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Church Membership

Church Membership

Hebrews 13:15-19

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL
VERSION ®. NIV®. COPYRIGHT © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by
Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Application

  • What was your main takeaway from the sermon?
  • Did the Holy Spirit lead you into any situations this week where you had an opportunity to put your takeaway(s) into practice?
  • What impact did those opportunities have on you spiritually?

Discussion Questions:

  • We’re told in the text to continually offer a sacrifice of praise. How would you describe a lifestyle of worship and devotion to the Lord?
  • How might church membership help you to fulfill a desire to live completely dedicated to God?
  • Cory said in the sermon, ‘There is a difference between striving and surrender.’ How does doing these activities “through Christ” or “In Him” make a life of devotion possible, joyful, and even realistic?
  • Submission, authority, and institution are words that provoke negativity in the ears of modern listeners. Explain how the Bible seems to suggest those things are good and beneficial (if done well)? How might your pre-understandings (previously held ideas) misinform how you read this passage?
  • If we are reluctant to do what the passage is calling us to, we’re told that we could make leadership “of no benefit to us”. What are some dangers to this? In what ways have you been tempted to veer from this pattern of leadership and submission?
  • Why is prayer such an important aspect in this dynamic?
  • John Owen warns us that we should be ashamed to critique leaders in public if we are unwilling to pray for them in private. How can you be more diligent in prayer for the leaders of the church?
  • Joy is supposed to be a feature of the relationship between the leaders and the people. How can you increase the joy of the leaders? How can you increase your own joy?

3.10.2024

Transcript

Church Membership

*This transcript is generated from the sermon audio. This document has not been edited for spelling, grammar, or exactness.

All right, well, if you’re able to track down a Bible, we’re going to be in Hebrews chapter 13. Hebrews chapter 13. And I’m going to read verses 15 to 19, and then we’ll pray and we’ll get to work. So this is Hebrews 13, verses 15 to 19. And the bibles that we have here, that’s on page 1042. I’ll read verses 15 through 19. Here we go. It reads like this.

Through Jesus. Therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others. For with such sacrifices, God is pleased. Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for your word and for your wisdom. Lord, we pray that by your spirit, through your word, you would speak over this church and you would help us to embrace the God given calling that you have for us. And so, lord, we just pray over this time, and we commit it to you. We ask that you would get done what you want to get done, and we pray this in Jesus name. Amen. Amen.

So this morning I’m going to be talking about a concept called church membership. And this is a wildly unpopular concept. Let me just give you a brief definition of it. This is a very generic way to put it, but it’s basically a public promise to follow the Lord in partnership with a local church. So it’s basically saying, I am all in. I want my life to reflect the glory of Christ. I want to live in a way that’s pleasing to him. And I see that my connection to a local church is an instrumental part of my successful ability to fulfill that. So it’s a public promise to follow the Lord in partnership with a local church. Now, this is an idea that is resisted by many people. And in fact, someone say, core, what a silly idea to talk about this at church. We resist this and we avoid the subject. There are a lot of different reasons why, depending, and even within our congregation, there’s not clarity on how people feel about it. Some of us are very excited about it. Some of us are very reluctant to embrace it. And there are a lot of different reasons why. I’ll try to explain that along the way. Let me give you three reasons why you should be open minded to it, at least. So that’s where we’re starting today. We’re going to start with the subject and then we’re going to see if the Lord leads us into embracing it as a church. But we’re just starting big picture, here’s what it is. So here are three reasons why I think we should at least be open minded to it. So some of us are sitting here with the haremph and we’re like, I’m not going to listen to this. This is a church membership. I’m trying to warm you to the idea of maybe this isn’t so bad. Okay, that’s where we’re going this morning. Three reasons.

Membership Makes Churches Stronger

Number one, membership makes churches stronger. There was a survey done, there’s a little booklet called membership matters. And there was a survey done of 52 different churches and they do church membership. And there was a question being asked, do you agree with this statement that your church membership process makes your church stronger? And 98% of the respondents said absolutely, which you might say, well, dude, that’s just confirmation bias. That’s a bunch of people doing it, saying that they like doing it, giving you the reasons for the fact that they practice it. But the next one is, I think, a little bit even more surprising and significant. Here’s the second reason why you should be open to it.

Membership Helps Churches to be More Missional

There’s a group that has been following church startups for decades. Like church planting. Like a seed, you put it in the ground, it grows. And they’re looking at all these different churches that are considered to be startups, and they’re tracking them over decades now, and they every so often will publish a report. So the one that I have is called the state of church planting in the US 2015 edition. So they’re looking at these different startups and starting a church is hard. Not all of them make it, but then they’re evaluating, how are you guys doing? What’s interesting is when they got to the subject of church membership, there was a correlation in a couple of different directions. First, what I already said, it makes churches stronger. All of their metrics were better. The churches that had church membership, all of their metrics were better. But here’s the one that I thought was significant for us. Church membership helps churches be more missional. There was a correlation between churches that had membership and higher attendance, more baptisms and more willingness to start new churches. That’s incredible. Because a lot of times we think, well, church membership is that we focus on us and we become ingrown and all these different things. But the opposite is actually what the evidence suggests, that church membership helps churches look outward and love and bless and serve the world in a better way.

Outsiders and Newcomers Appreciate When We Practice Church Membership

Now, here’s my third reason. And this comes from 15 years of serving in full-time ministry on staff at a church and another five years of parachurch ministry. This is anecdotal, but this is what I believe. I actually think that outsiders and newcomers appreciate when we talk about church membership. And I’ll give my reason why. Outsiders and newcomers look at churches and they know this to be the case. We are often very judgmental, right. Christians are judgy people. So a lot of times we look at the world and we condemn the world and we’re critical of what’s going on out there and we got to stay away from that. And we’re judgy in that direction. But then they look at how we handle things in house and they recognize, oh, they’re pretty lenient with themselves. So that creates a situation where a lot of people look at the church and they go, they’re just a bunch of hypocrites. They judge us and we’re not trying to live according to their standards. And then when they look in house, they’re very lenient. That’s a bunch of hypocrites. When we say we’re going to do church membership, what I have found to be the case is a lot of times outsiders and newcomers look at that and they go, good on you. That you would actually hold yourself accountable to the standards that you talk about. And that’s what church membership is. It is a willingness on our part to say, we are all in. We’re going to live this thing out in the way that God wants us to, and we’re going to do it in partnership with one another.

So here we go. Hebrews, chapter 13. I’m going to show you two different expectations laid on christians from the Bible. And what I’m going to try to do is convince you that maybe church membership would be the way we could do it. And we see if I accomplish that along the way. So two different biblical obligations for us, and then we’ll think through along the way whether or not church membership could help. So two of them. First, a commitment to live out your faith. And then secondly, a commitment to a particular local church. A commitment to live out your faith. Verses 615 and 16. And then verses 17 to 19 are a commitment to a particular local church.

A COMMITMENT TO LIVE A LIFE OF OBEDIENCE

Here’s what it says. Verse 15. Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise. It’s an invitation. Let us. But it’s more than that because it’s scriptural. It’s an entreaty. So it’s saying, let’s do this. Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise. And we need to just start with, what are we talking about? What is a sacrifice? And a sacrifice is an expression of devotion and worship. It historically has been that all religions, they would have these sacrifices. And what you meant by that is it is an expression of your devotion and your worship to that particular deity that you’re sacrificing to. So when we talk about Christianity, we’re talking about the Way in which we can express our devotion to God. If you read the Bible, you find that there are all kinds of different sacrifices that are made. There are monetary sacrifices, financial resources, and you give a portion over. There are sacrifices of jewelry, gold and silver, and other things. And people bring that before the Lord. There are sacrifices of dishes, which. That’s a weird one, right? People bring their bowls and all their utensils before the Lord. There are sacrifices of animals, different kinds of animals and different kinds of sacrifices. But people bring these before the Lord as an expression of their devotion and their worship. There are sacrifices of crops. When people brought in the harvest, they would take a portion of it, and they would give it over to the Lord for various purposes. There are even sacrifices of people in the Bible, and I think of a few where individuals are given over to the purposes of God. For instance, Samuel was a child that his mother wasn’t able to conceive. And she prayed, and she said, lord, if you give me a son, I will give that son to you. I will give him over to you. I will sacrifice my son to your purposes. And he lived his life serving in the temple. So a sacrifice is an expression of devotion and an expression of our worship. And what’s surprising here is in the New Testament and in our verse and others, it actually takes this kind of manageable idea and makes it completely unmanageable. What I’m saying is there used to be a way for a sacrifice to be something that you had a lot of control over. So your sacrifice would show up on a Sunday morning. It’s this amount of time. And then if you’re giving money, you give a percentage of your money, and it’s very manageable. You can make these choices, and then you can live the rest of your life. However, you want. But the New Testament, biblical Christianity, it actually says, no God. He cares about Sunday morning. He cares about your resources. He cares about all these other things you might bring before him. But what he has in view is your entire life. We are supposed to live our lives, as it says here, a continual offering, meaning it doesn’t start and stop. 10:00 on Sunday, 11:00 on Sunday. Get that done so then I can go live my life. It actually becomes the entire experience of life. The whole thing now is in the view of what God wants to accomplish. Let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise. Look at Romans chapter twelve. We’ll put it up on the screen. This is a parallel teaching. The apostle Paul writes like this. He says, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. This is your true and proper worship. Says, here’s what you should bring to worship: you. You now are a living sacrifice and you’re going to be holy and pleasing to God. And this is your true and proper worship. So God cares that we sing beautifully on Sunday morning, but he cares even more that we would live beautifully for his glory. So what we’re doing here is not meant to be partitioned off from the rest of everything else we might do. This is for the sake of that and true worship of God. True sacrifice is where we recognize our entire lives—everything that we do—is now for him and for his glory. So how do we do this? How do we live out our faith in real time everywhere that we go? So tomorrow morning when we’re loading the kids up and trying to get them off to school and it’s chaos, how do we do that in a way that’s worshipful? Tomorrow when you’re at work and you’re dealing with coworkers that you have a hard time with, how do you do that in a way that is worshipful? Tomorrow night when you’re hanging out with your family and you’re having a meal or whatever it is that you’re doing tomorrow night, how do you do everything that you might get yourself into over the course of this week, how do you do it as a continual sacrifice of praise. Now that is crazy, right? So church no longer is just this little thing about our lives. Now we begin to think through, okay, if I’m going to follow the Lord and it’s going to spill over into everything I might touch or do, how do we do this? Well, first let me point out that this is not something you’re going to do in your own strength. Look at verse 15. It begins this way. Through Jesus, let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise. It’s in him. This is christianity 101. It is the fact that I’m not going to stand up here and go, guys, you got to try harder. Do this. Come on, schedule your week, and then start figuring out how you’re going to glorify God and all these different things. It’s not a matter of you exerting more effort. There will be effort for sure, and intentionality and all kinds of different things that do feel like work. But the truth of the matter is, this is more about obedience to Christ is more about surrender. So it’s not about striving. It’s about surrender. So it’s not, you got to figure out how to do this thing better. It’s you surrendering that thing to the Lord so that he might, through you, live out this way of Christ. I’ll give you a real example. Harrison was playing basketball, and ash looped me into assistant coaching, and so I was assistant coaching a bunch of kids. And Saturdays, we’re doing the game stuff, and we have practices during the week. And as a pastor, I know I want everything that I do to be glorifying to God, but that doesn’t come easy for me. So I got to interact with a bunch of people on Saturdays, and I’m talking to them, and I’m like, I’d rather just hang out with my family. But anyways, for me to do that faithfully, I could try it like this, I could go, okay, core, we’re going to basketball, and you’re going to glorify Christ. So get your act together, go in there, love the kids, love the parents, do all these things well. And if I do that, and I’ve probably had a few weeks where that was kind of the mo, it doesn’t go well. But if I say, okay, lord, I’m going to surrender this to you, I’m going to lay this at your feet, and you get to tell me what this looks like, and I’m going to pray and trust that you would inform the way that I deal with parents and the kids and all these other things. Then all of a sudden, game on. Like, the Lord is working through me. So again, it’s not striving. It’s more about surrender. Let’s look at the particulars here. Verse 15 goes on to describe what we mean when we say we’re living a life of continual sacrifice. It means two things.

Communicating about Christ

It means that we would profess Christ and that we would live out the way of Christ. Verse 15 says the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. To be a person who is continually offering a sacrifice of praise means you’re talking about it. You have it on your lips. You’re talking about your Lord. You’re confessing and professing his name. You are declaring Christ to be your Lord. You are talking about these things. So that will show up then, and it should, because we talk about the things that we care about, that comes naturally to us. But what we need to do is recognize that if we’re going to live under the Lordship of Christ, he’s going to infiltrate our communication. Now, we train ourselves in a different direction here. One of the things that we often do is we keep our Christianity private and we don’t talk about it. So how do we overcome that? And this is one of the reasons why I’m a big advocate of small groups. It’s in small groups that you actually begin to have conversations about your faith, and it starts to feel more and more natural because otherwise it feels unnatural. You’re like, oh, man, how am I going to talk to this person about the Lord? How am I going to work this one in there? But if you’re doing this weekly and you’re talking about what the Lord is doing, and you’re having these real conversations every single week with other people, and you’re talking about how the Lord is leading you and what you’re praying about and how this is affecting your real life, then all of a sudden, game on. Like you’re going to become more and more natural at doing this thing. You’re going to be able to profess, openly profess his name in real time, but you can’t just talk about it. You also have to live it.

Doing Good In His Name

Look at verse 16, and do not forget to do good and to share with others. There are some people who talk a lot, but then you watch how they live and they don’t line up. They talk a lot about the Lord, but they’re not living the good news in a way that actually makes you drawn to them. This is saying both have to happen. You have to profess his name, and you have to live this beautiful life doing good and sharing with others, meeting needs in the name of Christ. So that way people who are encountering you see you as the embodiment of Christ in the world. You become a good news person and they long to be near you and they want to listen to what you have to say. And that doesn’t feel weird at all. So this is saying that christians need to be a people who are perpetually living under the lordship of Christ. Here’s my question then. Do we think that membership could help? And my answer is, I do. I think that church membership is a way for us to articulate that commitment. I want my life, all of it, to come under his leadership. So I’m going to publicly say to my brothers and sisters in Christ, this is my ambition, and I need other people around me to help me on this project. And in fact, that’s a part of what the church is supposed to do. You’ll see here in a moment. But I need other people who are going to hold me accountable and who are going to say, okay, if you’re going after this, then when you start to drift away from it, I will encourage you back toward it. You’re going to have other people who are joining you in this. And by the way, just a couple of things I know as I talk about this, some of you are like, dude, my entire life, I can barely get my act together on Sunday morning, and now you’re talking about everything. And one of the things that I want to say to you is, this is a very, very high standard, but it is also a very, very gracious God who’s going to help us. And we are not trying to do this in our own strength at all. It is in him that we can do this thing. And another apprehension that some people might have is, well, if I agree to do this and I open my life up to other believers, then aren’t I just asking for trouble? They’re just going to be policing my behaviors and being super judgy toward me. And the answer is no, not if we understand the good news of the gospel. The good news of the gospel is meant to create a gospel culture where we encourage one another toward faithfulness. So I think that church membership can be a big, big help.

A COMMITMENT TO A PARTICULAR LOCAL CHURCH AND ITS LEADERS

All right, the second one, you’ll like this one even less, by the way. The second one here is a commitment to a particular local assembly. Verses 17 to 19. Let’s look at 17, and then we’ll work our way through it. Verse 17 reads like this. Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Okay, there are some words in here that are dirty words in our culture. There are some words in here that the immediate reading of them elicits in you a negative response. So what are we talking about here? Well, we are saying that the Bible is suggesting there should be a relationship between believers and leaders, and it’s going to take on a specific shape. First, we’re supposed to have confidence in our leaders. Verse 17, have confidence in your leaders. And you might be thinking, core, how self serving are you today to bring this kind of thing up? So let me just share this from an old dead guy so that way you can blame him. I’ve read probably a dozen different little booklets on church membership, and I’ve always been searching for one that I thought would be a good gift addition to give away during a membership process. And they all have limitations. But my favorite one is by pastor John Owen from the 16 hundreds. And it’s called duties of Christian Fellowship, a manual for church members. So, 400 year old book, it’s hard to write anything that lasts longer than a couple of days, let alone that long. But he writes about this subject, and I’m going to share with you a couple of things that he says in there because I think they’re very, very helpful. So take this up with him. Good luck. Rule number four, he says, believers are to hold the pastor in the greatest respect, to submit to him for the work’s sake. And what he’s getting at here is the importance of the relationship between the congregation and the leadership. And he’s saying it straight out that this is what we’re supposed to do. You’re to hold your leaders in respect. Obviously, there are other verses. We’ve already touched on them in this series, but leaders have to be respectable. There are requirements to be a leader, and leaders have to at least meet those. But then it says to us as the congregation, our job then is to treat them with confidence, to have confidence and respect in your leaders. John Owen goes on to talk about the importance of how we communicate about leaders and how we pray for them. And he says this when many are not ashamed to revile them in public, some ought to be ashamed for not remembering them in private. And I know that that’s a difficult sentence, but what he’s saying is a lot of us are way too comfortable criticizing the leadership when we don’t even pray for the leadership. And we look at things that are going on and we go, I wouldn’t do it like that. I would rather we do it this way. And we have all kinds of different opinions and thoughts on things, and we’re not even praying that these individuals who’ve been entrusted with this responsibility, are able to hear from God in this way. So have confidence in your leaders. Secondly, submit to their authority. Verse 17. And submit to their authority. Now, we hate this. Okay, I’m just going to say it straight away. We hate this idea. And let me give you a couple of concessions. By the way, there are leadership abuses. I’m not naive. I’m not pretending that that isn’t a threat. There are institutional failures. There are situations where people in places of authority and spiritual leadership have caused great harm. And I’m not trying to be naive about that at all. We should weep over those different things, but we also must evaluate our reaction to it, and we also must evaluate our own inclinations. We live in a society where authority, submission and institution are all filthy words that we want nothing to do with. And that’s just the air that we breathe. We live in a cultural time where the narrative is, you do you, you do the things that make you happy, and don’t let anyone infringe upon that. Don’t let anyone suggest otherwise. And that’s the society that we live in. So to touch on authority and submission and institution and all these different things, it just kind of immediately rubs us wrong. But what I want to do is I want to look at is that knee jerk reaction, right? Should we immediately recoil at any time we see these words show up even in the Bible? Or should we actually begin to think through, well, what does God actually mean here? Because he seems to be saying, this could be a good thing. And if that’s the case, how and how could we ever get anywhere near it? Well, submit to their authority. John Owen again, he says, when a captain advancing against danger looks back expecting to see his soldiers with him, but finds that they’ve run away, he’s greatly betrayed and forced into an impossible position by his enemies. He goes on to say, when a pastor is still serving the congregation, a church cannot desert him nor stop fulfilling all their required duties toward him without being guilty of a wicked contempt of the ordinances of Jesus Christ. And I know that’s very, very strong language, but Owen was pointing out, even in the 16 hundreds, this was a tendency in people that for very minimal reasons, people would just stop coming. And that’s the way we do church. Right? It’s like, I’m here, but the moment you sing a song I don’t like, I might not come back here. Right? I’m here. But my connection is so fickle that if anything goes wrong on a Sunday morning, you might never see me again. And this is saying that is probably not a good idea and there’s a better way. Well, why would we do this? Let me give you a couple of reasons from the text. First, leaders are responsible. We submit to them. But we submit to them as those who are responsible for our spiritual condition, verse 17, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. There is a weight of spiritual leadership. Leadership. Leadership is not privilege. It is a privilege. Right to be in a position of leadership. That is a privilege. Anyone who serves in any capacity in spiritual leadership should be able to say, Luke 17, I’m just doing my job and it’s a grace that I’m here. I’m just doing what the Lord is telling me to do. That is a privilege. But leadership is not privilege, meaning you benefit from it. It’s for your sake. It’s for your glory. No, leadership is not privilege. It’s responsibility. It is accountability for the sake of those that you’re leading. Leaders are held to a higher standard. You submit to them because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. We’re going to stand before the Lord one day and give an account for how decisions were made and for the outcome of the individual believers under the care. There’s a higher standard. When James writes, and that’s the letter that you can see right there on the right hand page, he writes like this, and I’m paraphrasing, but he says, not many of you should presume to be teachers. Teachers will be judged more strictly. There’s a higher standard for those who are opening up the scriptures and presenting those to people. So there’s a higher thing here going on. So leaders are those who are responsible for the people that are entrusted to their care. And this just changes the whole thing. It changes the whole thing. This is one of my favorite quotes. I got it from Mark Dever. It’s John Brown, an old minister, training up younger ministers. And as they’re getting appointed to their different congregations, one of the guys gets a small church. And so he writes to him and he says, I know what’s going to happen in your heart. Let me show this to you. I think we’ll have it up on the screen. But this is what John Brown says to a young ministry student. He says,

“I know the vanity of your heart and that you will be mortified that your congregation is very small, especially in comparison with those of your brothers around you. But assure yourself on the word of an old man that when you come to give an account of them, to the Lord Christ at his judgment seat, you will think you have had enough.”

In other words, he’s saying, I know that you look at the other churches and you go, I wish we were bigger. I wish we had more people coming. I wish this thing know, growing and doing all these incredible things. And John Brown says, I don’t know if you know what you’re asking for, because on the day of judgment, this will be plenty for you. Whatever it is that’s under your care, you’re going to think, that was enough. That was more than enough. Leaders are accountable. They are responsible for the spiritual well being of those entrusted to their care. Here’s the point that I’ve been getting at for years now. I actually think membership makes this more reasonable. When I look at this and I think through, how do we do this? Who am I accountable for? Am I accountable for every christian? No. There are a lot of christians who will not listen to me. Okay, that’s fair. That’s fine. Am I accountable for every christian around here also? No. Am I accountable for everybody who ever visits here? Yeah, probably in some fashion. However I led in that moment, whether they came once or five times or 50 times, maybe they came for a season, I do believe I’ll be accountable in some fashion for that. But I think that membership is a way that we clarify the relationship between the elder team and individual christians. Because it’s when we say, I’m in, I’m in. Individual christians say, you can count on me. I’m going to live my life in a way that matches up to what the scriptures are calling me to do, and I’m going to do that with the team of people that are a part of this congregation. And I’m going to entrust myself to your spiritual care, believing that you are called to this assignment. And I’m going to respect and have confidence in you and submit to your leadership. That clarifies a lot of things, and we’ll all do it imperfectly, but at least we’ll be able to say we know what direction we’re heading together. Notice, too, we submit to them because they’re accountable, but also because they are beneficial. Verse 17 goes on to say, do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Here’s what it’s implying. Their work is intended to be a benefit. Leaders are for your advantage. They are for your benefit. They’re supposed to be doing good for you. Leaders are, as the Bible says in other places, they are a gift. Ephesians, chapter four, leaders are a gift. They are given by the Holy Spirit, and they are meant to build up the body of Christ, and therefore, they are a gift. Some of us don’t feel that way, but that’s what the Bible says, and they are to be beneficial for you. But there’s a way to relate to spiritual leaders that would be unbeneficial, and it’s here in the text. So how do you render your leadership unprofitable? The answer is by failing to do what we’ve been told to do here. So we’re told to have confidence and to submit to their leadership. But if we do not do that, then they would be of no benefit to you because they would be lacking in joy. Lacking in joy. So we have to be careful, then, because we can make spiritual leaders ineffective in their role. And what we need. This is probably an idea that I got from John Piper. We need joyful pastors and joyful people, and they play off of each other. We need joyful pastors and joyful people. The work of pastoral ministry is meant to be a Joy. Do this so that their work will be a joy. But in two corinthians, where pastors are talking about the people, they spin it around. And I’ll just share with you verse 24 of two corinthians, chapter one, it says, we are working, but we’re not lording it over your faith. We’re doing things, but we’re doing it in a particular way that reflects Christ’s likeness. We’re not lording it over your faith. But here’s the payload here. But we work with you for your joy. That’s what pastoral ministry is. It’s working so that you are joyful in Christ. It’s working to help you see the beauty of what Christ has done for you and to appreciate that and live in that. So joyful people and joyful pastors. And the truth is, both of us can mess this up, right? I can mess this up. Ash and I were talking this week about this concept, and it’s like, I can mess this up by neglecting prayer. I can mess this up by failing to surrender to the Lord. I can mess this up by striving in pastoral ministry as if I have to do everything to get the work done, and I can really screw this thing up, and I can come in here on a Sunday morning, zero joy and zero benefit to you. Now, you can screw this up, too, because this says that you can treat the spiritual leaders in a way that they would be of no benefit to you because they’re lacking in joy. So we both have work to do here. We have to figure out how do we go forward in ministry in a way where you’re becoming more joyful in Christ, and I’m becoming more joyful in spiritual leadership. And that’s really the high calling. And what a beautiful thing, right? We want Sunday mornings to be the most joyful thing ever. So that when my family and I, we go on vacation and we’re away from here on a Sunday, I want to wake up that morning and feel this. I love park city church, and I know how important it is for me to be on a vacation, but I also kind of wish I was there. That’s how it ought to feel. So joyful pastors and joyful people. And we’re being told here that this is a commitment that we should make, and that’s why church membership is particularly helpful. The covenant itself gets at these different things. I want my life to reflect the glory of Christ. I want to commit myself to a particular people. Finally, we’re called here to pray. Look at verse 18. Pray for us. The people are called upon to pray for the spiritual leaders. He says, pray for us. We already touched on what John Owen said, but this is one of our obligations. We, as the people of God, need to be praying for the spiritual leaders of the congregation. Pray for us. And maybe that’s your key takeaway this week is the importance of prayer. And let me say this. I think the only reason why we’re here this morning is because of a women’s prayer group that would meet at Central Christian Church. My mom was in it. There were a few other people who are still a part of our congregation. Now, there was a group of women that were praying for us. And I think, honestly, if I’m going to evaluate probably the most significant stuff that led to Park City church, that’s probably it. The reason why we’re here is through the prayers of the people. So some of us, that’s our big takeaway for the day. How can we pray for the leaders of Park City church? Pray specifically for our consciences? Look at verse 18. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. They’re not two different thoughts here. He says, pray for us. Then he follows up with this other idea. But it’s the idea that you want your leaders to have a clear conscience. Not to be like, oh, I don’t know what we’re doing. I don’t know if I’m doing this well. I don’t know if I’m living honorably. I don’t know any of that stuff. No, you pray and you trust that leaders are moving in this direction and are able to lead with a clear conscience and a desire to live honorably in every way. And finally pray for our relationship. For this idea here of pastoral longing, verse 19, I particularly urge you to pray so that I might be restored to you soon. See, Paul is writing, and he’s writing remotely, so he’s not there. And he’s saying, pray for me, because here’s where I’d love to be. I’d love to be with you. Pray that I could be restored to you soon. And as we pray for each other, that should feel like the kind of thing that we’re aiming at, where it feels like we just want to be together. Like, Sunday mornings are this beautiful time where we get to connect with each other. And because this is such a joyful experience and a joyful reality, we just long to be together. There’s just a pastoral longing that I just want to be with you guys. And you guys wake up in the morning and you’re not like, oh, man, Sunday, I got to go to church. And it feels like obligation and duty and just stuff you’re not interested in. And you’re like, I’m just going to get it done and then I’m going to go do the stuff that I really want to do. No, we should be praying so that the relationship that we have, we go, man, Sunday morning, it’s the greatest time. I love this. I love being with these people. We build each other up. We help each other along. Well, church membership is a way to accomplish some of these different things. Church membership allows us the ability to commit publicly, to promise, I want to live my life for the glory of Christ. It’s a way to commit to particular leaders. And we’re able to say, I’m going to submit to the direction of this church. I’m not going to be loosely connected and able to just bail because we’re so fickle, right? As a culture, we’re so fickle. We love no fault divorces. We love things that, like, I might do this, but at the first whiff of things not going my way, I’m out. We’re just a fickle people. And we treat the church the same way we treat church. Like, you know, as long as I like what’s happening there? I’ll be there. But the moment it doesn’t go my way, I’m out. This helps us to say I am committing myself to where the Lord is leading us together and that is a significant commitment. And then we pray for each other. We commit that. We’re going to pray for the leaders of the congregation and we’re going to do this believing that God has given this beautiful thing called the local church. And this is something that is meant to be a blessing to us and a help along our way. So maybe, just maybe, as a church, we would pursue church membership.

 Let’s pray. Lord, we’re asking for wisdom. We want to live faithfully to you and we want that for individual believers, but we want that as a congregation as well. So help us to design everything that we do to match up to your perfect plan. Give us wisdom to know when and how and if we should pursue these sorts of things. But, Lord, we just want to be pleasing to you. So help us figure that out and then let us walk confidently in it. Lord, we pray that by your spirit, through your word, you would continue to minister to us. We pray for the ideas that were shared this morning. Don’t let them drop out of our memories right away. Help us to continue to think over this and pray over it and consider it and help us to hear from you. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.