Seven Commitments Church Members Make
Every metaphor for the church in the New Testament – a people, a house, a body, a family, a flock, a temple, an assembly – highlights the communal reality of following Jesus. Christians are church members, part of the universal church, and, therefore, committed to a local church. As a pastor, when I talk to people about what this looks like, I emphasize seven commitments church members make.
Meaningful membership is impossible when you are willfully absent Sunday after Sunday (Heb 10:25). The most critical commitment is showing up, which is not as simple as it sounds. On Sunday morning, wrangling kids is a nightmare, your mattress and pajamas are cloud-like comfy, and the coffee tastes better at home. That’s not even mentioning the spiritual roadblocks behind all of those. Why push through those difficulties to be present?
A few weeks ago, an elderly member came to church for the first time in over two years. Health issues meant that for two years, she couldn’t make the walk from the parking lot to the sanctuary. That morning though, with her cane in hand and pain shooting up her leg, she could not stay home. Walking through the doors, she brought a flood of joy with her. People hugged her and prayed with her. To see her was a blessing. What she received and gave us by her presence alone taught me again why being present when the church gathers is worth the hassle.
Prayer, both private and corporate, is oxygen to our spiritual lungs. In Acts, Christians pray at every turn. They pray for guidance when replacing Judas (Acts 1) and boldness to proclaim the gospel when it will cost them dearly (Acts 4). As the leaders in Antioch are in prayer, the Holy Spirit affirms he has set apart Saul and Barnabas as missionaries to the Gentiles (Acts 13:1-3). Paul and Silas sing and pray as they sit in a Philippian jail cell (Acts 16), and Paul prays with the Ephesians elders before setting sail to Jerusalem (Acts 20). They model the devotion of the whole church always to be praying (Acts 2:42). Not just in private, but together.
Be Students of the Bible
We keep our kids’ art supplies – markers, pencils, scissors, glue, and paper – in boxes on our dining table. Almost every day, those boxes are open, assisting in the artistic adventures of two boys. Conversely, the family photos hanging on our stairway wall get some heartwarming looks but nothing more. I’ll admit, a nice Bible makes a beautiful decoration on a shelf, mantle, or even in a collection of apps. However, to grow as a Christian, that Bible needs to be opened, studied, and used. Jesus reminds us, “man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Church members are therefore committed to, “desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow up into your salvation” (1 Pet 2:2).
Be Sharers of the gospel.
Philemon is a short and deeply personal letter from Paul. In it, he prays for his friend and the church in his house, “that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.” (Phm 6 ESV). Sharing the gospel involves announcing the good news of Jesus Christ and devotion to doing good in his name (Gal 6:9-10). As Philemon shares his faith in word and deed, he’ll know more fully every good thing in Christ and become more effective in sharing that good news. Talking to others about Jesus and doing good for the sake of Jesus stokes the embers of our affection for him. Don’t hoard the gospel and its blessings, but generously hold them out for others to grab hold of.
Be Generous and Glad Givers.
No idol invades our hearts faster than money. In his kindness, God has built a commitment to generosity through giving into the Christian life. The habit of offering God the first fruits was part of Israel’s worship (Lev 27:30-33, Pro 3:9). They gave the best of their earnings to the Lord, not because God needed it, but as a profession of gratitude and worship. This habit is seen in New Testament churches financially supporting other congregations in need (Acts 11:27-30, 1 Cor 8-9) and paying their teaching elders (1 Timothy 5:17, Gal 6:6). By willingly and joyfully giving our money – not just our surplus – we subvert the idol of money by God’s grace. Glad and generous giving professes that all we have is a gift from God, and we aim to use it for his purposes.
Romans 12:16 says, “Live in harmony with one another.” The gospel makes harmony possible, but it requires effort. Church members should be quick to repent and forgive as we work hard to maintain “the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). Sometimes, we must step into the murky waters of conflict to bring peace. Remember Jesus’s promise, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Mt 5:9). We commit to knowing and loving real people when we belong to a local church, so we must commit to becoming peacemakers.
Making disciples is the church’s mission (Matt 28:19). Each of us has received a spiritual gift for building up the church (1 Cor 12, 1 Peter 4:10-11), so every Christian has a role to play in God’s disciple-making mission. This starts with a commitment to learning. God gives elders to every church to teach and shepherd. Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, since they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account, so that they can do this with joy and not grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” For your good and their joy, love, and learn from your elders/pastors. Disciples also commit to making more disciples by helping others follow Jesus. Speaking the truth in love, exhortation, encouragement, opening the Bible together, practicing hospitality, singing together, praying for each other, and evangelism are all applications of our commitment to make disciples.
Christians belong to Christ as part of his family and are members of his church. These seven commitments are not an exhaustive list, but they are essential for running the race of the Christian life together in our local churches.