Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Decision To Limit The Number Of Cubbies

Recently the leaders of our pre-school group known as Cubbies in our AWANA children’s ministry made the decision to put a cap on the number of children who can be part of that age level this year. This decision was made after a lot of agonizing and it was done primarily for one reason: space restrictions.

In a time when most small town churches and their ministries are in decline, having a growing AWANA ministry that is busting at the seams is a good problem to have. Nevertheless, I know some are concerned about this decision. So, in this post I want to address those who are concerned with some brief thoughts…

·         Though I wish this decision did not have to be made, I support those who made it. They were pressed to the limit last year. I want to give the freedom to those on the front lines actually doing the work to make those decisions—as much as we possibly can.

·         The church values young children and also children’s ministry. We know how important it is to reach out to young children and expose them to the gospel as soon as possible. Those commitments have not changed.

·         Many preschools, schools and other kinds of children’s ministries have to set limits on the numbers of children who can participate due to space and staffing limitations. It does not in any way suggest we don’t care about those children or those children’s families who may be turned away beyond the cap. Please join me in praying that we can keep significant connections to any preschoolers and families who have to be turned away this year and can bring them back in next year.

·         Because we are in the process of planning to expand our facility, this cap should be a temporary cap.

·         Speaking of our building expansion, this is one of the many bits of evidence that we are now at a place of desperately needing to expand—not for luxury purposes, but for ministry purposes.

·         I want to thank all of our congregation for your patience during this time. We have a wonderful AWANA volunteer staff and leadership who all are doing a fantastic job in space that is now too small. We are praying that will change soon.

·         Please keep our AWANA ministry and other ministries in prayer as we “ramp up” for a new year of ministry.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Chief Membership Objection Answered, Part 2

In my last post I began to address the most common objection that Christians level toward official church membership:  The New Testament Church itself did not have such a process. I gave the first part of the response to that objection--namely that all which church membership comprises was found in the New Testament Church as essentials to spiritual health and growth.

I ended that post by acknowledging that some will still say, "But if the New Testament Church could carry out these principles apart from membership, we can too." I responded to that idea by highlighting the difference between us and the New Testament Church:  They faced the threat of outward persecution and we do not. That is the main difference that leads to our needing formal membership.

I want to come back to that thought in this post and elaborate upon it.

A Persecuted Church Has Less Need For Formal Membership
I am indebted to Jonathan Leeman for this truth. Leeman has written and taught extensively on the subject of church membership recently. He made the point that when Christians in a country or a region of a country are being persecuted or facing the possibility of persecution, it becomes very difficult for people to profess faith in Jesus Christ as Savior. In such an environment the threat of persecution itself tends to become the instrument of clarity for knowing who is in and who is out. For example, if a person in such a place professes faith in Jesus Christ and is baptized, now they run the risk of being ostracized by family, imprisoned, or killed. This tends to cut down on the likelihood that a person will profess faith just because others have or in some flippant way. It increases the likelihood that a higher percentage of professions will be real. The exact opposite is true in lands like ours where we do not face such prices for our faith. That is one of the reasons our churches are wise to have formal membership processes.

In Acts 5:13 we read: “None of the rest (that is, people not currently part of the church) dared join them (other believers), but the people held them in high esteem.” People of Jerusalem knew that Jewish leaders had threatened excommunication from the synagogue for confessing Jesus as Christ (John 9:22) and that openly following him could bring persecution (Acts 4:1-22). As such, no one had the boldness to trust in Jesus and join the other believers. This exemplifies exactly Leeman’s point. Yet, we go on to read in Acts 5:14 that “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of men and women.” This could only be the case because God was sovereignly calling them, regenerating them, and giving them true faith in Christ. 

In other words, a clear demarcation between believer and unbeliever was set up. No one wanted to join themselves with the church, unless they had truly repented and trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior. In such a climate there are not as many false conversions.  The membership process is designed to help function in a similar way, at least when it comes to helping a person know whether or not they are truly saved and are truly willing to submit to being and making disciples in the church.

But All Of This Can Be True Of Me Without Being A Member
I have known a handful of people both in Fort Collins and here in Minden who are committed to Christ, to the church, we have known they are “part of us,” but they still are not members officially. Those people would say, “All of this can be true of me without membership.” I would answer them in this way, “Yes, most of it can be true. However, you cannot vote and there are some ministries in which you cannot serve.” I would also say, "Though you might be able to fulfill many of these principles apart from membership, most people will not. What is more, in our day and time it is not wise for the reasons mentioned above for a congregation not to have official membership and for a truly committed follower of Jesus Christ not to submit themselves to membership in a church. So, even if there are some exceptions, that is, some who can be committed and fulfill most of what membership involves without being members, it is still best that Christians submit to the membership process and do it for the good and health of the whole church."

I encourage all of us who profess faith in Jesus Christ and who are a regular part of the Minden Evangelical Free Church to submit to the official membership and accountability of the church. I encourage all of us who are members to remember the promises, the covenant, you have made to Christ and this church and carry them out to the best of your ability and by his grace. If you need a copy of that covenant, please contact me and I will get one to you.