When God Asks for Proof of Our Church Membership…

We’ll all stand before the judgment seat of the Christ one day…let that sink in for a moment…  What if He asked for proof of our church membership like a police officer probing for our registration and license?  What if He looked us ominously in our eyes as we fumbled around for our church membership card that we left in our other pair of pants?

The time will come when we stand before Christ and wait to hear him say either “Well done, good and faithful servant!” or “Depart from me—I never knew you…” Thankfully, Christ will not be waiting for us to provide the correct documents in order that He might grant us our operator’s license from New Jerusalem’s BMV.  Thank-you, Lord!

And so, if Christ will not ask us to cough up our church’s membership roll when our number is called in line, just what is the point of church membership anyway?  Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that we must provide formal church membership as a means of entry into our churches.  If Christ doesn’t care what church we were a member of, then what’s the deal?  Certainly, there will be individuals who were “members” of churches who find themselves in Hell and individuals who were never “members” of churches who find themselves in Heaven.  Membership?  Who cares?!

Ephesians 2:19 says, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God…”  Now, obviously, when Paul wrote this, he did not have formal church membership in mind.  However, Paul was drawing a line between those who were of God’s household and those who were not—people are either members of God’s household or another household.  In this particular passage, Paul was talking about the Church (all Christians combined) and not about churches (localized collections of Christians).  Paul was pointing out that membership in the Church (i.e. being a Christian in general and not necessarily being a formal member of a local congregation) is important—a membership so special that only God can grant it.  Local church membership definitely is not as significant as that!

Despite that, I want to assert that local church membership, while not a prerequisite to enter Heaven, is still a blessed and Christ-honoring construct.  Why?  Can one claim to be a part of the FFA if they are never a part of one of its localized chapters?  Can a person be called a citizen of a nation if they have never lived in a city within that country?  Can a displaced piece of asphalt truly be called a part of a road

Paragraph 260 of The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2016 says, “To be identified with an organized church is the blessed privilege and sacred duty of all who are saved from their sins and are seeking completeness in Jesus Christ.”[i]  While Christ ultimately is inviting us to be a part of His Church, He is inviting us to be a part of the localized expressions of His Church as well.  Why did the Holy Spirit lead Paul to plant churches and not just a single church?  It is because every Christian needs to be in communion with God and the fellow Christians that surround them in their area

That being said, while I am making a case for local church membership, it is necessary to point out that there are unholy reasons to enter into local church membership.  People will look at our membership status, but the Lord will look at our heart (1 Sam. 16:7).  The Lord will never look at whether we are members of local churches but why we are members of those local churches.  That being said, local church membership is intended to be a sign of holy commitment to the collection of believers God has us among.

Why become a member? Simple (but not necessarily easy)…  To demonstrate commitment to Christ by demonstrating commitment to one of His local churches. 

There is one Church.  Though, there is no Church without churches.    

Jared M. Webb, Assistant Pastor

[i] The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church 2016, (Indianapolis, Indiana: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2016), 25.


Jesus Doesn’t Need Our Tithe—We Do

You heard it here, folks—Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does NOT need our tithe.  The Way, the Truth, and the Life has no need for our crisp or weathered green paper.  Jesus Christ will continue to be self-sustaining without our money…because He’s GOD.

The tithe was not some diabolical cure that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit cooked up to save themselves from ceasing to exist.  Without our tithe, God will continue to exist, grass will continue to grow, and that annoying mutt next door will continue to yip (unfortunately).  So, let’s go ahead and pocket our tithe this week!  God doesn’t need it!  And before all the church finance directors, pastors, board members and more in all of Christendom decide to put me on a hit list, let me explain.

We need our tithe—we truly do.  We all need to have a roof over our head, water, food, electricity, internet, furniture, cars, lawnmowers, insurance, savings, phones, gas, and more.  Also, there are bills from doctors, counselors, and advisors.  Did I forget to mention the occasional stranger who asks for gas money?  We Christians really need our tithe money because we’ve got more than twice as many things to pay for as everyone else in the world!

It sounds like a lot, I know!  But, there’s a really simple solution to paying all of those bills!  We just take 10% of what we earn, pool it with our fellow Christians, pay off the second set of financial responsibilities together and reap the benefits collectively.  It’s genius!  Even better than a timeshare!  We call it “Caring, Holy, Unified, and Redeemed Christians Helping Expenses,” or C.H.U.R.C.H.E. for short.  Within our membership, we cover restrooms, coffee and muffins, extra Communion bread, a parking spot, a handcrafted wood seat, childcare, benevolent donations to others, access to biblical education classes, and free consultations from our spiritual doctors, spiritual counselors, and spiritual advisors (which may all be the same person).

If you’ve endured reading this far, you probably see the angle I’m shooting at here.  God doesn’t need a tithe, but his people need to tithe.  In Scripture, when God’s people were called to tithe it was never about God needing it—it was about His people needing Him.  Tithing, in its simplest expression, is all about two things:  obedience and sustenance.  The people needed to submit themselves continually to the Lord’s will (obedience) and maintain the place where they met and grew with God (sustenance).

There are many things in the Bible that we feel led to do but are not explicitly prescribed. There is not a verse in the New Testament where God requires Christians to specifically give 10% of their increase to the local church.  Though, we do see Jesus still encouraging the Pharisees to tithe (Matt. 23:23) and Paul encouraging the Corinthians to weekly set aside a sum of their income for collections (1 Cor. 16:2).

Let’s take a moment and think about other things that Christians do but are not prescribed in the Bible…explicitly.  American Christians generally believe in reading the Bible daily, praying before every meal, attending Church every Sunday, celebrating Jesus’s birth every year on December 25th, and more.  Does the fact that these practices lack explicit biblical prescription keep us from thinking that we should do them?  Would we say that those ideas aren’t biblical?  Would we say that God doesn’t desire for us to do those things just because the Bible isn’t explicit about them?

And so we tithe.  Christians tithe.  It’s just what we do.  Paul never said, “And all of us shall put 10% of our income in the offering plate each week in order to keep our church’s lights on.”  The people of our church (that’s you and me) need our tithe so that we can keep the lights on.  So that we can provide those who spiritually lead us with a livelihood.  So that we have a place to come and worship with our local brothers and sisters in Christ.

¶465 of The Discipline of the Wesleyan Church says:

Storehouse tithing is a scriptural and practical performance of faithfully and regularly placing the tithe into that church to which the member belongs. Therefore, the financing of the church shall be based on the plan of storehouse tithing, and The Wesleyan Church shall be regarded by all its people as the storehouse. All who are a part of The Wesleyan Church are urged to contribute faithfully one-tenth of all their increase as a minimum financial obligation to the Lord and freewill offerings in addition as God has prospered them [i].

At its most selfish level, our tithe is really for us.  It’s so that we can keep worshiping God and loving the world with fellow Christians.  At its most selfless level, it’s so that the others around us can do those things as well.  Our tithing efforts, while a spiritual discipline, aren’t supernatural.  We’ve got to keep the lights on, in Jesus’ name, for others and for the sake of Christ’s gospel being spread. 

When we surrender ourselves to Jesus Christ, it’s not as if we are handing over only the spiritual part of our lives to Him.  Full surrender to Christ is holistic—it involves our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, possessions, relationships, and everything elseThis post isn’t motivated by a desire for more fiscal power, but it is motivated in shaping wholesome followers of Jesus Christ.  And, if our hands cling tighter to anything other than Christ (pocketbooks included), we’ll be impeding on our own spiritual growth.

Whoever lays down their life for the sake of Christ and His Gospel will surely find it (Mark 8:35).  And whoever lays down their finances for the sake of Christ may also find unsuspected blessing in the midst of surrender (Prov. 3:9-10).  So, yes, this post is encouraging us to tithe, but not for God’s sake—for our sake and the sake of our brothers and sisters out of obedience to the one who has granted us the financial blessing we possess.

Jared M. Webb, Assistant Pastor

[i] The Discipline of The Wesleyan Church, (Indianapolis, Indiana: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2016), 48.


I Wasn’t There on Sunday

Take a moment and imagine you are in a sanctuary you have worshiped in many times.  Run your hand along the worn-in pews, look over at where Mrs. Jones used to sit, scuff your feet across the burgundy carpet, kneel at the prayer-seasoned altar, savor the communion bread that never seemed to change, recall sermons that the Holy Spirit used to form you… Remember…

Perhaps you cannot easily fill your mind with favorable memories of sanctuaries in your life. Or, maybe it was all too easy to recall a place where the Holy Spirit formed you more into the image of Jesus Christ.  Whatever our experience, we must ask ourselves, “Why is it important to go to a place of worship consistently?”

In 2014, Gallup conducted phone interviews and found that 35% of Hoosiers said they attended church weekly [i], meaning that about 2.3 million out of the 6.6 million total population claimed they consistently went to church [ii].

In the 2016-2017 season, The Wesleyan Church saw 239,842 people walk through the doors regularly in North America; this is a 22.9% increase over the past decade—what a praise [iii]!

Why are a majority of Hoosiers not finding value in attending Sunday Worship weekly?  What is standing between Hoosiers contributing to the growth of The Wesleyan Church in North America?  Have we failed to communicate the full extent of the unique grace that is available on a Sunday morning?

The Media is bound to catch and highlight when a politician fails to attend a political event.  Classmates notice when someone fails to show up to their class reunion.  However, no one asks or is concerned when one fails to attend a meeting of a committee of which they are not a member.  No one bats an eye when Michael Phelps, world class swimmer, neglects to walk up to bat in the World Series.

All that being said, while we should desire for non-Christians to accept Christ and join us on Sunday mornings, should we not wonder where our brothers and sisters are when worship begins?  I am not speaking of condemnation but of a benevolent concern; a concern that asks, “Where were you on Sunday?  I missed you.”

There are many people who claim Christ as their Lord but all too often can attest, “I wasn’t there on Sunday.”  Other things grab our attention—kids that have baseball games, lakes that gleam with fish, pillows that persuade a few more minutes, oil that needs to be changed, lawns that need to be mowed, car shows that need to be attended, antiques that beg to be purchased, exotic animals that need to be gazed upon, driveways that need to be vacuumed, and poison ivy that needs to be watered.

Some of those examples are a little facetious.  The point is, there can always be an excuse.  A Christian’s salvation is not in jeopardy if they ever miss church.  However, if a Christian misses Sunday worship and their heart does not miss this holy event, there may be something amiss.

I began attending church regularly around the age of ten.  I can recall the many Sundays when the sanctuary was filled with my apathetic presence.  Singing seemed like a chore, the lyrics we sang came off weird, and my GameBoy appeared much more interesting than the preacher’s sermon or the tambourine player’s rhythm.  At that point in my life, I saw worship as a waste of time; all that I cared about was how far I was on my latest video game and what was for lunch in the fellowship hall.

The cause of that attitude was that I was not a true Christian at that point.  On top of that, I did not truly understand worship!  James Torrance, in his book Worship, Community, & the Triune God of Grace, says this:

Christian worship…is our participation through the Spirit in the Son’s communion with the Father, in his vicarious life of worship and intercession.  It is our response to our Father for all that he has done for us in Christ.  It is our self-offering in body, mind and spirit, in response to the one true offering made for us in Christ, our response of gratitude to God’s grace, our sharing by grace in the heavenly intercession of Christ [iv].

We worship through grace in order to be obedient.  God commands us to have no other gods before Him—to worship Him alone (Ex. 20:3).  We respond in obedience not only by not possessing any idols but in worshiping Him.  While it is an act of obedience, Christian worship is only possible by grace—a perfect gift that is only made possible through the sacrifice and eternal priesthood of Jesus Christ who unceasingly goes before us in worship (Heb. 7-8).  

From the moment the service begins at 10:30 on Sunday mornings until the pastor finishes the closing prayer, we are worshiping Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through prayer, announcements, song, baptism, communion, Scripture, sermon, and more.  We come together to worship our holy and triune God who is worthy of all praise.  We come together to remember all that God has done in the past and anticipate all that He will surely do in the future [v].  We come together to give what God deserves.

Going to Sunday worship is not about making us feel better, satisfying a membership requirement, looking good to other people, getting into heaven, or seeing a performance.  Going to Sunday worship is about the Body of Christ coming together to focus on and glorify the God who creates, redeems, sanctifies, and loves His people.  The Father sent the Son so that the Holy Spirit might dwell within us.  Will we, by the power of the Holy Spirit, follow the Son to the Father?

When we discover the true joy and grace of worship, we can’t help but desire to praise God.  So, do you want to see others at worship on Sunday?  Do you want God to receive even greater glory?  Then worship God in obedience through the grace of Jesus Christ in the fullness of joy that is brought by the Holy Spirit.  Join us on Sunday morning while we are led by the literal presence of Jesus Christ into the holy of holies.  Join us while we spread the love of worship, taking the land for Christ, and growing His Church.  For, there is truly no better place to be than in the presence of God together.

 Jared M. Webb, Assistant Pastor

[i] http://news.gallup.com/poll/11601/frequent-church-attendance-highest-utah-lowest-vermont.aspx

[ii] http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/indiana-population/

[iii] https://www.wesleyan.org/north-american-worship-attendance-time-high

[iv] James B. Torrance, Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 15.

[v] Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship:  Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative, (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Baker Books, 2008), 43.