CommonUnity – Week 5 – Partnership

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July 11, 2016

CommonUnity – Week 5 – Partnership

Patrnertship in the Body of ChristCommonUnity – Week 5 – Partnership

Jack and Grace met through a mutual friend. From day one they seemed to be a perfect match. Grace was everything Jack had always wanted. She was beautiful, outgoing and caring – always there when Jack needed her.

For the first five months they were inseparable. Jack could hardly think of anything but Grace. He didn’t need to look further, he told friends. “She’s the one.”Now almost three years have passed. Jack still enjoys the comfort and familiarity of being with Grace, but the spark is gone. Grace’s flaws seem more obvious. He’s not sure he finds her as attractive as he once did. And he’s beginning to resent all the time she wants to spend with him.One night, when she asks if they can define the nature of their relationship, Jack blows up. “We’re together aren’t we?” he ask angrily. “Why isn’t that enough for you?”Obviously, Jack isn’t ready for commitment. And it’s unclear if he ever will be…Have you ever been in a relationship like this? I’m writing this book because I believe God has something better foe you. He wants you in a relationship defined by both passion and commitment. But before you can take hold of this wonderful plan, you need to know something about this couple. There are millions of Jacks walking around today. And Grace isn’t a girl.Grace is a church.
Joshua Harris – Stop Dating the Church

Today As we continue in our series on CommonUnity. I want us to look at the idea of membership in the church. Now many of you here are members, so why preach on something that seems irrelevant to you? Does that mean you should check out? No! I think today if we really listen and apply I believe God has something for each of us here. For those who are not members, (maybe you have been attending for a while, but you have never taken the step to become a formal member. I pray that you might be challenged and encouraged to take that next step. Remember Amos 3:3 says “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” And as a member of Grace I pray that you will be encouraged and strengthen that you are part of something very special. You are part of the direct plan of God for this area and more importantly you are part of God’s direct plan for your life.

Review:

Remember we started this series looking at the fact that the early church devoted themselves to certain spiritual disciplines that created the environment for God to grow the church, not only numerically but also and I think more importantly health wise. We identified that one of the disciplines they devoted themselves to was fellowship. We looked at the definition of that word and realized that fellowship is Doing Life Together for the Purpose and Glory of God.
That means that we come together involving each other in our daily lives, coming together around the mission of developing disciples, dealing with the messy things in our lives by applying Biblical instructions on how to deal with conflict. We open up our homes and lives to each other and more importantly to the stranger, the outsider for the purpose of showing God’s love. We don’t see the stranger as a project instead we love them because God loves them.

Biblical evidence for church membership

Today I want us to think about the term of membership. Now to be honest there is not one verse in the bible that speaks specifically about being a member of a local church. I really with there was a verse like Matthew 57:4 that says You should join and become a member of a local church, but that does not exist.

But that is not to say that there is not evidence within the Bible to lead us to the truth that we should be members of a local church.

Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us that we should make attending a local church a priority. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Some people will use the excuse of saying well I belong to the “C” church. And I don’t need to be part of a local church.
But if they do that, they are not fulfilling this verse. And they are also not able to see the growth that God desires to see in thier lives. To be part of the thing that Christ came and died for. The thing that He loves. In fact in Ephesians 5:25 tells us that husbands are to love their wives just like Christ loves the church. I have heard many people say they love Jesus but they really don’t care for the church. That would be like say to me you really like me but you don’t care for my wife. That would be a problem for you and I. I believe that it is the same for Jesus when people say they don’t care for the church.

The Church cannot exist and survive, and fulfill the mission that God has for her without the people of God coming together and being the Local church. In fact in the New Testament every single letter written with an address is addressed to a local church. We cannot fulfill the great command or the great commission on our own. Instead we need to come together and band together making a commitment to each other to fulfill the mission he has place before us.

Membership or Partnership

I remember as I grew up, there where these things called book and CD clubs. How many of you know what I am talking about? They would send you a card and ask you to become a member. they would tell you there was no need to buy anything. Every month you would receive their product. You could try it out and if you liked it just keep it and you will be sent a bill. Otherwise, just send it back no questions asked and you will not own anything.

Why did they do that? Well simple. People forgot to send stuff back and they got a few cheap sales. The problem is they were tapping into something very real in our society. No one like commitment. Everyone want to be part of something on their own terms. No one wants to become a member of something that they think will inconvenience them, that will make them have to do something they don’t want to do. And that mentality has existed in the church as well. In fact there was a movement in church to de-emphasize membership. In fact the word of membership largely has lost the meaning it once had. To combat this many churches have begun to adopt a new word. That word is partnership. The first time I heard that I thought I really like it. The word partnership means something more than just membership. Here is what one author says…

In our society, when you join as a member of something it can have connotations of passivity and consumerism. I join the club and expect certain benefits. The partnership language, on the other hand, communicates immediately that we are signing up for active involvement—for being partners together in a great enterprise: the gospel mission of Christ…. the immeasurable free grace of God that came to them through faith in Christ was not a license for and easy, comfortable life with a dash of spirituality on the side; rather, it was a passport to a new citizenship of suffering in contending side by side for the gospel.”
The Trellis and the Vine, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne
Remember the word membership is not directly used. The closest thing we have is is found in 1 Corinthians 12:1,27,
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ… 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

But the interesting thing is we actually find the word partnership used.
Philippians 1:1-6
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

The idea of being a partner in a church reminds us that we are each responsible to be a contributor to the work and success of the church. This becomes evident in many areas of the church. Prayer, encouragement, outreach, tithing, leadership, service, administration. If a church does not have committed people who are willing to become true partners in the work of the Gospel, unity and fellowship will never be possible.

So what is the purpose of partnership in the church. The purpose is to help the church work together and place a level of mutual accountability that is both powerful and necessary in our lives.

One of the challenges of a leader is to learn how to balance the time and resources we have. There is more work and more need that one person could possible fill. In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul explains that my Job as the pastor of this church is vital to our success and unity. Here is what He says, 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Responsibility of Elders

My responsibility in this church is to equip this churches partners for the work of the ministry. As we work together we will reach unity. That is a huge responsibility! And it is one I do not take lightly. But we need partners who are willing to be equipped and willing to jump in and do the work. In fact this is one of the things keeps me up at night. I am told in scripture that I hold a position of responsibility for how we as a church accomplish the mission God has given us.

Act 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

God by the power of the holy spirit has made me and overseer and shepherd of this church.

1 Pet 5:2-3 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

I and to care for those who are under my care, watching over them. Who is that? Who is under my care? Am I to shepherd everyone who calls themselves a Christian who lives in Jefferson? Who is the flock? It is those who join with us. Who are our partners in the Gospel. Those who place themselves under the authority of our leadership.

Hebrews 13:16-17
16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Do you see that? When you become a partner in this ministry I have a responsibility to God and I will give an account to God for how I lead. But equally God says that as the partners submit to the leadership it will be a joy to us, not a burden. When we are unified and working together. When we know we have partners in the work of the Gospel, That become a benefit to you!

The fact that God ordained and organized the church to operate the way He did implies a Membership/Partnership of Accountability

The New Testament teaches that the local church has elders or overseers who have special responsibility to equip (Ephesians 4:11) and care for (Acts 20:28) and teach (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:9) the members. The New Testament teaches that the members are to respect (1 Thessalonians 5:12f.) and be submissive to (Hebrews 13:17) these leaders. We are servants, not masters (Luke 22:26), and our leadership comes from their divine call to serve (Acts 20:28), not from their desire to rule. Leadership and submission have no meaning where there is no commitment to accountability (that is, to membership/partnership).

Also, as we looked at Matthew 18 a couple weeks ago. The idea of Church Discipline Implies a Membership of Accountability

Jesus said, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).

What this implies is that Christians are to be members of churches where they are held accountable to walk in a way that pleases the Lord. If there were no relationship of accountability, it would be meaningless to “tell it to the church,” because the offending person would simply say, “That church has no jurisdiction over me.”

If I were to go down the street and find someone who says they are a Christian and try and confront them on a issue they would look at me very strange. Why because there is not relationship. There is not church. Paul say it this way in 1 Corinthians 5:12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

That word among you means a there is some sort of partnership.

This was a very difficult situation in the Corinthian church. A man in the church was living in blatant immorality and is proudly unrepentant (v. 2). Paul writes, “put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this” (v. 2). He goes on to say, “So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.” (vv. 4-5).

None of this would be feasible if the immoral man could simply say, “I am not accountable to you. I can do what I please. You have no authority or rights over me.” In other words, the teaching of the New Testament on church discipline implies that church membership (involving mutual accountability among the members) is the will of God for all Christians.

But here is the cool part. I want you to see this. While this seems harsh and a difficult situation, I want you to notice the other side of the equation. This is one of the benefits of partnership in a local church. Notice vs 5 it says that when they remove Him there is a level of spiritual protection that is also removed. Do you realize that when you join and become a partner in this church that God places a level of Spiritual protection in your life that is there because you have joined yourself to His church? That is incredible.

So for those of you who are already partners, members of this church, let me ask you, how is your partnership? Have you begun to take for granted what God has called us to? Are you investing in this the way you should? How active of a partner are you?

And for those of you who are not formally partners. Maybe you have been attending for a short time, or maybe it has been years, and you have never taken that step. This is something God is calling you to do. IT is for your benefit and the benefit of His bride.

I remember growing up and watching a B&W comedy show called the Adams Family. There was this character in the show called “The Thing”. It was this severed hand running around. Too many Christians are “The Thing” they hang around and do all kinds of stuff but they are not attached to the body. Don’t Be “The Thing” in your Christian walk.

Lets pray.


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