The idea of church membership as fallen on hard times these days. The church isn’t the most popular institution in our overly secular culture, and throw in the idea that to be a member of a church, a person has to attend things like voter’s meetings and board meetings and do things like tithing and showing up to serve, well… no wonder many give the excuse that they don’t believe in organized religion!
But that’s a rather lame excuse.
After all, if something is truly important, then why on earth wouldn’t you want it to be organized!
But this is looking at the church just as an institution only; it fails to see the church something significant.
Consider the scripture passages listed above. It’s intriguing the way Luke describes that first church in Jerusalem. At first glance it almost seems like it was some kind of hippy commune. It’d really be hard to convince people to join the church if they have to sell everything they have and donate it all to St. Paul.
But, I’m pretty sure that’s not what Luke is describing—not absolutely.
Although, these folks that Luke describes do seem pretty enthusiastic about the work of the church and their support of it, they probably still maintained their own households and finances apart from the church. But, even so, they apparently took one thing very seriously: They made sure that every need of the ministry was met, and then some.
“They shared everything in common,” Luke says.
Believe it or not, the church is still very much the same today.
Today, we have common ownership as it pertains to the work of our local church; every Christian giving of their resources according to their ability to help the work of the church continue. So think about St. Paul in Thorndale…
Who owns everything at St. Paul? Whose are the golden chalices used to serve communion? Whose are the stained glass windows in our narthex and sanctuary? Who owns the ten acres of property that our church and school are set on? Who owns the gym? Who owns the school? What about the chairs or the tables or the playground equipment? Collectively our congregation probably has several million dollars’ worth of assets. Who owns it all?
We do! All of us together.
Sure, some of these things were donated by certain individuals, but these individuals don’t own these things any more. Everything belongs to the church and thus to each of us. We own these things. Better yet, these things are the Lord’s and we are stewards or managers of them. The poor and rich can both walk into our church and say, “This is mine because I belong to this fellowship. I am a part of this congregation and its work.”
If you look closely at our readings for today you see that these early Christians were simply individuals who were sold out for the work of the Lord and thus willing to give of their resources to ensure that their church could give the best possible witness to Christ. I’d like to say that St. Paul congregation is the same. But what is most significant is that these early Christians devoted themselves to the teaching and preaching of the Word of God. This alone is what enabled them in everything they did. All their service and giving to the church was simply a response to the gospel.
Indeed, the people who make up the church must have a love for God’s word which means they must be in worship and bible study and fellowship regularly, otherwise involvement and interest becomes more about personal agendas and opinions and not so much about the witness of the church and proclamation of the Gospel. This is also why leaders in the church must be regular in word and sacrament, worship and bible study. These things–and these things alone–make a person fit for service in the church. Not our wealth, not our gifts or talents, not our love for volunteering, not how much we donate.
Only our love for the Word of God makes us fit to serve the Lord! Only our common love for the Word can unite us together. Only our love for the Word can inspire us to be one church made up of many people.
Some questions to consider:
- Why are you a member of St. Paul?
- How do you personally help make the work of the church successful?
- Have you ever experienced any “turf wars” in the church? How are these best handled?
Thoughts for prayer
- Dear Jesus, help me to remember why I am a part of Your church. Renew in me a love for Your word and a desire to hear it. Thank you for my pastor who faithfully proclaims Your word and strengthen him for that work each week. Help me to love him and listen to what he has to say. Bless, also, my brothers and sisters in Christ. Since, as a church, we are all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction and do the same work, keep us together both outwardly and inwardly. Help us to remember that we have on Master, on faith, one baptism, on God and Father, Who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all.
- Lord, watch over all the various ministries of our church and liberally supply our needs so that we may be made stronger in our witness of the resurrection of Christ. Prepare me in whatever ways are necessary to be Your hands and feet and mouth to serve my church and bring honor to Your name.
- Heavenly Father thank You for providing office staff and volunteers for our church. Watch over our church and school office and all our staff. Let the work environment there be one of peace, joy, satisfaction, productivity, and godliness. Watch over every conversation, every introduction, every telephone contact or email sent. Let the words that are spoken be winsome and reflect Your love in Christ. Let humility abound that our staff and faculty might love as You have first loved us by coming to serve us and not be served. Let that attitude be mirrored through our church staff that they might be made ready and strong to do the work of our church each week day. AMEN.