IV. Responsibilities of A Church Member
Let me first read the paragraph concerning membership responsibilities from what our church’s bylaws states and then unpack them accordingly. I’m reading from Article 5, section 2, which states:
Church members shall promote the philosophy and ministry of Sovereign Grace Bible Church (Romans 15:5-6), participate regularly in the corporate worship of this church (Acts 2:42), support this ministry prayerfully and financially (2 Corinthians 9:5-8), exercise their spiritual gifts for the mutual benefit of all the church body (Ephesians 4:15-16) and willingly submit to the biblical oversight of the elders (I Thessalonians 5:12; I Timothy 5:17; Heb. 13:17).
According to our church’s bylaws there are five biblical responsibilities for our members. First, church members shall promote the philosophy and ministry of Sovereign Grace Bible Church. As a member of SGBC can you think of at least three things that we value as a church? If you don’t know them, then it’s a time for you to review what they are. You can easily find it when you visit our church’s website and click on “Our Values.” Perhaps you know them, but have a slight difficulty in articulating them. If so, then phrase it in your own words so that it can stick with you. Do whatever you can to remember what we value and learn to express them because it is impossible to promote something if you don’t know what it is (cf. Romans 15:5-6).
Second, church members shall participate regularly in the corporate worship of this church.
- NAU Acts 2:42They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
- NAU Hebrews 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
For Christians the highlight of the week should be on the Lord’s day when God’s redeemed community congregate to worship. And I want to encourage our parents to model such enthusiastic and exciting anticipation for the Lord’s day worship for our children. Our children learn from watching. Imitations occur when we watch the people we’re close to or look up to. Parents, please do your best to sanctify the Lord’s day. That means, set aside this day (not just portion of the day, but the whole day) to focus on God, his church, your spiritual growth and reflections, and so forth. According to London Baptist Confession of Faith (well as Westminster Confession of Faith) states:
The sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering their common affairs aforehand, do not only observe an holy rest all day, from their own works, words and thoughts, about their worldly employment and recreations, but are also taken up the whole time in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy [Chapter 21 in WCF and Chapter 22 in LBCF].
Some of the sanctifying practices are to turn off TV, try not to go shopping or mall, or engage in activities that easily distract your focus. My point is do whatever you can to sanctify this day to focus on God, to fellowship with his people, your spiritual growth and reflections, and I may add, also for your physical and mental rest too. Some people maybe tempted to argue by saying, “Everyday is Lord’s day. So I’m not going to give a special attention to only this day.” When people talk like that I like to tell them, “No. You’re lying! Not everyday is Lord’s day by the way you live! During the week you live as though God doesn’t even exit. So stop fronting with cliché like ‘Everyday is Lord’s day’ when you haven’t even surrendered your life to the lordship of Jesus. You just like to use religious cliché like that to justify your behavior.”
It is God’s will for you and I to gather with his people on this day for worship and fellowship. So please don’t talk like “Lord willing, I’ll see you at church next Sunday.” I would say God is willing but are you willing? Don’t say things like “Lord willing” when certain actions are clearly revealed in his word – e.g., praying, discipleship-making, loving our spouses, forgiving, holy-living, etc.
Third, church members of SGBC shall support this ministry prayerfully and financially. What if I told you that success of this church is largely dependent on your prayer? As Calvinists we may reject any view that shadows God’s sovereignty. At the same time, because we are Calvinists that does not negate our responsibility to pray faithfully and fervently. Hence it is not a completely false statement to say that success of this church is largely dependent on your prayer. Charles Spurgeon said, “Whenever God determines to do a great work, He first sets His people to pray” (source unknown). In his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation, D.A. Carson writes:
One of the constitutional enforcements of the gospel is prayer. Without prayer, the gospel can neither be preached effectively, promulgated faithfully, experienced in the heart, nor be practiced in the life. And for the very simple reason that by leaving prayer out of the catalogue of religiousduties, we leave God out, and His work cannot progress without Him.
Not only our responsibility include faithful and fervent praying, but also faithfully making financial contributions to this local church.
- NAU 2 Corinthians 9:5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brethren that they would go on ahead to you and arrange beforehand your previously promised bountiful gift, so that the same would be ready as a bountiful gift and not affected by covetousness. 6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.
Fourth, church members shall exercise their spiritual gifts for the mutual benefit of all the church body.
- NAU Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.
In order to exercise your God-given spiritual gifts, you have to first discover what they are. And it is not sufficient to say you know what they are if the local church you are member of cannot verify and agree with such assessment. That is why we need each other, namely a local church that can help you discover your spiritual gifts. I’ve met too many individuals who pride themselves that they have a certain spiritual gift when in fact they didn’t. What’s worse is when a church does not have the discernment and courage to say no to these individuals but allowing them to serve in the wrong areas of ministry.
Finally, church members of SGBC shall willingly submit to the biblical oversight of the elders. Over the years I’ve learned that nothing is more detrimental to the life and unity of the church than individuals who are unsubmissive to spiritual elders. Fail to submit breeds divisiveness and infections. Benjamin Franklin once said, “He who cannot obey, cannot command.” And I believe that a key to biblical submission is to cultivate a servant’s heart.
- NAU Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Here are some biblical reminders concerning submission to the oversight of biblical elders:
- NAU 1 Thessalonians 5:12But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction,
- NAU 1 Timothy 5:17The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.
- NAU Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.