Two weeks ago I was filled with amazing intentions. I was going to write new church membership material. I would cover what it meant to be a church member. I would explain where our church was going. I would help people see how they could get involved. I would declare the intention of our leadership and their roles. I was going to set the world on fire with incredible content that explained in warm, easy-to-understand terms how our church was going to impact our world for Christ…Sometimes reality can be harsh. Within a day all of the wonderfully constructed explanations vanished from my brain. Instead, I got lost in a book entitled, “I Am A Church Member” by Thom S. Rainer. It was a small book. Only six chapters. It did exactly what it said it would do – explain what it meant to be a church member. The more I read, the more I reflected. The more I reflected, the more I was disturbed. I was disturbed because I realized…I wasn’t a very good church member. To make things worse — I’m the pastor. Gulp.
With much more reflection and prayer, I began to write the material for our church family and things began to flow. As I married the book I read with the material I was writing I began to feel a peace in my mind and calmness in my heart. Just because I am the pastor doesn’t mean I am perfect. Just because I am the pastor doesn’t mean I can’t ask for forgiveness and grow. Because in the end, I serve functionally as the pastor but I really am a church member. I, too, am part of the body. If we were honest with ourselves I wonder how many of us think of the church family and THEN the pastor, as if “we” exist together and “he” exists in some other universe of christianity. Admittedly, this cultural mentality may be well deserved. Through the years people have put pastors on ivory pedestals of transcendent perfection. Sometimes the pastors themselves have climbed up and put themselves there. In fact, I have been told several times that a pastor simply can’t develop friendships with his congregants because he needs to maintain some distance so that he doesn’t erode his moral authority for preaching. As far as I can tell, in laymen’s terms, this simply means, “Don’t get too close or they’ll see your flaws and think that you can’t preach God’s Word to them because you yourself aren’t perfect in obedience.” To which I say, “Horse hockey!” If anything, it adds authenticity to your preaching knowing that you, as the pastor, sit under the authority and correction of scripture! It lets your people know that YOU know you aren’t perfect but you are trying and desiring to be more Christlike. It means you give them room to encourage and exhort you with grace and love when you fail. It means, that despite all of the personal expectations of perfection you place on yourself, you are part of the body and you need them, and they need you, and its ok you’re not perfect. Because, as God has designed His Bride, we are far better together than we are apart.
So, while I’ll need to give account to the Board as to why I haven’t met my material deadline, I feel blessed to have these two weeks to reflect on the body of Christ and how important that membership commitment is. In the body we covenant to be with each other, to love each other, to extend grace and forgiveness to each other, to pick each other up, to graciously correct and exhort each other, and through all of it, to point each other to God who fills us with His love so we CAN do all these things together. Now who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
If you attend a local church regularly I encourage you to consider membership if you aren’t already a member. If you have no desire to join the church you’re attending because of what you see there, either talk to the leadership or go find a body that you can join. We need each other — eyes, ears, feet and hands — together we form the body of Christ and in Him we grow together, live and move and have our being to the glory of God. Amen.