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– It’s good to have you with us. Joining us today for the webinar is generally the Office of Leader Care and Church Health, has these webinars each Tuesday, the second Tuesday and fourth Tuesday of every month. By the way, while I’m thinking about this, please get word out, help us to get word out. In two weeks that webinar, we will have Richard Blackaby with us. And I’ve asked Richard to just simply to share an encouraging message for folks in ministry, pastors and folks in ministry, so don’t, you may wanna get in touch with a few guys in ministry, whether they’re struggling or not at this time, and sometimes we don’t share when we’re struggling, but this would be a great opportunity for them to really hear an encouraging message. So, wanted to share that. And again, I wanna welcome you here, Office of Leader Care and Church Health and today joined by Daniel Edmonds, who’s the Director of the Office of Sunday School and Discipleship. So, I’m gonna kinda start us off here with a welcomin’ prayer, and then I’m gonna turn that over to our guest today. And we’re so grateful to have Robert Mullins with us, pastor of Crossroads in Elmore, and he is gonna be sharing Marks of Church Membership. Grateful that he will be sharing that in just a moment. We did a webinar just a few weeks ago on helping members to return, just kind of creating a strategy, thinking through some ways to do that as well as really pivoting to conversion and also balancing both members returning as well as reaching the lost. One of those points was making membership meaningful. And so, we’re gonna dive deeper into that today. Robert is gonna share that. And then at the end he will have a Q&A and Daniel’s gonna be the host from that point on as soon as Robert begins. So again, thank you for being here with us today and I’ll lead us in a word of prayer and then Robert will begin our time. Again, remember to use the Q&A at the bottom for questions in the chat for discussion and any resources that might be there. Father, thank you again for your grace and your mercy today. Thank you that it’s renewed every mornin’, and we’re grateful that we can have a moment by moment walk with you. We need you today like we’ve needed you every day. We need you even more. So we pray, thanking you for your grace that’s needed. Use Robert, speak in and through him today. Thank you for the giftedness that you’ve placed in his heart and life as a pastor and as a kingdom leader. And just again, use him as we search again, your word for seeing how meaningful it is to be a part of the body of Christ. We thank you and love you, in Jesus name we pray, amen. All right Robert, thank you brother.
– Thank you Ken. It is a honor and privilege to be able to share today. I’m very excited about what we’re gonna do and what we’re gonna talk about. You know, talkin’ about church membership and the idea that membership matters, that membership is important, all of those things. I guess I’m a, I qualify as a membership expert. I’ve been, like you, I’ve probably, I’ve been a church member for now 50 you know, whatever years and I’m tryin’ to think. I guess I, I guess it’s more like 42 years. I became a follower of Christ at nine years old and that’s when I joined the church, but I was there for nine years previous to that, too, so. But, I’ve been, you know, a church member. I’ve been a good Baptist for a long time and understanding that we are in a culture and a context where church membership to the community at large does not matter to them like it matters to us. And so, what we have to be able to do is to learn to communicate why church membership matters. And so today what I wanna do is I wanna kinda do a Part A for just a minute, kinda go over some foundational elements, and then I wanna do a Part B. Part B’s gonna be the 10 marks of church membership. Quick story. I have a friend that has been called in ministry and has served in churches, large and small, done, I mean, been in years and years of church work, just like most of us are, and at one point said, this is not what I see in the Bible and we’re gonna start doing it differently. And as his children grew up they have even attended our church at multiple events, several things, even volunteered for helping do things. But the idea of actually joining and becoming a member is not what they feel led to do Biblically. So, it has, one of the things it did for me was it really challenged me to go look at what’s in the Bible, go look at what’s there and how we, we operate. I try to do that in my entire ministry with everything to see if we equate what’s in the scripture because as far as I’m concerned, that’s what matters. And I grew up in a very traditional Southern Baptist church in Jackson, Mississippi, and it was there for a long time and just to be completely candid, it is not there anymore. The church building is there, another church resides there, but the church that I grew up in is not there and the reason is because they wanted to adhere to tradition more than they wanted to adhere to scripture. And so, what I’ve tried to do is look at what the Bible says. So, first of all, I want you to open your Bibles to Acts, Chapter Two, yeah, we actually do use the Bible, that’s right. And so, I wanna encourage you to do that. Real quick I just wanna tell you why there’s a fire pit in my background is ’cause this is the time of year I’m supposed to be at a pastor’s retreat, but due to COVID-19 I have to make my own retreat. So that’s why that’s there. Hope you enjoy sittin’ around a fire pit with me today. We’re gonna be talkin’ about this church membership. But let’s go to Acts, Chapter Two, and you’re very familiar with this passage. You know, you know what happened. You know how it happened, all these sorts of things, but I just wanna read it as kind of an overarching theme for us today, as we get into this. In 42 it says, “They devoted themselves “to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, “to the breaking of bread and prayer. “Everyone was filled with awe and many wonders “and signs were being performed through the apostles. “Now all the believers were together “and held all things in common. “They sold their possessions and property “and distributed the proceeds to all “as any had need. “Every day they devoted themselves “to meeting together in the temple “and broke bread from house to house. “They ate their food with joyful “and sincere hearts, praising God “and enjoying the favor of all the people. “Every day the Lord added to their number “those who were being saved.” Let’s, let’s just ask a quick prayer, just goin’ here. Father God, I say to you thank you for allowing us to join your body and be a part of that. Thank you for allowing us to follow Christ with our lives, and Lord, to be on mission with you as the church. What an incredible opportunity we have. And so, as we discuss membership, Lord, let us get a clear understanding of what it is, what it is not and then be able to encourage other people around us to become part of the body of Christ locally. We pray this in Jesus name, amen. Well, first of all, where this came from was a revamped new member class. We had a new member class that was pretty standard and just kinda went through all the stuff. And then we changed it when, it kinda looked like Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Church. And then when Thom Rainer came along with I Am A Church Member, it tweaked and changed a little bit. And recently we did a staff retreat and I never felt real comfortable. I was the lead teacher in our new member class, and I never felt real comfortable with everything that was in it, just the way it was presented, the way it went, you know, everything. So, we revamped it again. We really said, who are we at Crossroads? Who, you know, what is it at our church? So we lined that up. We did the whole marker board, the whole marker, you know, the big Post-It notes on the walls and we just really tore it up and flipped weeks and all this kinda stuff and had the opportunity in January and February to preach through that new member class for our whole entire church. We did a commitment form that everyone in the church signed and we wanted everybody to kinda re-up, if you will, just to be on the same page and those sorts of things. And so, that’s where this came from. And I had to even backtrack even further from there and do one week kind of as a, as a pre week, you know, as a week of understanding some things. And these are, this is the first part of what I wanna do today. I just wanna go over this with you and so you can jot these things down, not a big deal. And by the way, firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s me, so if you wanna get these notes I can send them to you. These are just sermon notes, not a big deal. Let me go over this. First of all, membership is not in the Bible, quote/unquote. Now, I know you’re probably arguing with me already. You’re probably tellin’ me, yes it is, it’s in. Okay, we’re gonna get there. We’re gonna unpack how it is, but if you just look like what we do with people, hey, you come, you join, walk the isle, tell us you need to connect with us, whatever, you don’t see that a lot in the Bible. You don’t see it formally like we do it for sure. It’s not there in the proof text sort of way. The local church membership is not the 11th commandment. You know, and so, we know people are saved, we know people are part of that, however, there’s so much evidence in scripture that we know that it’s really, really important. For instance, even the doctrine of the Trinity is there for a picture of their members together. They’re three in one, you know. The Godhead is a picture of being a member together with each other, and so we kinda are able to go with that as well. We see the local church membership is good and necessary. The biggest thing is it’s cultural. The word member is cultural. When you think about the word member, many of you have a gym membership or a certain club membership, a civic organization, all of those things you might be a member of those things. And so, what comes is rights, privileges, opportunities, all those things come with that membership. And, and it’s very like bein’ part of the church. You read in Acts, Chapter Two how they had all those things that they did. They shared things in common. They worked together to give as people had need. They literally were on a mission together and you can see how they were responsible to each other and for each other and therefore, you have a membership. You have that. Number two, so first off, membership’s not “in the Bible” so when someone argues with you on that, well it’s not in the Bible, you can look back at them and say, you’re right. And then you can start a conversation. Write that word down. Conversation is critical to let people understand what we’re doin’ here in this generation. Here’s the thing. We get so wrapped up in our church bubble and even in our community in Alabama, where we are, and we’re in central Alabama. We’re right there in the middle of it, but y’all we need to realize in this world today that we are hitting post-Christian and even pre-Christian ideologies, okay, and philosophy that people are already entered. My wife teaches first grade. She teaches first grade and one of the things she does is she teaches them to sing, ’cause they don’t have music programs like they used to and stuff, and so they sing. She told me the other day that her favorite, the kids’ favorite song to sing is Jesus Loves Me. She’s in public school. She could probably get asked to not do it, but she does it and she told me that there are children in her class that this is the first time they really have understood a picture of who Jesus is. This is Elmore, Alabama. This is not San Francisco, California. This is not Denver, Colorado. This is not New York City. This is in the heart of the Bible Belt and there are children in first grade in suburban rural Alabama that really don’t know who Jesus is. And so, we’re right there and we have to understand that when we start talkin’ this churchianity, the Christianese language, people aren’t gonna know what we’re talkin’ about. We use the term oikos at our place, and you’re gonna hear me mention that in a minute, but every time we do we use the term faith family with that, that we’re going to be family with you. We don’t just drop oikos and then walk away. We talk about it and invite people into it. It’s very important. Membership also, number two, clarifies the redeemed. It clarifies, I’m a member of this and I am part of the body. I have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Number three, God models membership. We talked about this just a minute ago, the Trinity idea. God is a member of the triune Godhead, God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and there’s a Trinity that’s happening there and you know that, that they’re one God, different parts, different responsibilities, all those things, as they operate separately, but yet they’re members to each other in one. So, God models that. Membership is also a meaningful commitment. Your membership matters. I love the name of this talk today, Making Membership Matter. It’s not just signing a piece of paper at the front of the church. It’s that you’re actually, it means something to you. And in the second part here we’re gonna really unpack that, what that means. And then, membership facilitates ministry. I tell folks when they join our church, I say listen, your membership means two things. It means we’re going to love on you. We’re gonna encourage you. We’re gonna love you, but we’re also going to give you a place to serve. God has given you a shape. He has given you things you love, things you love to do. He’s given you a personality type and you need to use those for the kingdom. And so, I wanna encourage you to see that you have a ministry inside the church because you are a member, okay. Now that is critical today. People want something to do. They want a job. They want an opportunity. What the old school is I just wanna sit here and soak. Now that’s where some of our problem is as pastors. So we have to get some of those old school folks to get off their rear end and start servin’, start doin’ something. But not only does membership give you ministry, because ministry’s what you do inside the church. It also puts you on mission, which is outside the church. And so, we have our mission and ministry, we do those things together because we are members of this church. We have this responsibility now, okay. Membership facilitates the elders accountability to God, which is number six. It’s and I’ll go over these again in just a minute. And, it’s important to remember this. Obey your leaders and submit to them for they keeping watch over your souls as those who will give an account. That’s Hebrews 13:17, and as you know, the kicker there, obey your leaders, that sounds like well, I’ll just be the dictator pastor and you do whatever I tell you to do. No no no no no. It continues on that your pastor is going to give an account for what happens in the church. I tell our church from the pulpit all the time, that there is no one in this room that will give an account for what happens at Crossroads Community Church during my tenure other than me. The reason is because God’s called me to do this. He’s called me to be the pastor. He has crafted me to be the pastor of this church at this time and this is the role he’s given me. And so, I’ll stand up and give an account for it. No one else will. And so, I look at people all, I look at people a lot and say, listen, I love ‘ya, but that’s not what we’re gonna do. We’re going to do this because this is what God’s leading us to do. We have a consensus and we’re rollin’ this way, we’re marchin’ this way, and I’ll be the one to stand up and give an account for it. You know, we, we I guess we’re somewhat have a little notoriety of bein’ the church that changed their name. You know, we changed our name, was 175 years old and we changed our name two and a half years ago, believe it or not, it’s been that long, and you know, a lotta people thought we were crazy. A lotta people thought we were just nuts, but as we walked with some trusted mentors, some people in the church, some sages, if you will, some saints, if you will for sure. We knew that this was what God was callin’ us to do. And I told people, I said, listen, this is a pretty big deal and I’ll, you know, I’ll be the one to stand up and give an account for this. So, church membership, it gives the pastor also the accountability to God that you’re part of this body and we wanna work together. How can they give account if they don’t know who the souls are that they’re supposed to be watching over? And this is where I think one thing in the scripture, you see a lot of this in the Bible. Like, you see the literal accountability of the pastors in scripture to oversee certain groups of people. So that’s who the local church is and that’s why the local church is so important. And then finally, number seven, membership is expressed in the word oikos. You see oikos in the New Testament. It’s in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Colossians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews and I Peter. It’s all there and I could tell you exactly where it is, but it’s there, the word oikos. It talks about the faith family, the household. It kinda stems from the storehouse mentality of the Old Testament that the patriarch and the matriarch was responsible for everyone that was there, even in the mentality then of slaves, animals, people that were servants, that sorta stuff, everybody that was not seen as family members, they were also taken care of and in responsible. So, the oikos means everybody in the group, everybody that’s a member is here and we’re responsible for you. I have a very, I mean, it’s so let me go over those seven again. Membership is not in the Bible. Membership clarifies the redeemed, and again, let me back up, I just wanted to go over that. The phrase church membership, the idea, that’s not seen literally in scripture, okay. The proof text is not there. Membership clarifies the redeemed. God models membership. Membership is a meaningful commitment. Membership facilitates ministry. Membership facilitates the elders’ accountability to God. And membership is expressed in the word oikos. Now, another thing that I think, and if we’re gonna add a number eight right there it would be that membership is a word that people in our culture understand. So, it’s a very comprehendible word that you understand, you’re able to digest it and able to see that I am a part of something. We have some people that come and they have said, I’m not gonna join. Well, you know what? Truthfully, they don’t have all the rights and privileges and responsibilities and opportunities that our members have. They don’t have that. So when they complain or argue or fuss or, or even have a good point, they really, it’s not really important for us to listen because they’re not even a part of it. They’re not even a part of the group. They’re not a part of the faith family. That’s a choice they’ve made, because that’s how we see it Biblically to operate and that’s what we do. So, and I want you to be thinking of any questions you have. Write these down. We’ll talk about some Q&A at the end of this. But, what I wanna do, so you kinda got the precursors about what membership is/isn’t and some why, and now I’m gonna talk about, the I call it the 10 marks of church membership. When I came to Mount Hebron in November of 2012, one of the big first sermons I did was on unity. And unity is the first mark of church membership. I Corinthians 12:12-13, it says, “Just as a body “though one has many parts, but all its many parts “form one body, so it is with Christ “for we are all baptized by one Spirit “so as to form one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, “slave or free, and we are all given “to one Spirit to drink.” So, there’s a word that’s used over and over in this passage of scripture. Again, it’s I Corinthians 12:12-13, and that is the word one. You can’t be one unless you’re united. Having unity is important. Talks about one Spirit, one body, all these things. You see other scripture talkin’ about one mind, that we are to have this oneness that walks through the church and permeates what it’s about. Sunday, I preached a sermon Sunday, now this is how Satan works of course, and it’s to know, we’ve been marchin’ on this thing, doin’ this thing and Sunday I preached a sermon, I’m doin’ a series in Proverbs, and the last point was the Lord hates troublemakers. And we broke this down, we talked about how unity is so important and all these things, and had three situations that day that there were stirring up situational trouble, okay. And it’s like man, it’s just, the word unbelievable kept comin’ to my mind. Like, this is unbelievable that this is happening. But, it’s not. It’s not really unbelievable, it’s just the frail humanity that we are and people get self-centered instead of focused on the body, instead of focused on other people. We, we have to see that unity is a mark of church membership. It’s very important that we do that. One of the things that I talk a lot about is those hallway meetings, you know. The hallway meetings that you might walk up on or you might be a part of or you might hear somewhere and you go oh man, we can’t, we can’t do that anymore. Like, there’s no fussing, complaining, arguing, all that kinda stuff. I had a, I had a lady that, when I first came to the church here to pastor, she stopped me in the hallway and she said, pastor, I have a complaint. And, I guess I was just naive enough or whatever, I looked back at her and I said, well, you can’t really do that. She said, no, you don’t understand, I have a complaint. And I said, no, I heard you. I’m tellin’ you that you can’t really complain in here. And she looked at me and she said, well, yes I can, I’ve been doin’ it for years. And I thought, I just sweetly tried to tell her, I said, listen, according to Philippians, Chapter Two, you really can’t. You can’t grumble, argue and complain. I said, but what you can do is this. You can, whatever you’re upset about and you wanna talk about it, my door is open. We can come sit down and if there’s a third party we can talk about that, but if you’re gonna come in my office and talk about something or someone, Matthew, Chapter 18 says, first of all, you have to go to them and if you haven’t gone to them the first question I’m gonna ask you is, have you gone to them, and if you haven’t you need to, and then we can talk about it. So, I guess what I’m sayin’ is there’s a Biblical way to handle this stuff. So, if our goal is unity we have to know the word well enough to get people geared into that. And listen, pastor, teacher, whatever your role is, you need to understand you have the opportunity as part of the unifying body of Christ to look at someone and say no, I’m not gonna do it. One of the persons that was complaining this week called one of my life leaders six times, and by last, by Monday evening she called me and said this is what’s goin’ on. I said, listen, here’s what you do. You look back at her in her eyeballs and say no, I’m not gonna do it. I’m not gonna complain. I’m not gonna talk about this. This is not an issue, okay. You need to focus on the Lord and you need to just let it go. And, and that’s what we have to do if we’re gonna be a unifying person. As a person in authority, we have to be willing to listen. I wanna encourage you to have an open door. I wanna encourage you to do it wisely. Get people around you with conversations, if someone’s coming accusatory or anything like that to break the unity and be that troublemaker, that in Proverbs it clearly says in Proverbs Six that God hates that, that we’ve gotta have other people around us to keep that accountability high. And so, I wanna encourage you on that. So, unity is a mark of church membership, for sure. Secondly, and this is the next step of that unity, is that working together is a mark of church membership. If you keep reading in I Corinthians 12, this is 14 through 26, I’m not gonna read it all, but you know, this is where the parts of the body can’t say to one another, I don’t need you. We need each other. We are on mission. The arm, the hand can’t say to the foot, I don’t need you. The foot can’t say to the eye, I don’t need you. We need each other. We are on mission together. We are workin’ on a staff position right now, hiring a new staff position and one of the things that I’ve done is I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Enneagram, which is personalities and giftings and those sorts of things, and it’s just another personality tool, that kinda stuff, that you can learn from. And what we’ve done as a staff, is kinda take this test, see where we are, all that kinda stuff, and one of the things I’m askin’ our potential candidates to do is take it, because I think it’s important for us to maybe get somebody that’s a little bit opposite of everybody else, you know, to have some uniqueness in that gifting so that we can come together and not all be the same type person, but have some different ways we look at things, some different ways we solve problems, all that sorta stuff, so that we can be more maybe efficient and more, I hate to use the term well rounded, I’m not a bit fan of that. But, that we have the opportunity to grow together as we work in our strengths, okay. I like that phrase, that you have some strengths that are different than I do and I wanna learn to work together. So we have to do that as a church. Part of our new member class that we do is we go over the Acrostic shape and that Acrostic really quick, is your Spiritual gifts, your heart, which is what you love, your abilities, what you’re good at, your personality, and that could be the Enneagram or the Meyers Briggs or any of those sorts of graded standard tests out there. And then also, your experiences. And that kinda makes up your shape and then you’re able to get in the right place of ministry and the right place of mission and that helps a lot because you know that, and also learn to work together. This idea of working together is critical for the church. We’ve got to be focused on this. Man, comin’ together just to complain, argue and fuss, that does not do it. We have really been workin’ on this. We try to go into our community on a regular basis and we have these purple t-shirts that say, we’re here to serve, on the back of ’em, and we call ourselves the Purple, Purple Shirt Army. And when there’s need or when there’s day of kindness we take bags to just general you know, household goods or whatever and we’re on mission. And it’s so cool to see different people that you might not ever see together goin’ up to a door together, ringin’ a doorbell, handin’ a gift or doin’ whatever, and it’s just need. We’re on mission together. We’re working together and we have to see that as a reality, that we’re called to be unified and a step of that unified, the next thing is that we have to work together as a mark of our church membership. I think that’s just a common sense thing. And, church leader, you know, pastor, teacher, disciple maker, whoever you are on this call, you have the opportunity to encourage people to get off the sidelines. We need to be people that are encouraging people to serve. Service I think is one of the greatest opportunities we have to change someone’s mentality. When you serve other people you take your eyes off of yourself. You’re a lot less selfish. You’re a lot less worried about everything about you when you’re serving other people. So that’s again, that mission to work together. And three is so watch this. Unity is a mark of church membership. Working together is a mark of church membership, and you ready? Biblical love is a mark of church membership. I Corinthians 13:1-13, you know the love chapter, right. It says that basically the greatest thing is love, that if I don’t have love I don’t have anything. I was talkin’ to Ken before everybody got on and I said I really think the Achilles heel for the church today is loving people. So, Jesus told us that we’ve got to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And he said, and love people like yourself, love your neighbor as yourself. And then, go and make disciples. I think that we are trying to love God and make disciples without loving people, without loving people. It’s just truth and it hurts and it’s real. I mean, you know, and we’ve got to, as Jim Cymbala said, we’ve got to get over the smell, right. He works at inner city New York. He’s got all kinda crazy stuff that happens and people that you and I would probably walk away from, and he’s gotta embrace them. And the reality is, we’ve gotta embrace them, too. And so, we have to practice Biblical love. We have to practice a die to self type love if we’re going to have a healthy church membership. And I’m talkin’ about us as individuals, we have to practice that love for other people, you know, and that’s gonna go a long way for us and with what God has called us to do. Fourth, guarding your tongue is a mark of church membership. Ephesians 4:29 says, “No foul language should come “from your mouth, but only what is good “for building up someone in need “so that it gives grace to those who hear it.” I Timothy 5:13, “At the same time they also learned “to be idle going from house to house. “They are not only idle, but they are gossips “and busy body saying things they shouldn’t say.” James 3:6, “And the tongue is a fire, “the tongue a world of unrighteousness “is placed among our members. “It stains the whole body, “sets the course of life on fire “and is itself set on fire by hell.” There you have it. Listen, the tongue is important, man. The words that come out of our mouth, I tell my two boys, I have two adult boys and in college and graduated and I say to them all the time, listen, your words matter. And they’ll argue with me, oh, it’s no big deal, it’s just you know, whatever. I say, no no no, the scripture teaches that we will give an account for every unwholesome word that comes out of our mouth. Now, that’s mind blowing. But I know how devastating words can be. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it in the church. Somebody, just by sayin’ somethin’ is hurt feelings and people have left the church. They’ve gotten that bad taste in their mouth. They’re gone forever because of what someone said to them. I have a very close relative that is that way. Listen, guarding your tongue is important. You have to be the person that does that. So we wanna be a person of unity. We wanna be a person that works together. We’re working on mission. We wanna practice Biblical love. And we wanna guard our tongue. And we’ve got six more and I wanna kinda move through those quickly, and they’re pretty simple to understand, but they’re tenants, they’re cornerstones, if you will. They’re very important building blocks to church membership. Forgiveness, incredibly important. Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate “to one another, forgiving one another “just as God also forgave you in Christ.” So, forgiveness works this way. You receive forgiveness and you give it out. You receive forgiveness and you give it out. Very, I mean again, just a incredible part of bein’ a member. This is what maybe differentiates our membership between a HOA membership or a club membership or whatever, forgiveness is so important. And I’d say forgiveness is important there, too. But, forgiveness is one of the building blocks of bein’ a part of the church, that we have to have a attitude that we’ve been forgiven and we’re gonna forgive other people. You know, scripture teaches this model of this reciprocating action, I guess. Jesus talks a lot about it like that, the servant that was given to and entrusted with and then he goes to his servant and fusses at them and complains at them, but that the person that gave to them, gave them you know, some forgiveness and some leeway. We’ve gotta be careful with that, because listen, all of us deserve separation eternally from Christ, but we’ve been given ultimate forgiveness in our salvation, in eternity. We need to forgive other people. Try not to get mad at people. I do, and you know, it’s hard, because we deal with stuff all the time, we’re constantly walkin’ through this, and forgiveness is one of those things that can be tough. But man, don’t, don’t let it go down. And you know, we’ve had to practice church discipline. We’ve had to do some things to where I don’t really have much to do with other people any more that aren’t part of the body, and, but I forgive ’em, and I have to let them know that and I have to move on. I can’t hold a grudge. That’s not gonna do good for anybody, which leads us to number six, and that is sacrifice is a mark of church membership. Luke 9:23 said, “Then he said to all of them “if anyone wants to follow after me “let him deny himself, take up his cross daily “and follow me.” This is important today because we have got to change the mentality that if you love God, if you follow Jesus that your life is gonna be hunky dorey, everything’s just gonna be great, happy happy happy happy. Disneyworld is my life, you know, whatever it is. That’s not the promise that Jesus said. In John 16:33, it says, “In this world “you will have trouble. “Take heart, I’ve overcome the world.” Persecution’s comin’ for the church and we’ve gotta be ready for it and we’ve gotta understand it and it’s okay, because we’re followin’ the king of kings and the lord of lords, and that’s all there is. We’re gonna keep our eyes focused on him. We’re gonna understand that in order to follow him, Jesus said stuff like sacrifice yourself, carry your cross, deny yourself daily. He even said, hate your mother, father, sister and brother. Now, that one’s wild, okay. But, we’ve gotta sacrifice ourself for church membership. That’s a key. Number seven, we mentioned this earlier when we said working together, but not only working together for the mission, but also serving one another is a mark of church membership. Mark 9:35 says, “Sitting down, he called “the 12 and said to them, if anyone wants “to be first he must be last “and the servant of all.” We’ve got to serve one another. We’ve gotta press on and press into this. It’s very, very important. So, serving is, find a place of service. Help people find a place of service. If I could say one thing that you do actively when you leave this call, you make a list of how can we help people serve more? There’s nothin’ that I love more than walkin’ through the church on a Sunday morning and seein’ people serving for the first time in a place, where ever that is, the welcome center, the pre-school, whatever it is, wonderful, go and serve. And so, that’s a critical element. And then, number eight, prayer is a mark of church membership. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins “to one another and pray for one another “so that you may be healed. “The prayer of a righteous person “is very powerful in it’s effect.” It’s interesting, in James, Chapter Five, this issue of prayer is actually the issue of healing, that we’re gonna see healing come when confession of sin and prayer comes after that. So, we want to know how to pray. I have a great tool on that, but basically what you do is this. You take the Lord’s Prayer and you know what that is. There’s six tenants of the Lord’s Prayer and you pray that, you know, in whatever the situation is. And you teach your people to do the same. We use the acts up, act up, the adoration confession, thanksgiving and all that. We use different things. Acts is one I know. There’s different prayer tools that you have out there. I’ve just become kind of so tied into what Jesus said, again, we’re just really tryin’ to go with what scripture says, that when his disciples said, teach us how to pray, Jesus said, okay, here it is. And so, what we try to do is take that Lord’s Prayer and turn it into, for instance, I wanna pray for my son, okay. Dear Heavenly Father, you are so mighty and wonderful and loving, you know what it’s like to have a son and this is incredible and I wanna lift my son to you today. I want you to have kingdom breakthrough in his life because you tell us your will is done on earth as it is in heaven, and that’s what I want for my son. And so, that’s what I’m encouraging you to do is to pray the prayer according to whatever it is you’re praying for, but use the Lord’s Prayer as the outline. The kingdom the character of God, or the character of God, the kingdom breakthrough, the forgiveness, the provision, guidance and protection. And so, that’s kinda the way. But, prayer is essential. I would say this. Go overboard as a church to learn how to pray together, even if it may seem squirrelly, even if it may seem kinda regimented or prefabricated or whatever, just pray with your people. That is really really important. So, we were makin’ some strides really heavy on this, pre-COVID, where groups were getting together on Sunday morning during our worship service and we were having prayer. One of the things we’re doin’ right now is revamping our prayer room to try to have prayer teams praying during services, during time people are here and keep that goin’ as often as possible. We do a big day of prayer on the 21st of every month. We have, we have a day of prayer. Marc Hodges, from Thorsby First Baptist Church, he’s the pastor there, he is doin’ a cool thing called Praying Across Alabama, and you can connect with him. M-A-R-C Hodges, and he’s at Thorsby’s First Baptist and if you wanna reach out to him I know he’d love to talk to you about that, how to become a praying church. But, prayer’s number eight. And then number nine, this is a critical one. Loving your leadership is a mark of church membership. So, as the pastor, I stand up and teach and preach this, and I say, you gotta love your leaders. And everybody’s, well, that’s awfully self-serving, right. This is what that, remember the passage we just read? “Don’t neglect to do what is good.” This is Hebrews 13:16-18, “Don’t neglect to do “what is good and to share, for God is pleased “with such sacrifices. “Obey your leaders and submit to them, “since they will keep watch over your souls “as those who will give an account “so they can do this with joy “and not with grief, “for that would be unprofitable for you.” Listen to this, verse 18, “Pray for us “for we are convinced that we have “a clear conscious, wanting to conduct ourselves “honorably in everything.” Listen, we’ve gotta love our leadership. One thing I’m encouraged about the church today is we’re seeing pastors stay places longer than they used to. And I know for me, I’ve been here at this church for eight and a half years, which is longer than I’ve served anywhere, and I’ve been in church ministry for 30 plus. And it’s, I’m feeling this kind of thing. Our people love on me and my wife. They do a great job of encouraging us, not just me, but our other, our other team as well, and our life group leaders and all those kinds of folks. And so, loving your leadership is very important. Pastor, do not be afraid to teach this. Did you hear me? Do not be afraid to teach this. You will be accountable for these sorts of things. You’ve got to teach your church this stuff. You don’t have to tell ’em to give you a $5000 bonus every year. If they do, glory be to God, you know. Right there at the beginning it says it’s good to share, okay, whatever. That’s whatever, I’m not even talkin’ about that. What I’m sayin’ is, we’ve gotta be the ones that teach our people to love the leadership. We can practice that in our own life. And so, we have to do that. And we have to be able to teach it as well. And then finally, a tough one, it’s number 10, discipline is the mark of a church member. You know, Matthew 18, it talks about how to discipline. It literally is a blueprint for church discipline. But, again, it’s up to us to practice it and we have to. We have to walk through there. One of the things that I knew coming into this situation is I knew some of the history here and this church is a great church, it’s just had some of that complaining and fussing along the way, and there’s been some hard things. And one thing that I’ve been able to do with the help of the Lord and understanding from other elders and deacons and leaders here, is that we’re going to head on our discipline issues. We are not gonna skirt ’em. We’re not gonna run from ’em. We’ll sit down and have the conversation. We’ll do exactly what Matthew 18 has said to do. And, to be completely candid and honest, about three or four times we’ve had to go into the phases, the three phases of Matthew 18. Only one time have we gotten all the way through where we’ve had to actually have someone expelled from the church, and we’ve had the step right before that where we gathered as a group with people only one time as well. Well twice, if you count the time that that person was asked to leave. So but, we’re not gonna be afraid of it, because it’s in God’s word. Church, we have to start practicing, somebody say practice, we’ve gotta practice God’s word. We’ve got to live it out. It’s really really important. So, that’s the deal. Let me go over those again. And you can email me and I’ll send this right to you. Unity is a mark of church membership. Working together, Biblical love, guarding your tongue, forgiveness, sacrifice, service, prayer, loving your leadership and discipline. So now, if you’ve got any questions I’d love to answer ’em. I’m gonna jump on this Q&A and see.
– Let me do that for you.
– Yeah, yeah, good, great.
– I’ll just go ahead and I wanna do kind of the simple question first. Marty and Sherry Holly, you know them, associational missionary and wife.
– Hey y’all.
– A quick question there. Do you have a hard copy of what you’re teaching?
– Yes. We are, I have the hard copy of the sermon notes and we’ve gone through the, I can send you a hard copy. Here’s what we’re doing right now, and I encourage churches to do this. I had just published a book last year before COVID, and I didn’t realize how easy it was to self publish anything. And so, what we’re doing is we’re gonna turn our church membership class book into a book that will be on Amazon, okay. And that way it will be professionally bound. It will be a beautiful book that people can get, fill in the blanks, all that kinda stuff, for you know, $5 to $10 or whatever, and so, that’s what we’re doing right now. And our team is taking that, turning it into something that will be more readable and more encouraging from that format. But, we’re workin’ on it.
– All right, and I’ve re-entered again your email address so they can contact you about that, email@example.com. And then, Michael Brooks, we know Michael’s a pastor, and also does some writing for the Alabama Baptist. He says, Robert, are you baptizing again now? And second part is, is baptism at Crossroads immediate, see here is water, or do you have a required waiting period, a discovery type class before baptism, et cetera?
– Great question. I love, and I love the Biblical conversation there, see here is water, immediately baptizing. I believe it’s a both/and. We have had people that have walked the isle the day, we, what we generally do, I’ll just tell you, right after this series that we just did, we had a commitment Sunday, which is the last Sunday. New members come, join, whatever, and at this particular one is when we had the whole church do it. And so, we had, I think it was seven, maybe a few more, actually join that day. But, the next Sunday we celebrated Baptism Sunday. So, we had a big emphasis on baptism Sunday and we had 10 baptisms. The last time we did a Baptism Sunday I think we had 10 and then we had number 11, because number 11 came down, I wanna join the church and I need to be baptized right now, and they were adamant about it. And we did a little conversation, Q&A, understood that this was believer’s baptism. This wasn’t a re-baptism. And so, we understood that it was a believer’s baptism and we actually had a set of, we’re usin’ a t-shirt now, you know, that says somethin’ like I have decided to follow Jesus, or somethin’ and so we’re usin’ a t-shirt, so we had extras and we actually had some shorts and stuff and this person was baptized on the spot. Now, that person had been through our new member class. So, that had already been explained and stuff. I would personally feel more comfortable with having someone go through our class, become the member of the church and be baptized, or vice versa, either way. However, you can’t be a member of our church until you have been baptized with believer’s baptism. So, we are doing that. And Michael, I know you didn’t ask this question, but I’m gonna go out here and if any of y’all follow me on Facebook you can see the pictures that I just shared from last Sunday, our Baptism Sunday. We are doing something that some may call radical or crazy or you know, whatever. Again, we’re looking at scripture. What does the scripture say about baptism? It says, Jesus said himself, go and make disciples, baptizing them, okay. It doesn’t say preachers only get to baptize. It says, literally the interpretation would be that if you’re a disciple maker you are qualified to baptize, okay. So, here’s what has happened in our place recently. Over the last couple of years we’ve had fathers that have baptized their children, okay. Well, in this last week we had a couple that has discipled another couple, led them to the Lord. The husband was previously saved, never baptized. The wife was never saved. She became saved and both of them together are being discipled by this couple. We had a baptism where R.J. baptized Garrett and Meagan baptized Mary together, one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life, just to be honest with you. And the coolest part was, it wasn’t about gender equality. It was about Biblical mandate and it was such a cool thing to see. So, I’m not advocating you do something that will get you in trouble. But, I am sayin’, church, we need to really start lookin’ at scripture and do what it says, just live it out. So, that’s my two cents on baptism. Thanks for the question.
– Okay, I’m gonna give about another minute if somebody wants to enter a question. Otherwise, we’ll say thank you to Robert. But, I’m just gonna kinda voice again what I heard Robert say, in that a baptism could be a both/and in the sense that someone could come and it could be a, see here is water, and knowing, examining to see that indeed they have a relationship with Jesus Christ and wanna follow him in believer’s baptism, they would baptize on the spot, but also they have for membership a prerequisite class for membership and part of that membership would be also that you’ve had believer’s baptism. So, baptism could precede the class, but membership will not precede the class. Is that correct?
– That is correct, thank you. Yeah, it’s good.
– All right, seems like we have no more questions. Robert, I just wanna say thank you, love you brother in Christ.
– Thanks y’all.
– A good bit of time on Zooms together and in person and as well as many of the folks that have been listening in today, I just wanna say thank you. I know most of you. If I don’t know you and you don’t know me I wanna get to know you as do all of our state missionaries. We’re here to serve you. Please call on us and contact us any time. And we have on Pinnacle Alabama ongoing Zoom conferences and soon to come we’ll have what we call, or what I’m gonna be calling, Zoom conversations where we really will make folks more available so that you don’t have to word your question so carefully in the Q&A, but you can ask your question face-to-face through some Zoom conversations and Disciple Making Ministries, Passion Tree and others will be working with us to bring about some, some conversations and they will be on all manner of topics. But, to kinda take that step beyond a webinar so that you can have a little bit more of a time to face-to-face ask your question, ’cause I know it can come difficult sometime to try to figure out how to word that and input it and send it in Q&A. And sometimes you just need to be able to process that as you speak. So, we’re glad again, to have you with us. We pray God’s blessing upon you as you depart.