Sermon:  The Meaning of Membership

(7 of 8 in "Rubber Meets the Road" which is a follow up of "Your Kingdom Come Series")

Summary:  We need to prevent anything from crowding out full participation in body life 
because Jesus has incorporated us for full, "sold out," non-optional participation in his body 
as a part of our relationship with him.  Therefore, we need to examine specific expectations 
of discipleship in our context and express them clearly.

Know:  Participation together with the body in ministry is an indispensable component of life 
with Christ.

Feel:  The desire to be connected in ministry with the rest of the body

Do:  Reflect on the level of involvement we expect as "normal" in the congregation and 
compare it to the Biblical picture of what is expected of the Christian life.  Brainstorm ways 
to raise the bar on "membership" in the congregation.

Text:  Luke 14:16-35

Scripture Reading:  Mark 10:28

1.  Remember going to Oakdale - Town kids go to park, get ball game going
	a.  Invited me, an outsider to play, I said no at first
		- Very self conscious, everyone knew each other, small town
		- I was the weird city kid who dressed funny
	b.  I didn't even have a ball, bat or a glove
	c.  My cousins brought me a glove, so I joined in
	d.  Had a great time, didn't feel like the kid from out of town
2.  Things change when you get involved
	a.  When on the sidelines, you feel left out, out of the loop
	b.  May even feel negative about what is going on and say so
	c.  But that all changes when you get involved
3.  Jesus never intended for Christianity to be a spectator event
	- It is a lifestyle
4.  We need to be involved.  How?

I.  Prevent anything from crowding out body life
	A.  When you became a Christian, you confessed Jesus as Son of God
		1.  This means he is both Lord and Savior
		2.  He became the center of your life
		3.  His priorities become your priorities
	B.  (Lk 14:16-24) - Parable of the Dinner - The host invites people
		1.  People were too busy with "important things"
			a.  Inspect my new land I bought
			b.   Have to break in my oxen
			c.   I just got married, we are on a honey moon
		2.  They didn't come - What happened?
			a.  They lost their place at the table
			b.  God replaced them with someone else 
		3.  Do we ever do this?
			a.  Opportunity arises to participate in the kingdom
			b.  Do we ever say things like - 
				- I have to have a root canal
				- I've got other activities I have to do instead
		4.  If we have a habit of doing this, there is a problem
			a.  Ask yourself what is really, really important?
				- If the lawn goes unmowed one more day, what is 
				  that compared to kingdom work
				- If you miss a team practice for the sake of ministry, 
				   what is more lasting and more important in eternity?
			b.  There are a million things you can find to do other than 
			      participation in the kingdom - But what is more important
			c.  God has a place reserved for you in kingdom work
				- Every part of the body has a function
				- You have a function
			d.  What happens if that part is consistently absent?
				- You risk losing your place
				- God will fill in the blank spot with someone else
				- Need to be sold out…like steak
	C.  ILL:  I like steak grilled on a charcoal grill
		1.  Eat it and it meets my stomach
			a.  Stomach says to steak - "hello"
			b.  Steak, "uh, hello, what do you want."
			c.  Stomach - "I am here to digest you and dissolve you.  
			     You will be converted into John Telgren and will exist to 
			     serve him and meet his purposes
			d.  Steak - "Lose my identity?  Oh no!  I won't do it.  I want to 
			     stay steak!"
		2.  A struggle ensues
			a.  If the stomach wins, - Steak becomes John
				- It is completely "converted"
				- Just the other day, that steak was a cow
				- Now that cow is John and is preaching a sermon
			b.  If the steak wins, what happens?
				- It will not stay in the body
				- It will lose its place in the body
		3.  In order for the steak to stay, it has to be absorbed
			a.  Can't continue to do steak things
			b.  It has to be absorbed and do John things
	D.  You "converted" when accepted Jesus as Lord and were baptized
		1.  You no longer exist for yourself
		2.  Your activity & purpose changes - To serve God and his mission
		3.  If something in your life doesn’t fit in with God's mission, axe it
		4.  **Brings us to our next point…
II.  Be sold out due to incorporation
	A.  Jesus has incorporated us into his body
		1.  Being a part of his "body" implies a close connection to what is 
		     going on
		2.  This is not casual membership
	B.  Passages that describe the nature of this incorporation
		1.  (1 Cor 12:13) - Descriptive word, "immersed" us into the body
			a.  What follows is a description of the integral connection 
			     we have to each other
			b.  It doesn't merely say, "you have become a member and 
			     attend a service two or three times a week."
			c.  You are "immersed" in the body
				- It surrounds you, is all around you
				- It becomes the center of your life
				- As a body part of Christ, your purpose changes
		2.  (Lk 14:25-27) - This is a difficult passage to read
			a.  Hate everything, even your own life
				- The only true love is God himself
				- Any love you have for others extends from that love
			b.  Take up your cross - Follow the footsteps of Christ
				- He did not his will, but the fathers will
				- Family members were fellow believers
				- God was clearly number one in his life
				- With God as number one, he could fulfill his mission 
	C.   ILL:  I remember reading this passage the first time on a campaign
		1.  There were a couple of people uncomfortable with showing 
		      people this passage
			a.  Some quickly jumped to Matthew's version which softens 
			      it a little - He who loves father or mother more than me…
			b.  One lady omitted it altogether
			c.  That is wrong - Jesus didn't omit it
				- Jesus never pulled any punches with commitment
				- You have to be "sold out" for him - all or nothing
				- It is a disservice to withhold this from people
		2.  Was Jesus sold out for God?
			a.  Jn 4:34 - My food is to do the will of him who sent me
			b.  Jn 5:19 - Whatever the Father does, the Son does
			c.  Jn 6:38 - I have not come down from Heaven to do my 
			     own will, but the will of him who sent me  
			d.  Lk 22:42 - Not my will but yours be done
				- Jesus went to the cross and was buried
		3.  When you were buried with him in baptism, you were selling out
			a.  You experienced a death and rebirth
			b.  You became slaves of righteousness
			c.  God became the love of your life
	D.  God added you to the body of Christ
		1.  You are now a hand, or perhaps a foot, an ear, mouth
		2.  You exist to serve him and his mission  
		3.  **God has clear expectations of you in the body…

III.  Communicate and articulate clear expectations
	A.  God didn't leave what he wants of us so vague we can't figure it out
		1.  Jesus issued clear calls to follow him
		2.  Jesus left a real life model for us to follow
	B.  (Lk 14:28-33) 2 analogies dealing with expectations
		1.  Consider the context
			a.  The parable of the dinner
			b.  Instructions about putting God above family
			c.  Take up your cross daily
			d.  Count the cost - Is Jesus trying to discourage? No.
		2.  Jesus is clearly laying out expectations - he was always specific
			a.  Jesus was never vague when it came to expectations
			b.  Most of what he taught is radical
				-Who is mother, brother, sisters?  - Fellow believers
				-Give all possession to the poor and follow me
				-Someone takes your coat, give them your shirt too
				- Eye causes you to sin, pluck it out
			c.  Then in this passage
				- Don't let anything crowd out God
				- Hate father, mother, brother, sister, even own life
				- Take Up Your cross
				- Give up all possessions 
		3.  (v.34-35) - Concludes with salt analogy
			a.  Tasteless salt is useless
			b.  What is tasteless, useless salt?
				- In a word - Nominal Christianity
				- Minimal involvement
			c.  Sad things - many see nominal as normal
				- Baptism and attendance
				- Sermon on the mount mentions neither 
		4.  Darrell Guder in The Continuing Conversion of the Church 
		     wrote: "Most mainline churches maintain what is 
		     interestingly called a 'low threshold' to church membership.  It is 
		     more difficult to become a member of many service clubs than 
		     to join most protestant congregations."
			a.  Jesus did not say - attend church regularly
			b.  Jesus said - Take up your cross
			c.  The threshold for "normal" Christianity is high
	C.  ILL:  Threshold check chart
		1.  This list is somewhat arbitrary, but it should illustrate my point
		2.  According to our actions as a congregation, where do we place 
		     the red line for what we consider "normative" Christianity?
		3.  Where does Jesus place the red line?
		4.  Have we accepted nominal as normal?
			a.  If so, that is saltless Christianity
			b.  That kind of Christianity is useless
	D.  What does this mean for us?
		1.  We need to be clear about expectations of discipleship and 
		     church membership
		2.  Examples:
			a.  One church has a membership process that involves 
			     signing a "G5 covenant" at new members class
				1) The Grace Covenant - Live out God's grace by 
				     building relationships with others
				2) The Growth Covenant - Pursue Spiritual Growth
					- Participation in growth activities
				3) The Gift Covenant - Discover and use gifts
					- Spiritual Gift Inventory
					- Plug into a ministry
				4) The Give Covenant - Be a responsible steward
				5) The Go Covenant - Commitment to outreach
					- Involvement in local mission opportunity
					- Global Mission trip in the next 5 years
			b.  Another church uses a "partner's check list" to 
			     communicate expectations of membership
				1) Focused commitment to Jesus Christ
				2) Public confession of faith and baptism
				3) Connection to a Life Group
				4) Completion of "Life in Christ" (5 sessions)
				5) Completion of "Life in the Church" (1 day seminar)
				6) Embrace "partnership covenant" -- asked to:
					a) Invest your passions - 1 Thes 5:4-28;Gal 5:24-25
					b) Invest your service - Heb 10:23-25; Gal 5:13
					c) Invest your resources -1 Cor 16:2; 2 Cor 9:6-15
					d) Invest your relationships -Lk 10:25-37;Mt 28:19f
			c.  Lay out clear Biblical expectations at beginning
				a) They do no accept "nominal" as normal
				b) They have raised the minimum standard
				c) They are restoring "normal" Christianity
			d.  Churches help to facilitate the commitment
				a) Life Groups, Training, Ministry Teams, Leadership
				b) So there are expectations from the church as well
		3.  If all you want to do is warm a pew, this not the place
		4.  Never too old, young, dumb, smart, etc. to serve

1.  God is calling you to participate in true life today (invitation)
	a.  Not for purpose of sitting in a pew
	b.  He wants you to participate in his missional purposes
2.  Summer series has been designed to focus our efforts
	a.  We have take a look at several ministries
	b.  They will not happen without your participation in what is going on
	c.  Don't sit on the sidelines for whatever reason
		- Not gifted, too old, young, don't know enough, etc.
		- You are a part of the body of Christ
3.  Some say, I want to be more involved
	a.  So you go for it - We want you to do that
	b.  Others say, "but where do I start?"
		- Elders, planning team, life group leaders all are helping in this
		- This series and the sense of direction will help with this
4.  We are handing you your bat and glove - What are you going to do with it?
	a.  Are you ready to get to work?
	b.  There is no work more enjoyable that serving God alongside brethren

Some questions to consider:  Do we…
1.  Clearly state expectations of membership?
2.  Clearly communicate a membership process to new people?
3.  Hold one another accountable for fulfilling expectations?
4.  Clearly reject "nominal" Christianity as being normal?
5.  Empower and assist people with direction for greater participation in ministry?
  • Total commitment to kingdom purposes
  • Take any opportunity to serve
  • Share the Gospel with others
  • Volunteer my time to do benevolent work
  • Connect with outsiders on their turf
  • Use time and resources to serve
  • Plug into ministry - teaching, worship leader, gardening, encouragement…
  • Accountability/Support with brethren
  • Participation in Life Groups
  • Regular Bible Reading and prayer
  • Bible Class Attendance
  • Worship Attendance
  • Baptism
  • Belief
======================== Process Guidelines During the summer season, beginning Sunday evening June 10th, the congregation will assemble at the building. During this gathering we will outline our plan for the Summer. This first meeting is an introductory overview. For the remaining eight weeks we will follow a pattern that works as follows: Sunday Morning Sermon: Introduce the topic for the week. Sunday Evening: Life Groups meet at the building but in separate rooms: Discuss the topic for the evening Develop ideas, recommendations and proposals Tie them to scripture and align them with our goals and objectives. Guidelines for Life Group discussion as it relates to the Topic 1. What’s the purpose of…(Topic of the week)? 2. How should we accomplish this purpose? 3. What should we… a. Keep doing? b. Start doing that’s different? c. Stop doing? Wednesday Evening: Congregation meets to: Hear each Life Group present the ideas, recommendations and proposals they developed the previous Sunday evening. Thoughts will be organized and presented in the form of these questions: 1. What did we learn? 2. What surprised us? 3. What is Important? 4. What should we do? Sunday Morning Bible Study Hour: Congregation Meets to… Process the Topic for the previous week Discussion Centered on three questions: 1. What happened? 2. What does it mean? 3. What will we do with it?