Healthy and meaningful church membership is no doubt exemplified in Luke’s description of the early church in Acts 2: 42-47. I believe that you can find four glaring characteristics in the early church. They are all pieces of the same pie. They are not to be set aside and treated individually, rather they all go together to form the perfect expectations for membership. Each of the four work together in a form of synergy that creates motion, movement, energy, excitement, passion and authenticity. Synergy is defined as “interaction of two or more forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.” In short, we can do more together than individually. Each part is critical, but no part is capable of completing the task without the other pieces.
1. Connection- “They joined together with the other believers” (42), “They met together constantly and shared everything they had.” (44)
“Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly…” Eph. 4:6.
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.
Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a necessary part of it.” 1 Cor. 12: 26-27.
In order for you to become a meaningful member of a church you must become connected on two levels: Vertically and Horizontally. Vertical connection is your relationship to God. The deeper more meaningful your relationship is with God the more intense your church experience will be. Horizontal connection could be summed up in two verses:
“Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:2.
“As Iron sharpens Iron so a man sharpens another.” Prov. 27:17.
We all need other believers in our lives to keep our feet to the ground. I see this in such spectacular fashion as I preach funerals. Recently I preached 2 different funerals. One, was a person who was not involved with a church family, had no connections with a local church and while alive felt no need for one. After he died, there was a little over 20 people who visited the family, less than 20 attended the funeral (mostly family and a few friends they worked with). The family stood there as a few came and gave perfunctory comments to them and left. I felt a deep sense of sadness over the lifeless expressions and empty comments. And then there was the other funeral for a church members who was deeply connected with authentic relationships within the body of Christ. Their visitation was over 3 hours long with a constant line of mostly church members. The family was overjoyed to hear the prayers of those who came through the line, hearing how their loved one had helped them. I watched as my church members embraced and encouraged each other. The funeral was a celebration, the family was overwhelmed by the love of their church and it all had to do with the horizontal connections this person had created during their lifetime. Being a part of a church family offers genuine opportunities to experience the love of Christ through the love of his people.
2. Cohesion (unity)- John 17: 20-23. It is interesting that in Jesus’ prayer in the garden that he would take the time to pray for the church that had not even been established yet. What was his prayer for the church? Was it for it to grow? Was it for the church to have big buildings and effective ministries? Did he pray for his followers to be wildly successful? No, he prayed for one thing. Unity, cohesion. The term “cohesion” is actually a term of physics. It speaks of the force that pulls molecules and particles together so that they work in unison. Your whole body is held together through the forces of molecular cohesion.“My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father.” V. 21. Jesus prays for our unity, our togetherness to be so strong that it could be compared to the oneness of the trinity. As the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work together in unity so should his church. It is essential that you be a member of the body that will commit to maintain cohesion of the body. Are you a promoter of unity? Our love for one another will show the world God’s love for them. The church needs more peacekeepers.
3. Commitment- “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that they day of his coming back again is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25. You can be committed to church but not committed to Christ, but you cannot be committed to Christ and not committed to church. I cannot understand why people who call themselves Christians choose to not be committed to the church that he established through his own death. I believe that a commitment to Jesus Christ will always involve a commitment to his church. Kay Arthur says, “If you do not plan to live the Christian life totally committed to knowing your God and to walking in obedience to Him, then don’t begin, for this is what Christianity is all about. It is a change of citizenship, a change of governments, a change of allegiance. If you have no intention of letting Christ rule your life, then forget Christianity; it is not for you.”
4. Celebration- “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4. Who says church has to be boring? As a member of a church you should come to church ready to celebrate. Get excited, raise your hands, put on a smile and rejoice. The early church enjoyed rejoicing in Christ. Luke says that they praised God and enjoyed the goodwill of all the people. We should sing as though he really is alive, we should shout with praise every time someone gets saved. We should come with anticipation for the Word. We shouldn’t see serving the church as a chore, but rather as a celebration of the life he has given to us. Too many churches have services so boring that you anticipate the casket will be rolled in at any time! Our worship times should be a time of celebration, joy and anticipation. Much of that can be accomplished when the church member is spiritually prepared for worship.