In our Welcome to the Family lunch on Sunday I shared an excerpt from one of the books I have been reading called The Compelling Community. The pastor tells a fascinating story about a woman named Kaitlin who visited a church. She liked the teaching, but she was put off by the focus on membership. “Why do I need to sign a piece of paper to love people in my church?” What she wanted was significant relationships, not a bunch of formalities. A few years went by while she visited other churches, until she finally came back to the author’s church—and joined! What was the reason for the change of heart? Because what she found offensive—membership—was actually essential to what she wanted: significant relationships. As she visited church after church that downplayed commitment, she found relationships that proved to be shallow. But when she interacted with her friends who had committed to churches that emphasized membership, she heard about the community she wanted. Kaitlin discovered that commitment is foundational to significant relationships.
This is exactly what you see in the New Testament—not people casually slipping in and out of churches, staying on the periphery, but a wholehearted devotion to God and one another, a congregation “continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship” (Acts 2:42), believers “of one heart and soul” (Acts 4:32) who are “fervent in love for one another” (1 Peter 4:8) and “serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). This is what the Lord blesses (Psalm 133:1-3).
Why do we emphasize commitment to the church? Because the Lord emphasizes it. Remember when Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him? When Peter said that he did, the Lord told him to be committed to His church (John 21:15-17). May this be true in our lives, loving the Lord our God will all our hearts and loving one another with committed, significant relationships!