The church member – a Consumer, Customer or a Community?

Is the Church member a Customer, Consumer or part of a Community

Church members welcomed gladly the announcement of the fresh focus on the church as a family –
http://newcreation.org.sg/news/announcements/latest-news/2014/09/20/-em-hei-em-we-re-family-let-s-connect!
“We introduced a slew of new initiatives on Sunday, 21 September 2014 which included new spaces and platforms to interact and build relationships with one another, the Prayer Request & Testimony slip, and the NCC Info Card. They are part of our continuing efforts to care for, connect with and celebrate you.”
I have to admit that since attending NCC, I miss the family spirit experienced and advocated in my previous churches. I’ve even remarked that this ‘deficiency’ in NCC could be due to the size of the congregation. Without neglecting or ignoring the scriptural principles of the community of believers, members could seek creative solutions over the practical constraints of a large mega church. I write this with deep concern, having read and studied extensively on what the scriptures teach us about the Ekklesia, the family of believers.

It is understandable that an individual might come to the community of God’s people as a consumer or customer for spiritual truth and food, but we must program and position every member / believer as a family member.

The church must anchor herself as a family –
I Cor 12:12 For … as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body—though many—are one body, so too is Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.

Do we come to church as a consumer of the church’s programs?

Do we come to church a customer of what the church is marketing? (books, CD messages, DVD messages?) Are “commercials” of church products regularly marketed during church services?

Are members relating as a true community of God’s redeemed body in all the characteristics taught and exemplified in the scriptures.

Understandably, there are various dimensions and planes when people engage with one another – either one or more of the humanly social, symbiotic or structured levels. The absence of even these levels could be our lack of conviction that we are bonded spiritually with each other.

Going to church is often liken to an event or a concert where I am a stranger to those seated around me, even when I have been to the same hall and event for every Sunday service. This promotes, endorses and reinforces the individualistic culture of a highly personal Christian lifestyle and value counter to the Christian truth of the community.

How are we then to nurture this community spirit so prevalent in churches today?

Epaphroditus was a fellow brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier to Paul (Phil 2:25).

Understandably, not every believer can be a fellow worker involved in the same field of work, or a fellow soldier engaged in the same fight. But all of us are adopted by the same Father Who joined us into one family.

We need not be twins to think alike, talk alike, walk alike, function alike to be brothers. All we need is to share the same heavenly Father.

Unless we assert, affirm and apply this truth actively, consciously and consistently, we might never realize that each believer is regarded and treated as a consumer or customer of the church’s programs and products.

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In God We Trust: What the Bible Says About Money

The title above is directly taken from Ps Mark Mitchell’s blog.

http://matt-mitchell.blogspot.sg/2009/08/in-god-we-trust-what-bible-says-about.html

 

Exactly 2 years ago, I chanced about his series of 8 sermons under this main heading, and deem it to be the most comprehensive and balanced treatise on money from a biblical perspective.  I even wrote to him asking for permission to extract it for circulation to others.

As Jesus and the scriptures taught much and hinted clearly on money matters, the diverse teachings coming from the pulpit and publications can really be a conundrum.  I suppose when my church expound on the promises of God to enrich us, promote our status in life, it is holding up to God Who seeks to bless us in all ways according to our inheritance in Christ.  I fully understand this as a key tenet of the Word of Faith proponents, of which my church is built upon.  (However, I notice of late, during the current teaching series on the Harpazo / Rapture,  there is a gradual switch towards the stewardship of our riches for God’s kingdom rather than for our own benefit.  Previously there were arguments that material blessings would be irrelevant in heaven where the streets are paved with gold, hence it is for our earthly inheritance. I truly hope this will be a permanent emphasis, as consistency from the pulpit can be difficult given the nature of sermonizing to a diverse audience).  But I was also aware of many others who hold on to other convictions, and how proof-texts from the bible could be abused to support various agenda.

Hence, Pastor Mark Mitchell’s teaching on this is really the most balanced I’ve come across ‘reflecting on this matter, trusting the Lord will give me insight into all this (2 Tim 2:7).  While Ps Mark’s sermons are conversational in style and delivery, unlike a clearly defined teaching article, the content is truly as complete as any teaching on money I’ve come across; his sermon series are as shown below :-

1. My Heart and My Money

2. The Lord’s Heart and the Lord’s Money

3. God Vs. Money (Part One)

4. God Vs. Money (Part Two)

5. The Heart of Giving

6. Pay What You Owe

7. Family Finances

8. Poverty and Riches

 

I Love Christ’s Church, and my church

Why I Love the Church

My church’s renewed emphasis this morning of being in the family of Christ stirred up fresh motivations and meditations of my identity and involvement as a believer in Christ.

I was baptised and grew up in a Brethren church. Subsequently I joined two other churches – only when my family relocated – and my conviction and preference were always to identify and immerse myself with other believers living in the same locality (just as the NT letters were sent to believers recognized and identified corporately by the city of residence)

And for the past 7 years, my wife have also settled into New Creation Church. My wife has remarked that her experience with NCC as seeing and experiencing Jesus more and more – finding her first love. Our familiarity of the bible and the regular functions of church life had innocuously displaced and misplaced Jesus Who is our all and all. It is imperative that our experience and knowledge of Christ do not diminish as we grow old (I am now in my 60s)

Some have wondered how I could move to a charismatic church, after having grown up actively in Brethren Churches with sound biblical doctrinal foundations.

Three years ago, I told an NCC pastor that Joseph Prince is the new Watchman Nee. I had also remarked to many that JP is probably the best pastor in the world to preach the gospel not only to the unchurched, but especially to those in the churches.

Why the comparison of JP with Watchman Nee? The latter spent four months with Brethren assemblies in England, arranged by a Brethren (rather a Sister) missionary serving in China. Those familiar with the Brethren movement will know that these believers were truly ‘Bereans’ who left the traditional churches in obedience to the scriptural teachings of the Priesthood of believers and the significance of the “Holy Communion”. Their faithfulness to sound doctrine and devotion to the study of scriptures introduced many key teachings to the church today e.g. typology, dispensation, eschatology, priesthood and charisma gifting of every believer, etc.
Watchman Nee is the most prominent Asian believer to impact the world with his writings – much derived from his typological and symbolic meditations of the scriptures.

So I find affinity in the sermons of JP, who have continued on with current available resources of the past saints and scholarship to minister in NCC and the universal Church. The NCC weekly communion continues to remind, refresh and nourish the spirit and body by pointing to Christ’s sufficiency and Grace on the cross.

I will close by referring to an article by Frank Viola “Why I Love the Church – In praise of God’s Eternal Purpose

http://frankviola.org/2009/08/18/why-i-love-the-church-in-praise-of-gods-eternal-purpose/

The Church as Family

The Church, a Family in Christ

Eph 2 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

This morning, my church set forth a fresh focus for the members – as a family. I certainly hope and pray that this will be widely and deeply adopted, affirmed and applied by all, as many have observed and the absence of the community spirit and experience in a large church. Before I express my thoughts on this (in future), Frank Viola comes to mind – a champion and beacon for believers to live as a community for the ultimate passion of God. (Rather than trying to share his thoughts, parts of his article on the “Anatomy of the Church” is appended below) :-

http://frankviola.org/2010/09/28/the-anatomy-of-the-church-14-tests/

God is after a people who live for one purpose—His ultimate passion.
The Lord Jesus Christ is multi-splendid in His awe and beauty. He is so vast that one image or title cannot adequately present Him. Consider the many images and titles that Scripture employs to describe Christ: Son of God. King of kings. Prince of peace. Heavenly Bridegroom. Lord. Master. Savior. Lamb of God. Bright and Morning Star. Good Shepherd. Great High Priest. Light of the world. Root of David. The Righteous Branch, etc.

We have seen that the church is inseparable from Christ. This being so, the church is also multi-splendid in her awe and beauty. Like her Lord, the church is too rich to be defined. She is too vast to be depicted by just one image. For this reason, the New Testament paints fourteen different images (only two images are appended below) to present the church……

All of these images have two key elements in common.
First, every image is intensely corporate. All of them teach us that the church is a close-knit, intimate community of people. As Westerners, we are profoundly individualistic. By contrast, the early church embodied a togetherness-in-community. Each image makes this abundantly clear.
Second, each image teaches us that Jesus Christ, and not a human being, is the Head, the Leader, and the glue that cements the members of the church together.
…..
1. A New Race (Gal. 6; Eph. 2; 1 Pet. 2). We are “a new humanity,” “a chosen generation,” “one new man,” and “a new creation.” When Jesus Christ made His entrance into human history, He was an endangered species on this planet. He was the first of a new kind of man. Jesus was God’s original thought for humanity, but God’s original intent for humanity became corrupt with the Fall. In His death and resurrection, Christ introduced a new species – or new creation – on this earth. He is the Firstborn and the Head of this new species. The church is neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free, but “a new human” altogether.

Test 1: Do the members of your church see themselves as part of a new humanity, a new species, and a new race? Or do they relate to their fellow brethren based on the natural distinctions of physical race, nationality, gender, and social class?
Beyond a new race, the church is . . .

2. A Family (Gal. 6; Eph. 2; 1 John 2). This is one of the most striking images presented in all the New Testament. Visions of family dominate Paul’s writings. All throughout his letters, Paul speaks off-handedly of brethren, children, fathers and mothers. We are “regenerated” or “born anew” into the blameless Family of God. God becomes our Father and Jesus our elder Brother. Fellow Christians become our sisters and brothers. The writings of John and Peter are also sprinkled with the language and imagery of family.

Test 2: Do the members of your church treat one another as part of the same family? Do they know one another intimately? Do they experience themselves as members of an extended house¬hold? Do they take care of one another just as the members of a healthy family do?
Beyond the family, the church is . . .
(Do dive into Frank Viola’s article to read more of the other portraits of the Church of Christ. Frank has deep insights and convictions into the role and responsibility of priesthood of believers, as a family to perfect, protect and partner with one another in the family of Christ.)

…… all of the aforementioned images reinforce the point that the church is a close-knit, shared-life community of people who enthrone Jesus Christ together.

…. God has chosen to make His Son knowable, touchable, visible, and locatable on planet earth through only one vessel: The ekklesia. Jesus Christ has distributed Himself in His Body so that He might be expressed. The church, therefore, is God’s designated instrument for the expression of His Son. And it is the very heartbeat of God’s ultimate passion.

A sighting of God’s passion narrates our world and our lives. It adds texture and richness to our spiritual experience. It also delivers us from a passionless Christianity, a shallow walk, and a purposeless faith. The overwhelming passion of our Lord is to obtain the following in every city on this planet: A Bride who dearly loves Him, a House where He can dwell, a Body that freely expresses Him, and a Family that brings Him delight.

In this light, it is the supreme calling of every Christian leader to equip God’s people to see the mystery of God’s ultimate passion with spiritual eyes . . . to hear it with spiritual ears . . . to handle it with spiritual hands . . . to taste its sweetness and smell its fragrance.

God is looking for those who will burn for His ultimate passion and allow their lives to be shaped by it. May you be among that hearty band.