Church Membership Matters

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Last Feb. 1 was my ninth year bilang leading pastor ng church natin. Year 2009 nang italaga ako ng Diyos, through the affirmation of this church, to serve you as pastor. Mahaba-haba na rin po ang pinagsamahan natin. Actually, bata pa lang ako ay dinala na ako dito ni Lord through my mother na inaya ng isang American missionary. Wala pa ‘tong church building na ‘to noon. Narinig ko ang gospel sa church na ‘to, sa pamamagitan din ng mga Sunday School teachers ko. Year 1991 noong naging Christian ako, nabaptize, at naging member of this church family. High school ako nun nang magsimula akong magserve sa ministry bilang isang youth leader (and believe it or not, choir member!). Si Ptr. Reuel ang pastor nun (nasa CDO na ngayon), then pagkatapos niya ay si Ptr. Delfin (nasa Lipa na ngayon).

Naging formative experience ko yung mga yearly youth camps na sinasamahan namin. Pero isa sa main instrument na ginamit ni Lord to awaken in my heart yung calling sa ministry ay yung summer missions exposure sa GenSan noong 2002. Pag-uwi ko, I broke up with my girlfriend June 12 that year. Si Ptr. Ariel pa ang pastor nun (nasa Laguna na ngayon). Siya ang nagmentor sa akin at nagsched na magpreach ako February 2003, a month before my graduation from college. Ang first sermon ko dito ay “love God with all your heart” at umabot ito ng 75 minutes! Later that year, I started serving this church as an elder. Hindi nagtagal, umalis na rin si Ptr. Ariel. Painful experience yun kasi nagsisimula pa lang yung burden ko rin for pastoral ministry. Naging magulo sa church nang ilang taon nun na walang leading pastor. May mga divisions, maraming conflicts, maraming gossips.

Nagwowork na ako nun sa San Miguel, pero heavy talaga yung burden ko for the church. Year 2007 nagresign ako at nagsimulang mag-aral sa seminary. My second year, 2008, Jodi and I got married. That same year, nirekomenda ng mga elders, and ito rin naman ang desire ng heart ko, na ako ang iharap sa congregation para maging leading pastor. May ilang mga leaders na di nagustuhan ang desisyon na yun. They feel na dapat mas matanda, dapat mas may experience, dapat galing sa labas ang magpastor sa church. But the elders, with the affirmation of others, sensed yung calling ni God sa akin. Later in 2008 nagkaroon ng congregational meeting, almost unanimous ang decision ng congregation to affirm God’s calling for me to pastor our church. Habang nag-aaral sa seminary, nagsimula na ako na maglingkod bilang leading pastor February 1, 2009. And I’m still here.

Membership Matters

Nine years as your pastor, 26 years as a member of this church. Hindi ko pa maimagine na ako ay mapupunta sa ibang church. Maliban na lang siyempre kung tawagin ako ni Lord sa ibang paglilingkod. Marami rin sa inyo na nauna pa nga sa akin dito. Marami na rin kayong naranasan sa mga naging problema dito sa church, but you stayed. Pwede naman kayong umalis na, lumipat na sa ibang church, pero hindi ninyo ginawa. Because you know what being a member means. Merong mga joys, meron ding mga pains, but you consider this church your home, your family.

Pero marami rin hindi ganyan ang mindset sa membership. Yung iba naman talaga ay wala na dito because God really called them some place else. That’s understandable. Pero merong mga umalis na dahil sa kanilang kasalanan, di nila matanggap ang pagdidisiplina ng iglesiya. They did not just walk away from this church, they also walked away from Christ altogether. Nakakalungkot yan. Pero ang iba, lumipat ng ibang church kasi merong mga nakatampuhan dito, merong mga unresolved conflicts, para makaiwas na lang sa halip na harapin.

Yung iba naman basta na lang nawawala, na hindi mo na alam kung ano ang nangyari. Yung iba naman pasulput-sulpot. Sa tingin ko wala pa sa kalahati ng official membership list ang dumadalo pag Sunday. Yung iba naman sa inyo, regular attenders nga, pero hindi naman iniisip na maging member ng church. Sa finances naman, sa tingin n’yo kaya ay aabot sa 10% ng mga pinagsama-samang incomes ng mga members ang nagiging giving natin para sa church budget? Maybe not, kung sisilipin n’yo ang financial report natin compared sa approved budget. At doon naman sa regular na umaattend sa Sunday Worship, ilan naman kaya ang aktibong nakikibahagi sa mga grace communities, prayer gatherings, at iba’t ibang ministry opportunities throughout the week?

Para sa iba dito sa church, hindi malinaw kung ano ba talaga ang church at church membership at kung ano ang kahalagahan nito. A very low view, an unbiblical view, of church membership is lamentable in many churches and among many Christians today.

From Jonathan Leeman’s book on Church Membership: “Here are some of the symptoms of our wrong thinking:

  • Christians can think it’s fine to attend a church indefinitely without joining;
  • Christians think of getting baptized apart from joining;
  • Christians take the Lord’s Supper without joining;
  • Christians view the Lord’s Supper as their own private, mystical experience for Christians and not as an activity for church members who are incorporated into body life together;
  • Christians don’t integrate their Monday-to-Saturday lives with the lives of other saints;
  • Christians assume they can make a perpetual habit of being absent from the church’s gathering a few Sundays a month or more;
  • Christians make major life decisions (moving, accepting a promotion, choosing a spouse, etc.) without considering the effects of those decisions on the family of relationships in the church or without consulting the wisdom of the church’s pastors and other members;
  • Christians buy homes or rent apartments with scant regard for how factors such as distance and cost will affect their abilities to serve their church;
  • Christians don’t realize that they are partly responsible for both the spiritual welfare and the physical livelihood of the other members of their church, even members they have not met. When one mourns, one mourns by himself. When one rejoices, one rejoices by herself.”

The Church and Church Membership in 1 Peter

Ano ang gamot sa sakit na unbiblical view or attitude toward the church and membership? Sagot: recovering a biblical view of the church and membership. For that reason, titingnan natin ang ilan sa itinuturo tungkol diyan sa 1 Peter. Hindi naman ‘yan yung main point dito sa sulat na ito ni Pedro. Pag-aaralan natin ‘yan simula next week when we begin our series na Grace When Life is Hard. This letter is about Christian suffering. Ni isang beses nga hindi niya ginamit yung word na church o ekklesia. But that’s fine. Kasi naman, we don’t suffer individually or privately but together, corporately. Our sufferings are shared sufferings. We experienced that as a church recently, maraming nagkasakit, naospital, may mga namatayan, and you can feel that whenever we gather with other brothers and sisters from BBCC para makahati sa paghihirap nila, that is church, and more of a church sometimes than what is happening during Sunday morning.

Hindi man binanggit ang salitang “church”, pero maraming metaphors o larawan ang ginamit si Pedro para ipakita ang iba’t ibang aspects of what a church really is. At yun naman ang kailangan natin kasi kapag naririnig natin o ginagamit ang salitang church, ang larawang unang-unang pumapasok sa isip natin ay itong gusali o lugar na pinagtitipunan natin. But nowhere in Scripture that the word “church” is used to refer to a place or a building. Laging it refers to people. Sometimes ginagamit ito para tukuyin ang “universal church” – lahat ng mga Christians sa lahat ng lugar, sa lahat ng panahon. Karaniwan naman, it is used to refer to a group of Christians sa isang particular na lugar. Tulad ng mga recipients ng letter ni Peter: To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1:1). O tulad ng binabanggit niya sa 5:13, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings,” na malamang na tumutukoy sa church sa Rome. Magkakaibang local na iglesiya, pero clearly meron silang relasyon sa isa’t isa.

So kapag may mga images or descriptions si Peter about the church, it is true of the universal church, and also true of us who belong to a local church. At malaki ang implication nito sa membership.

  • “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house” (2:5). Ang church ay hindi itong gusaling ito, kundi tayo na parang isang gusali na binubuo ng iba’t ibang bato. Bawat miyembro ay mahalaga, may bahagi.
  • “Live as people who are free…living as servants of God” (2:16). This is not about membership, but about citizenship, tungkol sa pagpapasakop sa gobyernong namamahala sa atin. Ultimately, our citizenship is in heaven. We are servants, douloi, of God. Ang kalayaan natin ay nakatali sa kanya. Lalo na sa approach natin sa church membership. It is not optional. Hindi ikaw ang masusunod, kung ano ang gusto mo, kung ano ang convenient sa iyo. Ang Diyos ang masusunod. You are a servant, not a volunteer. The church is no a volunteer organization, bahagi ito ng expression ng kingdom of God on earth.
  • You suffer “as a Christian” pero hindi ka nag-iisa, you belong to “the household of God” (4:16-17). Pamilya ng Diyos. Kung Christian ka, bahagi ka ng pamilyang ito. You don’t just join this family, you are already a member of this family. Ang membership sa church ay pagkilala ng iba na kapamilya ka, at pagkilala mo rin sa iba na sila ay kapamilya at ituturing mo at mamahalin mo at papakisamahan mo bilang isang pamilya.
  • You don’t just join a church para maging member. You submit to the church. Bakit? Tagubilin ni Peter sa mga co-elders or co-pastors niya, “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you…” (5:2) Merong mga pastor na mangunguna sa kawan ng Diyos na ipinagkatiwala sa kanila ng Diyos. Kaming mga elders merong authority over the members of this church. “That is among you…” Dito lang ang authority namin. Kayo naman na members ay to submit sa leadership ng church na ‘to, hindi sa leadership ng ibang church.

Itong “church membership”, hindi naman ito ang itinuturo ni Peter. He was assuming this truth. Di na kailangang ituro sa kanila. Alam na nila na for them to be a Christian is to be a member of a local church. Walang Christian na non-member.

Pero merong passage dito sa 1 Peter na ipinapaalala niya kung sino sila not just as individual Christians but as a church, at dito nakaugat ang response nila sa sufferings sa mundong ito. “But you (plural, not singular; referring not to individual Christians but to the church) are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (2:9-10).

Bakit merong church? Saan tayo nagmula? The gospel. Ito ang mabuting balita na ang Diyos ang gumawa para hanguin tayo sa kaawa-awa nating kalagayan. He “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Ito ang pinagkaiba natin sa mga non-Christians. “But you…” Rebelde rin naman tayo na tulad nila. Para rin tayong mga Israelita sa Egipto na alipin nang matagal. Ang kaibahan, kinaawaan tayo ng Diyos, pinaniwalaan natin ang mabuting balita ng ginawa ni Cristo. We experienced exodus. Not because we are better, but we believe that Jesus is better. Not because we are righteous, but because we trust in the righteousness of Jesus.

Ang membership sa church ay pagkilala sa ‘yo ng church na itong gospel na ‘to ay nasa puso mo na at ito ang bumabago sa ‘yo. Of course, we can be wrong in our assessment, dahil ang Diyos lang naman ang nakakaalam ng puso natin. Pero mahalaga na you are a part of a church like this na lagi kang maeexpose sa gospel, dahil yun ang kailangan mo. You need maximum exposure sa gospel, not minimal exposure. Kaya mahalaga na palagi kang present sa mga gatherings. Dahil through the church, you are reminded to live out who we are as a church.

Ano ang church? Who are we as a church? Gospel identity. “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” Similar ito sa sinabi ng Diyos sa Israel pagkalabas nila sa Egypt: “…you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples…and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). Pero may condition, “…if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant…” Na hindi naman nila nagawa. Pero sa atin, we as a church have this identity as the new Israel, the new people of God, not because of our obedience and covenant-keeping, but because of Jesus’. This is our gospel identity.

  • A chosen race. Pinili ng Diyos. “Elect” (1:2). Hindi dahil sa mabuting gawa natin, kundi dahil sa awa ng Diyos para sa atin. Kapag nagpamember ka sa church, ipinapahayag mo na isa ka sa tumanggap ng pag-ibig ng Diyos. Kapag tinanggap ka na member, kinikilala ka na isa sa mga nagtitiwala sa kaligtasan na nakay Cristo.
  • A royal priesthood. Royal, kingly, merong authority. “All authority” nakay Jesus na (Matt. 28:18). If we are in Jesus, we have that authority to represent him – sa salita natin, sa buhay natin. Ang buong iglesya ay may awtoridad na tulad ng sabi ng Panginoon kay Pedro na “keys of the kingdom” – na sabihin kung sino ang kabilang sa iglesya, at kung sino ang hindi, kung sino ang tatanggapin at kung sino ang hindi. Ang church ay mahalagang bahagi o instrumento ng paghahari ng Diyos dito sa mundo. When you submit as a member of the church, you submit yourself to God’s kingdom. Priesthood din, ibig sabihin meron tayong ministry sa isa’t isa na tulungan ang isa’t isa na mailapit pa lalo sa Diyos. Meron din tayong ministry sa ibang tao na sila’y ilapit din sa Diyos through the gospel of Jesus. Na hindi lang naririnig sa atin, kundi nakikita sa buhay natin. You cannot exercise that “priesthood” na nag-iisa. As a church, we do a collective witness as…
  • A holy nation. Set apart from this world. Set apart for God. Hindi tayo perpektong banal, kundi mga makasalanang nagtitiwala kay Cristo na siya lang ang perpekto at ginagawang perpekto ng Espiritu Santo. As a church, tulung-tulong tayo na mamuhay ayon sa kalooban ng Diyos. Pag member ka, binibigyan mo ng permission ang church na sawayin ka sa kasalanan, tulungan ka na mamuhay nang may kabanalan. Kung hindi ka member, sinasabi mo naman na wag kang pakialaman. And that will not be good for you.
  • A people for his own possession. We are God’s people. Pag-aari tayo ng Diyos. We belong to God. “From the non-Christian’s standpoint, a local church is a voluntary association. No one has to join. From the standpoint of the Christian life, however, it’s not. Once you choose Christ, you must choose his people, too. It’s a package deal. Choose the Father and the Son and you have to choose the whole family—which you do through a local church” (Leeman). Kapag member ka, sinasabi mong isa ka sa mga anak ng Diyos at itinatali mo ang sarili mo sa church bilang pamilya. We are God’s family. With a mission.

Ano ang layunin ng Diyos para sa church? Ano ang misyon natin?

Gospel mission. That you may proclaim the excellencies of him…” Proclaim the gospel. In words, in our life, to display the glory of God. You cannot display the glory of God alone. You cannot make disciples alone. You cannot plant churches alone. You cannot go to the unreached alone. God is Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit. Perfect love, perfect harmony, perfect unity. Paano mo madidisplay ang glory ni God as Three-in-One kung nag-iisa ka? Mahalaga na naririnig sa atin ang gospel. Mahalaga rin na nakikita nila na ito ang nagbubuklod sa atin bilang isang pamilya.

  • “Have unity of mind” (3:8). Paano mangyayari kung di ka nakikiisa at gusto mo lang na nag-iisa?
  • “Have…brotherly love” (3:8); “keep loving one another earnestly” (4:8). Paano mo magagawa kung wala kang church family na itinuturing mong pamilya?
  • “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling” (4:9). Paano mangyayari kung Sunday ka lang nakikita at hindi ka naman nag-iimbita ng mga kapatid sa bahay n’yo?
  • “Serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (4:10). Paano ka magiging mabuting katiwala kung miyembro ka nga, pero di ka naman aktibo sa mga ministeryo at kinakalawang lang ang spiritual gifts na bigay sa ‘yo ni Lord?
  • “Be subject to the elders” (5:5), tulad ng Anak sa Ama. Paano mo magagawa kung hindi ka miyembro na may kinikilalang tagapamuno?
  • “Greet one another with the kiss of love” (5:14). Anuman ‘yang “kiss of love” na ‘yan, hindi ‘yan mangyayari kung umaattend ka nga, pero paminsan-minsan lang.

Napakaraming utos ng Diyos – one another commands – ang hindi mo masusunod kung hindi ka isang committed member of a local church. Ang nais ng Diyos sa church is to be a display of his glory here on earth. To be a faithful church member is to help the church display God’s glory. Mabuti ang Diyos. Mabuti ang disenyo niya sa iglesya. Mabuti ang layunin ng Diyos. Mabuti ang pagiging miyembro. Para rin ito sa ikabubuti mo. Kapag binalewala mo ito, binabalewala mo rin ang karangalan ng Diyos at ang sariling ikabubuti mo. Ganun pala kaseryoso ang church membership? Yes. Church membership matters. A lot.

Kaya ang definition natin ng church ay isang grace community na “isang pamilya ng Diyos na binubuo ng Kuwento ng Diyos at nakikibahagi sa misyon ng Diyos.” This is not about us. This is about God. Kung hindi ka pa miyembro and you want to learn more, attend our membership class. We will explore this together. Kung member ka na, pwede ka pa rin umattend, and renew your commitment na nakaexpress sa ating church covenant. Kung bisita ka ngayon, you come from another church, commit to that church as a member. At kung itong mga pinag-uusapan natin about membership ay not making sense to you, seriously look at your heart at siyasatin mo baka wala ka pang relasyon kay Cristo at hindi ka pa naman talaga bahagi ng kanyang katawan. So, yes, church membership matters, because our relationship to Christ matters.

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