Peninsula Community Church
Will the Real Church Please Stand Up
Are You Dating the Church?
November 20, 2011
Ephesians 5:21-32 – ….submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
One of the profound illustrations of the church is found in the marriage relationship. On a number of occasions the New Testament speaks of the symbolism of the marriage relationship in relationship to the church (Eph. 5:21; Rev. 19:7). In the passage we read this morning, we see that Paul is comparing the marriage relationship to the relationship that Christ has with the church.
A number of years of a go in preparation for a membership orientation that I was facilitating I came across a book entitled “Stop Dating the Church: Fall in love with the Family of God” by Joshua Harris. It is an excellent little book that discussed the power of church membership and the value that can be added to one’s life when one joins and fully connects to a local church. I must admit that much of the outline I will share with this morning comes from that book as he expresses these thoughts much better than I can.
Do you remember what it was like when you where dating? Each of us probably experienced dating in different ways. Some of you married your childhood sweetheart and never was in love with anyone else. For some, you may have been very active in your dating career. For me, I remember as a teen, that in the church I attended, there were several of us guys and girls that would hang out together. Many of us were boyfriend and girlfriend but the interesting thing was that at some point we had all dated each other or at least what we called dating. The fact is at that point of our lives we dated but had no commitment for a long range relationship. As soon as there was any significant problem, we would move onto the next girl rather than try and work things out. The problem that exists is when we attempt to move that kind of understanding of life into our other relationships.
Let me preface my statements with these thoughts this morning. First of all I recognize that I am probably speaking to the choir but maybe what is shared will stir something in you to make a greater commitment to PCC and the life of this body. Secondly, let me say that I recognize that the church is not the Savior and that there have been some that have overly promoted the church to the point of idolizing the structure and the form of the church. That is not what we are talking about this morning. Thirdly, the church as an organization is not a perfect institution because it contains imperfect people who have attitudes, preferences and personalities that will not always agree and which often cause conflict. Fourthly, the church has created many of its own problems as it has failed to preach the word and be faithful to Christ’s calling. It has failed to live authentically in a culture that is seeking truth and is seeking answers for their problems because it has majored on the minors and minored on the majors.
With that in mind let us look at some thoughts about dating the church vs. committing to the church. Now I realize this subject matter have connotations that can exhibit all kinds of thoughts but bear with me and hear me out.
You might be a church dater if you are exhibiting any of the following symptoms:
- Your attitude toward the church is one that is me-centered. When we exhibit a me-centered attitude we go to church for what we can get out of the social interaction, programs or activities. The driving question here is “what can I get out of church or what can the church do for me?” And, if the church cannot meet my needs I will find one that can. One of the social issues developed by teens today is what has been called “friends with benefits.” Friends get the benefits of sex and love without the responsibilities that go along with such privileges. They are out to get have their emotional and physical needs met without any desire for long-term commitment.
- As second attitude exhibited by church-daters is one of independency. We go to church because that is what we are suppose to do but we avoid getting involved too much, giving too much or getting involved with people too much.
- A third attitude that is often exhibited is one of criticalness. Too often we are short on allegiance but quick to find fault with the church. We treat the church with a consumer mentality – looking for the best product for the price of our Sunday Morning.
But when you simply date the church and you resist passion and commitment to have a relationship with the church everyone gets cheated out of God’s best:
- You cheat yourself,
- You cheat a church community,
- And you cheat your world.
To understand the value of the local church we must realize that it is in community that we learn to love God and we are strengthened and transformed by the truth of the word. The church is God’s design to help us start over, to grow and to change for the glory of God. It is in the church that we irritate each other so we are forced to live in a spirit of forgiveness. But in that we grow and prosper.
When you stop dating and become an effective member of the church you will:
- Join the church – not just in attendance but with your heart. When you join with your heart your will be committed to see relationships grow and become so much more than an acquaintance. Here at PCC we ask our Covenant Members to sign a Covenant Agreement because we are asking you to covenant together to see the work of the ministry go forward.
- You make the local church a priority. Now this does not mean that you sell yourself to the institution but we understand that the church and those in relationship to it must make it a priority. If we see something that needs to be done we do it.
- You try and make your pastor’s job a joy. I like this one.
- You find ways to serve. You see when I married Michelle I began to look for ways to serve her and to make her life easier and filled with joy.
- You give. When we tithe we are acknowledging that we trust God and acknowledge that everything belongs to Him. When we give to the local church we are saying that I trust God to direct the leadership to spend and allocate the funds in a way that honors God and puts Him first. As a covenant member we commit to give our tithe and our resources to see this body prosper.
- You connect with people. The church is not a building it is about relationship. We find ways to connect with those within the church. I said it a couple of weeks ago if you are not being invited out then you do the inviting. Too often we are waiting for others to take action but if God has that on your heart take action and build relationships.
- You share your passion. When I find a great restaurant or I see a movie that is awesome, I can’t wait to share that with others. I want them to experience what I am experiencing. When I am passionate about something it shows through everything else I do.
So in closing, are you dating the church? Are you ready to take the next step and fully unite your heart and make a commitment to stand behind this church and see the future unfold in ways that we can only imagine. Now is the time. If you want to join this church I invite you to join me on January 14 for a Membership Orientation. Maybe you are already a Covenant Member but you need to reestaablish your commitment to this local body do so as we close. Do this between you and God so that He will be your accountability.