In September 1998, my wife Mikila hydroplaned on Interstate 75 near Lexington as she was driving to work, slid off the road, and continued down an embankment. Thankfully, she was not injured, but that incident impacted our lives in a profound way. As she walked along the roadway around 5 AM trying to reach the nearest exit, a vehicle stopped to offer her ride just before a State Trooper arrived on the scene. We had only been married about 9 months and I had much to learn about my responsibility as a husband, but even I knew I had to do something.
The image of her on the side of the road needing assistance and vulnerable led me to make a quick and firm decision: I’m buying a cell phone. Like most newly married couples, the budget was tight with little room for luxuries. (And yes, some of us can remember when a cell phone wasn’t considered a necessity.) But I determined that day that, as far as I could help it, she would never be in that situation again. For the past 20 years, we’ve lived with a contractual agreement with one of the major cell phone companies. Sure, our data plans and smartphones are not a necessity, but I don’t foresee a scenario where we’ll forfeit the ability to make an emergency phone call. A cell phone contract is a part of our lives. It’s a commitment we made because of a crisis situation and we continue to make for a host of reasons. It has cost us thousands of dollars over the years, and we willingly pay the price.
Commitment is scary for some and casual for others. Some avoid it all costs while others make it easily but rarely follow-through. No matter how we approach it, commitment is an important part of life. From contractual agreements to verbal promises, we pledge ourselves in numerous ways each week. I introduce this concept this month to address one significant commitment in our lives: church membership. While misunderstood by many in our culture and not equivalent to a contractual agreement, church membership is an important biblical concept. A local church is a covenanted community of believers and membership in a church is a serious two-way commitment between the individual and the community.
For several years now, we have pursued greater health by emphasizing nine distinguishing characteristics of a healthy church. Some of these, like expository preaching and biblical church leadership, have been at the forefront, while others have received less attention. Over the next several months, your elders will lead in bringing one of these lesser-emphasized marks – church membership – into focus. As we do, I pray God will use the teaching and discussion to grow us individually and build us up as a congregation. This conversation will be brand new for some, a complete reorientation for others, and merely a re-affirmation for others. As always, the goal is to grow in unity as we increase in biblical understanding.
To prepare you for what’s coming, I want to point you to a few resources. You may have seen the link in last month’s newsletter to an online journal. You’ll benefit from investing an hour or so in reading those articles. In addition, I recommend a small book entitled Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman. You can purchase it at the usual places online or we have secured a few copies for the reduced price of $6. These are available in the church office while they last. Just stop by the church office any weekday to get one from us.