dying. Their time is short, perhaps less than ten years.
we will continue to review the book and give you a reason to be a functioning church member.
God bless my friends. I love you all
Let us pray
This is Cathy Merritt Signing out. Send emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org