There are many misconceptions today about many areas of Christianity. There is even a movement among some Christian groups away from a “formal” church membership. The New Testament never mentions the term (in any translation I am familiar with) “church member”, but the attitude with which Paul writes to the various churches and to Timothy reflect what most would see as an implication that there is some form of accountability and “order” to the local “body of believers”. Further, how can effective and real church discipline be carried out without some form of “formal” membership or fellowship?
So why be a “church member”? The first reason might very well be as a testimony and commitment to the work of the local church and to glorifying God through (in/by) the church (Ephesians 3:23). Even of more eternal importance: “The Church” is the Bride of Christ as depicted in Ephesians 5 and Revelation 19.
But there is a cost to “church membership”. The price isn’t in money – but in a willingness to give others permission to help you to remain accountable, to grown, and to serve in God-glorifying ways. But there is another cost – an that of commitment – commitment to walk in Christ as a living testimony of saving faith and total reliance on Christ Jesus.
I received some truly heart-rending news last night from our old stomping grounds of Carlisle, Arkansas, where I spent 13 years of my teaching career. News of another student taking his own life. This was the second such sad news in a month. Of course, immediately rumors were flying that this was yet another case of bullying. No doubt, bullying is a very real problem that has been around for far longer than any of us breathing have been alive. Yes, young people have access to more avenues to bully and generally be ugly to each other than ever before. But we have to understand, bullying by itself is not a cause of suicide. No, suicide is the result of hopelessness. When one has a genuine hope, they are not overwhelmed by the hopeless world. Yes, they may get “down”, and even at times despair. Further, there are measurable and diagnosable conditions that result in depression, which most certainly can lead a person to a very dark and dangerous place. Medical science of today even tries to medicate depression (and even those who appear depressed, but are not clinically depressed) with drugs that themselves can, when taken erratically or suddenly not at all, lead to extreme depression and suicidal thoughts. But again – no attempt to help those struggling with depression is complete or should be expected to really work without giving them hope.
Which brings me to a reply I put together on a thread about this most recent death in Carlisle. This reply really deserved its own place – so I include it here to conclude my thoughts on the matter. And please pray for those involved in this terrible situation!
I cannot comprehend in my own mind and heart why a teen would take their own life. I understand that there are many pressures from our society, as well as I know that in many cases – Christ has been left out of the family equation (I am in NO WAY suggesting that is the situation in this most recent case). I also know that everything from drugs to family dynamics that have been turned upside down by our lost and dying culture often are a major factor. And Satan does, indeed, roam around like a ravenous lion seeking whom he may devour…
There is a message of Hope, found in the lines of Scripture – a Hope for something greater and far bigger than our selves and our current situation. It is within the pages of the Bible that we find the Source of real Peace and strength, the source of containment, the source of hope in a world that seems hopeless. And we who HAVE this blessed Hope must truly engage those around us with the reason for our great Hope – and that is Jesus Christ.
And as I have said most of my life, whether it was my 14 years of teaching, or my 9+ years in active pastoral ministry: May I make a difference in someone’s life… today, tomorrow and every day until the Lord calls me home! Never underestimate what a kind word or act can do. And certainly never underestimate what God can do when you share Jesus!