The Value of Belonging to a Church

Church membership.  In 21st century America, the concept of church membership is vanishing quickly in favor of viewing church as a buffet.  There are three societal factors that I believe are influencing this: consumerism, individualism, and reluctance to make commitments.  
Consumerism is the concept that, as a consumer, you can pick and choose what things you want or don’t want from a particular item.  Take food for example, if you go to Burger King and order a Whopper you can customize your burger any number of different ways.  I enjoy going to Sheetz and getting their food.  One of the things I enjoy is being able to get a MTO (Made-to-Order) item that is customized just the way I like it.  Other food places like Chipotle, Mod Pizza, and Panera Bread allow you to watch and customize your food with almost endless possibilities.  While this may succeed in the food industry, it is dangerous for this to happen in church.  The church was designed by God.  It is His idea.  Church membership is about sacrificing for others and showing grace to one another.   
Individualism is the notion that I don’t need anyone else to help me.  I can be me and I can do my life by myself and be better off.  Can the church let “me be me” or are they going to force me to conform to some other standard?  This is the question that discourages people from engaging in the joys of church membership.   Jesus didn’t operate under the mantra of individualism, but rather advocated for doing life with others.  Solomon noted that “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  (Eccl. 4:9-12)
Many people in our culture are also reluctant to make commitments.  Most like to leave their options open, abstaining from commitments that are long term in duration.  Planet Fitness created a niche with their month to month gym membership with no pressure to stay.  The number of marriages has decreased over the past 20 years in part because people lack commitment.  On this point many accuse young people of being the issue, but it is my experience that a lot of people of all ages in our culture struggle with the idea of commitment
Take all three of these factors and you end up with a love that looks a lot different from the love Christ demonstrated (John 15:13; Rom. 5:8).   What is the solution?  A proper mindset makes all the difference.  Try this: tomorrow on your way to church, ask yourself how you can impact and minister to others at your church.  Instead of looking to be ministered to, look to minister to others.  That was Jesus’ mindset.  He did not come to be served, but to give His life for the world.  Jesus’ heartbeat is to serve others and pour into them his love and grace.  Is that your outlook?

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Cultural Awareness

Over the past few weeks there have been numerous natural disasters that have hit near the Hanover area.  I think of the horrific flooding in Ellicott City, the historic flooding of the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry, and the tornadoes in Wilkes Barre last week.  With all the flooding and severe weather I am reminded of how thankful I am for the National Weather Service that helps us be aware of these disasters before they happen.  The “weather awareness” that we have in our day is beneficial, but I wonder how much we are aware of what’s going on in our culture?
 

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