Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
This Epitaph in a Thurmont cemetery, Maryland would have been my epitaph if it wasn’t for Jesus, his death and resurrection and his intevention in my life in 2001. “Here lies an Atheist All dressed up And no place to go!”
Atheism is the death of hope, the suicide of the soul. You see this in the movie clip below.
Jonah 4:2 And Jonah prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,… and relenting from disaster.
The Book of Jonah calls us to examine the motivation of our hearts in serving God. Are we truly sold out to God’s sovereign will or trying to push our own agenda? Does our heart mirror the compassionate heart of God – overflowing with mercy and grace; or do we evidence a judgmental spirit? Do we love the world without prejudice and without reservation or do we withhold our love from certain groups? Jonah struggled with the tension between fulfilling his calling as God’s prophet and remaining loyal to his nationalistic pride and natural sense of fair judgment. He appreciated God’s deliverance in giving him a second chance to carry out his mission, but wanted to dictate the results rather than rejoice in God’s sovereign disposition of mercy.
RW Glenn “Until you’re outraged by God’s love, you’ll never think it’s outrageous; until you’re offended by God’s love, you’ll never be overwhelmed by it.”
“When a person becomes a Christian, he doesn’t just join a local church because it’s a good habit for growing in spiritual maturity. He joins a local church because it’s the expression of what Christ has made him—a member of the body of Christ. Being united to Christ means being united to every Christian. But that universal union must be given a living, breathing existence in a local church… Being a Christian means caring about the life and health of the body of Christ, the church. It means caring about what the church is and what the church should be because you belong to the church.” Mark Dever (Senior Pastor at Capital Hill Baptist Church)
This Bible passage is a good picture of the outworkings of church membership.
Acts 2:41-45 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Church membership could be defined as, “Christians who belong to a local church who have devoted themselves formally to the teaching of the Word, to the partipation of the ordinances, to praying for the saints and the advancement of God’s Kingdom, and to financially contributing to the needs of the church.
For pastors who are feeling the pressure of this number’s measuring stick, and we all can from time to time, there is some helpful counsel for you.
There are several problems with a pastor allowing numbers to be the measuring stick of our ministries, but here is the greatest: It does not appear to be how God evaluates our ministries. According to Hebrews 13:17 (“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account…”). God is evaluating our ministries based on our faithfulness to “care for souls as those who will give an account.” Numbers may communicate all kinds of good things about one’s ministry, but whether God is pleased with it based on numbers is a dangerous conclusion to make. Especially if the Chief Shepherd will hold a pastor to account for all those “reached” and brought into the church…but whose souls are neglected.
he 19th century Scottish pastor and trainer of pastors, John Brown, wrote a letter to one of his students newly ordained over a small congregation and extended this word to him:
“I know the vanity of your heart, and that you will feel mortified that your congregation is very small, in comparison with those of your brethren 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.”
Pastors, regardless the pressures you face in your congregation to “produce the numbers” focus on caring for souls. Be faithful to evangelize, preach the gospel every week, pray for conversions, but make sure your primary focus is on shepherding the flock. When we stand before God to give an account for the souls of our flock, God will not be impressed with our increased numbers, but how faithful we cared for the souls of those that make up that number.
“Elders and Deacons can be likened to a husband and wife: Both are equal in dignity and worth; both are indispensable in their roles; however there needs to be leader and this has been given by God to Elders and Husbands and there also needs to be a help-mate and this has been given to Deacons and Wives.” Brad Twining