Who is the Greatest?

“Grandpa, who do you think has been the greatest president of our country during your lifetime?” That was our eleven-year-old granddaughter’s question as we sat around the dinner table.

“Sarah,” I replied, “in my opinion, it was Franklin Roosevelt.” My answer caused some discussion from those who are staunch members of the Republican Party. I went on to explain that my answer was not meant to be partisan, but only to point out what Roosevelt faced during those years of his presidency. He was fighting World War II and watching thousands of people die or be seriously injured. He was the commander-in-chief and had to make the big decisions. He also came to the White House while our country was in a financial depression. People were losing their homes, going hungry, had no jobs, no retirement plans, and he had to find ways out of this difficult period in our nation’s history. The social security plan, which comes under great criticism today, has been a blessing to millions of people, and this became a reality during his administration.

Well, some mentioned other presidents whom they felt were the “greatest,” and we ended as friends with differing opinions.

The reason for this introduction to the sermon is to focus on the word, “greatest.” Ministers meeting at an ecumenical meeting would not agree on which clergyman has made the greatest contribution to God’s kingdom in the last 50 years. Those who were of the evangelical group, where I am, would vote for Billy Graham. If you were a social activist, Martin Luther King could well be your choice. If you were looking for a theologian, many would support Dietrich Bonhoeffer; and if you were a Roman Catholic with an ecumenical outlook, Pope John XIII would be your choice.

The question, “Who is the greatest?” was around in Jesus’ day, and it appears in our text today when the disciples asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” They expected Him to mention a person like John the Baptist, but instead Jesus pulled another of His surprises. The Bible says, “He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: ÔI tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”

The dictionary defines humility as, “Not proud or haughty, not arrogant or assertive, reflecting a spirit of submission.” These characteristics are found in a little child, but often lost as we grow in years. I taught at a family Bible camp a few weeks ago. Forty-eight families were in attendance, about 200 people. One hundred of the campers were children ranging in age from infancy to 15 years old. My assignment was to teach adults, but I did have the opportunity to observe these 48 families in action and see how the children related to their parents. It was interesting. Much could be learned about family life by sitting back and quietly watching the relationships that revealed themselves. Some children were very disciplined. Others could have stood a visit to the woodshed.

With this text in the back of my mind, I watched these babes in arms, who were completely dependent on someone else to care for their needs; to toddlers in the terrible twos, trying to be independent, but not yet ready to move out on their own; to the older children, trying desperately to escape the attention of their parents. How interesting and amusing to see the frustrations, but love and patience, of the parents.

In most of life we strive for independent living. Parents teach their children to become independent. “You can do that. You can put your toys away. You can make your bed. You’re a big boy (or girl) now. You shouldn’t expect mother to do that for you.” A teenager is reprimanded by his or her folks for acting in an irresponsible way. “When are you going to learn to think for yourself?” a sixteen-year-old boy is asked by his irate father after getting a speeding ticket.

Working with this idea of becoming independent is what makes the teenage years so frustrating for both youth and parents. Parents know they have to let their children go, realizing there will be rough times, but the children have to learn. Yet, there are so many dangers and temptations that dads and moms hold on, to the place that some sons and daughters resent having their behavior scrutinized by well-meaning parents.

The years go by. We leave home, but it is not long before other people or groups begin to make us dependent on them. One criticism of government is that it often takes away from the initiative of people. The politicians say, “Vote for me. I have the solution for your problems.” Some buy this line, but on the other hand, I believe most people want to be independent of government and charitable groups. They want to take care of themselves. As we grow older, many of us prefer to live independently in our homes; but when we are forced to move to some kind of a care facility, we look for that section labeled assisted living. There we will have some freedom, even if it is only making our own breakfast, which consists of orange juice and Wheaties.

This is also true in our relationship with God. It is difficult for us to humbly bow and confess our need for God’s help. There is a common attitude that says verbally or in behavior, “I don’t need Christ. I can control my own behavior. I can live a good enough life that, at the end, God will say, ÔWell done, good and faithful servant. Enter your heavenly home.’ I have a good mind and an adequate education to work out my own salvation. I don’t need a Savior. I am my own savior. I am a strong person and will face difficulties as they come, without any crutches offered by religion.”

Replying to this attitude, Jesus speaks, “Unless you change (be converted) and become as a child, you can’t enter the kingdom of Heaven.” The Psalmist learned what it was to ask for help when he prayed, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” Isaiah saw his need for God’s grace and confessed, “I am a man of unclean lips.” Paul really emptied himself of all self-righteousness when he wrote, “I know that in me dwells no good thing.”

Jesus says these are the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, and when we ourselves possess this spirit, we are on the way to being among the greatest in God’s Kingdom, for it is then that our Lord can begin to work with us. Then we will seek God’s help for forgiveness, strength, and guidance in life. Then we will spend time daily with His Word and in prayer.

The history books are filled with the names of great people of God. These are names like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Moody, and thousands of others. Read their biographies and writings, and there you will see that, great and courageous as they were, it was their humility before God that made them spiritual giants.

Who’s the greatest in God’s kingdom? Those who walk faithfully with God, acknowledging they are completely dependent on Him for all things.

Is There a Heavenly Home?

Is there life after death?

Millions of people ask this question. For some it is such a haunting question that they seek to block it out of their minds. “Enjoy what you have now and let happen what may when life is over.” This is their way of escaping the question. Others are convinced there is nothing after death. A man once told me there was no difference between him and the dog when life was over. “Dig a hole and bury us together,” was his statement.

Others believe there is more to human existence than the years lived on earth. “This is just a trial run,” a friend told me. “When we die, there is something better for all of us in another world.” When I asked him the basis for his opinion, he replied, “It just makes sense.” His feelings seemed to be the foundation for his conviction.

On a trip to Alaska this summer, we became acquainted with a family from India. The husband was a manufacturer, and he let us know that his family was a part of the highest caste in their society. When I asked him about his religion, this gentleman told me he was a Hindu and of the Brahman group. Knowing nothing about their religion, I asked some questions. Whether or not I got the right answers, I do not know, but he told me that this meant he would go directly to heaven and not be reincarnated as others would be.

There is much confusion about life after death in our society, and there always has been. But for the Christian there is a clear picture of what happens after death. Our answers do not come from feelings, but from the Bible, which is our sole authority in matters of faith and life.

Listen to two passages from Jesus on this subject:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:1-6.

What does Jesus teach us?

1. Heaven is a place.

2. He has prepared a place for us.

3. One day He is coming back to receive us to Himself that where He is we may be also.

4. The only way to this heavenly home is through Him.

This promise is comfort to every Christian. Death is not the end of life, but only the beginning. Now listen as Jesus speaks to Martha after her brother Lazarus had died:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even when he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”

From the inspired pen of St. Paul we read:

“Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with your heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come” II Corinthians 5:1-5.

Paul tells us that our tent (the body) is in the process of being destroyed. This is the result of sickness, which attacks the body. Look! It’s all around us Ð cancer, heart problems, accidents, and all the rest. Hardly a day goes by but what we learn of someone we know and love who is ill or has died. “Why?” we ask. The answer is clear. This body was never intended to last forever. It is mortal. Seventy or eighty years are about it in most cases.

But when that tent is destroyed, we are going to receive a new body, and this one will be immortal. We hang on to the old body while we’re here, but for the Christian there is also a longing to receive this new house in which we will live forever.

Paul continues:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me” Philippians 1:21-26.

Paul was excited about going to his heavenly home. That’s where he wanted to be, so the Apostle accepted his state. While here on this earth, he would be a blessing to many people as he shared with them the Gospel. However, serving the Lord on earth, he looked forward to the heavenly home. That’s why people who trust Christ say today, “I am ready to go home and be with the Lord.”

St. John gives us another peek into the heavenly home:

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb . . . And he said, ÔThese are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb . . . Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” Revelation 7:9f.

John tells us that heaven will be full. There will be no discrimination. People will come from every part of the world. This is the work of world missionaries. They are there only because Christ has washed away their sins and they stand sinless before the throne of grace. All will be perfect. The many sorrows that are a part of our earthly existence will be no more. Think of it! Every tear will be wiped away.

Are there mysteries awaiting us when we get to heaven? Yes, there are. Will many of our questions be answered on this earth? No, they will not. It’s like Christmas Eve and the gifts are under the Christmas tree. One has your name on the gift, and it tells whom the gift is from. You have no idea what is inside the package, but you know it is a nice present because it comes from one who loves you.

That’s the way it is with heaven. It is God’s gift to those who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and it will be a wonderful place.

Some may deny there is life after death. Some will rely on their feelings to tell them what heaven is going to be like, but for those of us who take the Bible seriously, we have enough information to be confident that God has prepared something good for us. We have a base for our faith. It is not our feelings, nor ideas that have been passed down from generation to the next. It has been revealed to us through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Part of the Story

The libraries are full of books, that tell the life stories of Christian leaders who have had a great influence on millions of people. Such an example in our day would be Billy Graham. Before him there was Dwight L. Moody, Fulton Sheen, Oswald Hoffman, and a host of others. I have just finished reading a book, Profiles of Faith, by C. Bernard Ruffin. Many of these people discussed in the book might have considered themselves Christians, but would not have qualified to be classified a Christian according to Biblical standards. However, these people shaped the lives of others because of their prominence in places of leadership in the culture of our country. It is also possible that they had some influence on people’s religious life, which contributes to the culture of a people. Permit me to mention a few of these people.

Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) lived in Concord, Mass. He was a naturalist and a philosopher. He is best known for his book, Walden. One day Thoreau was severely chastised by his Aunt Louisa for not being in church on a Sunday morning. He had been out in the woods carrying a pine sapling, that he planned to plant in his front yard. He replied to his aunt, “I have been worshiping in my way, and I don’t trouble you in your way.” This sentiment expressed Thoreau’s feelings about religion. He revered Jesus as “the prince of the reformers and radicals, and a brother of mankind.” A study of Thoreau would show that he had great interest in Jesus’ ethical teachings, but cared nothing about the message of salvation. He was interested in just a part of the Christian message.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) is considered one of America’s most influential presidents, and a leader who had much concern for the common man. Such legislation as social security and government aid programs for the poor had great influence on our country. Roosevelt would have considered himself a Christian, but St. Paul might have had some question about this. When his wife, Eleanor, asked Franklin about the religious instruction of their children, he replied, “They should go to church and learn what I learned.” He had no interest in theology and would not discuss some of the great doctrinal teachings of the Christian faith. His wife described him as a “religious man.” He enjoyed reading the 23rd Psalm, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Golden Rule, but was not a great student of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The moral teachings of the Christian faith were the most important part of the Bible for President Roosevelt.

General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) of whom Ruffin says, “He never went to church. Nevertheless, he considered himself a religious man. He believed in the existence of God who controlled human affairs, and in the moral and ethical teachings of Jesus.”

These are three examples of individuals typical of people who are often referred to as Christian people because there is something in their speech or behavior that makes reference to God. How would they view the Bible? Would this type of person be a strong witness for Jesus as Savior and Lord of the world? I think we could say no to that question. Some, such as Thoreau, would deny this teaching, while others would have no comment. To them it would be unimportant. However, a text like the Good Samaritan, would catch their attention.

What is lacking in much understanding of Christianity is an emphasis on both faith and life – what we believe and how we live. If we place all the emphasis on Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection for our sins and never talk about the fruits of this faith, we have only told a part of the story. On the other hand, if we talk only about the kind of life that Jesus taught, and place little or no emphasis on our salvation, there is no power to live this life. Jesus is no more than another moralist, and we have little relationship with our Heavenly Father. A part of the Christian message is never adequate.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, our Lord is placing an emphasis on the Christian life and our relationship to those who are in need. The story is familiar to many of us from home Bible readings, Sunday school, and church.

One day a young person came to Jesus and asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law of God?”

The man replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Then Jesus told the parable.

A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him. They took all of his possessions and left him beside the road badly hurt. It wasn’t long before a priest walked by, but did not assist this hurting person. Later a Levite walked by and did not lend a hand to help him. But then a Samaritan appeared. When he saw this poor fellow, the Samaritan bandaged up his wounds, poured on some wine and oil, and brought the man to the inn. He told the attendant to take care of the injured man and paid for his keep. He assured the innkeeper that if there was extra expense, he would reimburse him when he returned.

With this verbal picture, the man understood who his neighbor was.

Jesus, in this story, brings a strong message to His Church. From your relationship with Christ, there flows a relationship to help others.

There are many lessons for Christians to learn from this classic story. Here are just a few:

1. These people lying by the side of the road include all hurting people. They may be young or old; rich or poor; sick or well; male or female; educated or uneducated; black or white.

2. We are compelled by the love of Christ to help them, regardless of whether or not they are responsible for what has happened in their lives.

3. We move beyond feeling sorry for them to helping them. The priest and the Levite might have pitied the wounded man, but they did not help him. Pity was not enough.

It is sad when a person who confesses no faith in Christ is more charitable to hurting people than those who confess faith in Christ. It is also sad when people consider themselves Christians because they had helped those in need.

We have marvelous examples today of believers helping others because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of our young people are spending vacation times helping people in poverty-stricken areas. Habitat for Humanity is another sign of God’s love reaching out to others in the name of Christ. Homes for the aged are found in town after town. Many of them were built by Christians who were anxious to care for the elderly in the name of Christ. One high school student I know has a handicapped friend who helps daily at school. God is at work and He has used the Good Samaritan as our role model.

We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no way that we can even make a contribution to our salvation, but when Christ lives in us, this relationship produces fruits of good works, which means helping people.

True Christianity consists of trusting and walking with Christ. It reminds me of the song we used to sing,

“Love and marriage,

Love and marriage,

Go together like a horse and carriage.

Dad was told by mother,

You can’t have one without the other.”

You can’t have faith without love. Amen.

Building a Team

Our Lord was passing through Samaria on his way to Jerusalem when He was refused overnight accommodations. There was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans, and so it was not uncommon to see a sign saying, “No Jews wanted.” Segregation has been around for a long time.

This kind of prejudice angered the disciples to the degree they were willing to fight. “Shall we call fire from heaven to destroy them?” James and John asked Jesus. Hearing this the Savior rebuked them. “What kind of talk is this? God wants these people to be saved, not destroyed.” So they went on to the next town.

One sport writer recently wrote that he believed the Los Angeles Lakers, who won the NBA championship in June, is one of the best, if not the best, basketball teams that has ever played the game. They have great players like Shaquille O’Neil, Kobe Bryant, and Rick Fox, but they also have a great coach in Phil Jackson who knows how to build a team. No matter how great the personnel, there must be a strong leader who can build the team.

During His ministry, Jesus served as a coach who was building a team. These people would touch others with the good news of the Gospel. The core members of this team were the twelve disciples, but today our Lord is equipping another group of people to serve as His ambassadors. I believe this is one of the most enlightening, but misinterpreted, portions of the New Testament Scripture we have. Let’s take a look at it.

Who were these 72 people talked about in the text?

They were people who had been instructed by Jesus. They heard him teach, witnessed his miracles, and observed His concern for people. This might be identified as a “classroom experience.” Now they were to go out and experience what it meant to talk with people about their relationship with God. They had been listening. Now they were going to tell others about it. They were going to learn by doing.

My wife and I recently spent two weeks in Alaska. When we boarded the airplane in Anchorage for Minneapolis, I would have been very uncomfortable had the pilot said, “Welcome aboard. I am your pilot, and I have had several years of classroom instruction on how to fly an airplane. Today will be my first attempt to actually pilot the plane. Just sit back and enjoy your flight.”

I, together with all the other passengers, would have the last word, “Let us out of here. We are not flying over these rugged mountains and glaciers with an inexperienced person in the cockpit.” As important as it is to study the textbooks, we learn by doing. So it is in witnessing to our Christian faith.

As Jesus sent them out to practice their discipleship, he gave them a simple but specific set of instructions. They were to heal the sick and tell them, “The Kingdom of God is near” (10) While many people would receive them warmly, others would be unkind. Jesus did not try to be deceptive making them believe it would be an experience mission. Rather, he said, “I send you out as lambs among wolves.”

This text raises some penetrating questions, which the Church has a tendency to avoid. As we read the bulletins of many churches, it is obvious the congregation does not lack for activity. However, what place does “evangelism training” have in this schedule? How much training is being done to better prepare believers to share their faith in Christ with others? How well are we equipped to care for the needs of others? Can we verbalize our own relationship with Christ? Are we able to tell of our experiences in the Christian walk that might catch the attention of some who yet have to taste of God’s love?

On our Alaskan cruise, we traveled with a teacher who was very excited about all she was seeing. “I can hardly wait to teach the children about glaciers, panning for gold, and less than three hours of darkness. She would make those units in geography live in the minds of those students, because the teacher had been there and was telling them first hand what Mount McKinley, the highest point in North America, looked like. Our witness is much more dynamic when we share what we have experienced. That’s the way it is without a Christian witness. As we walk with Christ and feel His love, there arises a story to tell an unbelieving friend or relative. This text is too thought provoking to overlook, yet sharing our faith with others is so intimidating that we decide not to be a part of the team Jesus is building to bring the Good News to our world.

The text is also misunderstood. The 72 returned with joy saying, “Even the demons submit to us in your name.” Jesus must have sensed a new pride in them. “Don’t rejoice in this power I have given you, but be happy that your names are written in heaven, and you are a part of my team,” was his counsel to them. God’s power is greater than Satan’s, and Christians do see some marvelous things happen in the lives of people through their ministries. How easy it is to feel we really had much to do with this person’s conversion. We are simply instruments in His hands.

The effectiveness of our congregation’s ministry depends on how seriously we take this text in training and sending out people with the message of God’s Word. It would be well for us to study the Sunday bulletins listing all of the activities in the weekly program in the light of this text see what priority evangelism training has in our churches. Remember, Jesus wanted every believer to be a witness for Him. That’s the way the Kingdom is built.

Church Membership! What Does It Mean in 2001?

Our Lord was passing through Samaria on his way to Jerusalem when He was refused overnight accommodations. There was no love lost between Jews and Samaritans, and so it was not uncommon to see a sign saying, “No Jews wanted.” Segregation has been around for a long time.

This kind of prejudice angered the disciples to the degree they were willing to fight. “Shall we call fire from heaven to destroy them?” James and John asked Jesus. Hearing this, the Savior rebuked them. “What kind of talk is this? God wants these people to be saved, not destroyed.” So they went on to the next town.

As they walked along the way, Jesus taught; and people responded to what they were hearing. In our text Jesus talks about being His disciple. Some of these statements are so strong that it might be well to give them serious consideration and ask the uncomfortable question, “What does it mean to be a member of the Church in 2001?”

Listening to Jesus teach, someone in the audience said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” He offered his life unconditionally, but had not counted the cost of following Jesus.

The Lord replied. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Bishop Ryle comments on Jesus’ answer, “Our Lord wants it understood that there is a battle to be fought and a race to be run, and many hard things to be endured if we follow Him. He does not want to discourage us, but he wishes us to know the truth.”

To another man Jesus said, “Follow me.”

The man replies, “First let me go and bury my father.”

This seemed to be a reasonable request, but Jesus answered, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.”

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Your loyalty cannot be divided.

What do these teachings of Jesus say to others about being His follower? Are we telling those who request membership in our congregation what it means to confess faith in Christ if it is done sincerely from the heart? It we aren’t, is there any wonder that many in our church’s membership know little about the cost of Christian discipleship?

During my ministry, we received hundreds of people into church membership. People entered the congregation through baptism, confirmation, or letter of transfer. If they had not been members of our denomination, we requested they attend a series of classes to acquaint them with the doctrinal teachings of the Lutheran Church.

It was not difficult to receive new members, especially if the people were looking around for a place to worship. However, we later entered into a program known as Evangelism Explosion. A part of this program was to visit in the homes of our members and ask them two questions. The first was, “Do you know for sure that if you died tonight you would go to heaven?” Many of our members answered, “I hope so.” The second question was, “If you should die tonight and stand in God’s presence, and He asked you, ÔWhy should I let you into my heaven?’ what would your answer be?” A common response was, “I hope that I have lived a good enough life to be received into heaven.”

This bothered me. I had never left the pulpit without telling the congregation the way of salvation, and yet so many could not even verbalize the way to heaven, to say nothing about living in a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Where had I failed? I realize that only the Holy Spirit can create faith, but should they have become members of the congregation, which is the body of baptized believers, and not known the way of salvation? Should we have asked these people to share their Christian testimony with the Deacons of the Church, or would that be too legalistic for a Lutheran congregation?

I shall never forget a brief visit with Charles Swindoll, the pastor of a large church in California. My son-in-law and I had attended an evening service, and he invited anyone who would like to chat with him after the service to meet him at the front of the church. During our visit, I asked about the membership of his congregation. He told us that there were approximately 3,500 who were members, but more important, that day over 7,000 people had worshiped in their church. “We do not stress membership, but more their relationship with God and their hunger for the Word of God.”

In contrast, I once had a call to become the senior pastor of a congregation with 6,000 members. I declined this call, but about a year later, a good friend of mine who had accepted the call told me that the 6,000 members had been reduced to 4,000. It seems that this church and another large congregation in the area had a contest as to which one was the larger of the two. My friend told me that no member was ever taken from the roll. There were many people still considered members who had been dead for years. This is humorous, but tragic.

Let me share some statistics with you. Two churches on the east coast make the following report: the first church had a membership of 319, and an attendance of 118. The second church has a membership of 2,184, and an attendance of 350. Two churches in the Midwest report the following: the first has a membership of 5,122, and an attendance of 1,200. The second church has 1,200 members, and an attendance of 209. One church on the west coast has a membership of 1,280, and an attendance of 304.

Doesn’t a committed Christian who has joined the congregation have a desire to be faithful in his or her worship attendance? Are people assuming that if they have their names on the membership roll of the church, they are in a personal relationship with God? If the church assumes that its members are disciples of Jesus, should they ask them to do things in the congregation’s program that they are not equipped to do? Should a person teach Sunday school who does not have the assurance of his or her salvation? Can a person who does not live in a personal relationship with God be expected to be a faithful steward giving of his or her time and talents? Can we expect a person to be a part of the missionary force of the congregation when he is really a part of the mission of the congregation?

Is it time for the congregation to be honest with people and talk freely about the cost of being a disciple of Christ? Certainly we are not to discourage members in the congregation, but we do need to take Jesus’ Word seriously when he said, “It you want to be my disciple, take up your cross and follow me.”

My final report to the congregation stated that the membership totaled 4,368 with an average attendance of 3,000 each Sunday.” I believe Swindoll was right when he encouraged people to hear God’s Word and let the Holy Spirit lead them to know the Savior. Then it would be time enough to join the congregation.

Who sets the standards for church membership Ð Jesus or our society?

What is the meaning of church membership in 2001?