There are Three Truths that Should Characterize the Universal and Local Church.
1. There should be Unity: “For by ONE Spirit are we all baptized into ONE body…we have been made to drink into ONE Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).
2. There is a Diversity of members: We are looking at two of diversity today:
A. The Diversity of Preaching.
B. The other area of Diversity is Music.
An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church. He came home and his wife asked him how it was. ”Well,” said the farmer, “it was good. They did something different, though. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”
“Praise choruses?” asked the wife. “What are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay . . . they’re sort of like hymns, only different,” the farmer said.
“Well, what’s the difference?” Asked his wife.
The farmer explained, “Well, it’s like this. If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ that would be a hymn.
If, on the other hand, I were to say to you, “Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh Martha, Martha, Martha, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the COWS, the COWS, COWS, COWS, are in the corn, corn, corn, they’re in the coooooorrrrrnnnn.” Then, I repeated it three times, that would be a praise chorus.
Wouldn’t you know it, that farmer’s little church had a visitor from the big city church that same Sunday. He went home to his wife and she asked him how it went.
He said, “Oh, it was okay, except they don’t sing choruses–they sing hymns.”
She asked, “What’s a hymn?”
He said, “Well, it’s like a chorus, only different?”
She said, “What do you mean?”
He explained, “Well, if I said to you, Martha, the cows are in the corn–but say it like this:
Oh Martha, dear, Martha hear the words of my mouth, Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear to this glorious truth;
For the way of the animals who can explain; there in their heads is no shadow of sense, Hearkenest they in God’s sun or his rain, Unless from the mild corn they are fenced;
Yea those cows in glad, rebellious delight, Have loosed their shackles, their warm pens eschew, Yea goaded by minions of darkness and night, They all my sweet corn are now destined to chew.
Martha, look to that bright day when earth is reborn, And I shall not see those cows in my corn.
That would be a hymn!
Some believers like Southern Gospel Music such as the Bill Gather Homecoming Series. Others like Bluegrass. I have a preacher friend who thinks that Bluegrass be will the music in Heaven. Others like Traditional. Their radio does not move from WHPE. Still others like CCM. I like Casting Crowns and Third Day as well as the Gathers and Bluegrass and the great hymns of the faith.
3. Even though there is Diversity, we must Serve One Another. Paul writes to this very diversified church in 12:25, “that there should be no divisions in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”
Church Membership is a Commitment to Serving One Another in a Local Body of Believers. We do not join a church to be served but to serve. Let’s look at the first example of church membership in Acts 2 and to what these first church members committed themselves.
1. Church Membership is a Commitment to the Teaching of God’s Word: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:41-32).
A. Peter had just preached a very doctrinal sermon where he quoted Joel 2:28-32 and explained what the passage meant concerning the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Next Peter quoted Psalm 16:8-11 and explained how this passage predicted the resurrection of Christ. Finally, Peter quoted Psalm 110:11 and explained that this Psalm referred to the ascension of Christ to the right hand of God. Then at the end of his sermon, Peter applied it directly and painfully to his audience: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God has made that same Jesus, whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ” (2:36).
These first church members continued listening to the teaching of the apostles in the church at Jerusalem.
B. Paul commanded Timothy and ever other pastor and church members in 1 Timothy 4:13, “Give attendance to reading (the public reading of Scripture), to exhortation (the public application of the Scripture), and doctrine (the public teaching Scripture which is to be read and applied).
2. Church Membership is a Commitment to Fellowship or Service to One Another. We Baptist love fellowship. We have Fellowship Buildings in which we eat Fellowship Meals. But real fellowship is more than sitting in front of each other with two plates of baked beans, potato salad, and fried chicken. Real fellowship is the essence of the more than 30 “one another” commands in the New Testament. For example, “Love one another” is found seventeen times;“encourage one another” four times; “forgive one another” four times; “serve one another” three times (John Hammett. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005, 234).
Look how these first church members loved and served one another in verse 44-45. One of our leaders here at Gospel told me just this past week that one of the reasons he came to Gospel was because he had never seen a church who had such a generous spirit.
Church membership is not a spectator sport or a non-contact sport. On some Thursday evenings, I play basketball with some of the young guys in our church at Brantly Malone’s house. They are in their 20s and 30s. Someone asked me if I were not afraid someone might get hurt. I relied, “Yes, that is why I try not to get to rough with them.” Sometimes we get banged up. But we keep playing. Serving the Lord is a contact activity. Sometimes you get hurt trying to help people. But you get up and you keep serving because church membership is a commitment to serve not to be served.
3. Church Membership is a Commitment to Worship.
A. The essence of worship is giving according to Psalm 29:1-2:
Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength.
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
This is an example of Stair Step parallelism in Hebrew poetry where each line builds on the previous line and the last line is the climax. Each of the first three lines begin with “give” and the last line ends with “worship” which is the essence of giving to the Lord.
B. The essence of worship is giving according to the example of the first church members. What had these first church members given to the Lord? They had given their time to the Lord to come and be taught. They had given their spiritual gifts and talents to the Lord to serve others. Some used their spiritual gift of teaching. In Acts 6, others used their gifts of helps to help the widows. They all gave financially to the Lord in worship and to help the needy.
Jesus was committed to building His Church according to Matthew 16:18 where He said, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Jesus proved His verbal commitment with His actions. “Christ loved the Church and GAVE Himself for it.”
Church membership is our commitment to “edifying or the building of the church” which Paul instructed the local church at Corinth to practice in 1 Corinthians 14:12. Our commitment will promote unity, will be exercised among diversity, and will be demonstrated by feeding on the Word of God, serving each other as we worship and give to the Lord.