As I continue in the "Thinking Biblically" sermon series, basically shaped after our church's doctrinal statement, we've had what could be called a "sub-series" on the church. It ended up being a trilogy. In the last installment, titled "What Do I Have to Do With Christ's Church?", I focused down as intensely as I could on just that juncture: attendance/involvement/membership.
How absurd is the condition of the confessing evangelical church? Absurd enough that you still have to say it's important actually to go to a local church. Absurd enough that you still have to say it's important actually to be involved in the church you attend, to whatever degree you're able.
My bottom line is: local church attendance and involvement is Biblically a crystal-clear moral imperative; something like membership is a necessity; and formal church membership makes sound Biblical sense, other things being equal.
The first aim in this sermon, of course, was to serve the dear folks whom it's being my great joy to pastor. All of the sermon should have legitimate specific application locally.
I hoped to give something online for Christians and/or pastors to share with those who haven't thought the issue through Biblically. That means I paint with a broad brush, in that larger context. There are some not in CBC who would hear the sermon and have a genuine issue in applying it. But they are relatively few, and they are far fewer than those who imagine they've got a note from Mom excusing them.
In preparing, beyond personal study and reflection and teaching and writing over the decades, some of the online resources from which I profited most were Aaron's open letter to Frank, and the Frank Turk posts to which Aaron referred therein.
Here's one passage from Frank that really struck me. The thoughts made their way into the sermon:
But here's the problem: from the day of Paul and his life after founding all those churches across the ancient world, the church was never perfect. Go back and read this post by me and look at the state of the churches Paul was writing to. The churches Paul founded were frankly not perfect -- they weren't even really very consistent. You know: it's not like 40 years had passed between the time Paul founded the church in Corinth and when they decided that the Lord's table was really a private party and not a public place where sinners demonstrate their unity in Christ, or where they had, apparently, forgotten the Gospel which is of first importance.Woo, well-put. (Don't worry about Frank being puffed up by this; he never reads my posts.)
And Paul's first letter to Corinth didn't say, "Dudes: flee to the hills -- your pastors and elders are apostates." He said, in effect, "remember the truth of Christ and find unity in truth."
I've received some gracious feedback for the sermon, folks who found it helpful. And so now I offer this to you, hoping it's of help to you, and maybe beyond.
Now I get to figure out how to say everything about angels and demons in one sermon. Woo-tah!
FOR FURTHER READING:
Why you need to be in a church this Sunday.
Thinking like a slave