Dr. Fred Craddock, Christian Church Pastor and graduate of Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, TN, tells the story of a church in east Tennessee he pastored in his student days. It was a beautiful little white frame church building in Anderson County. Pretty as a picture. There were good people in that church, too; a warm, loving family of wonderful people.
But when Dr. Craddock arrived, he noticed something. He noticed none of the new people in the community — the people who had come to work on the big government project at Oak Ridge and all the people living in trailers and hastily built shanties with all those children — none of those people were in the church.
Craddock called the church board together and told them, “We need to reach out to these people who are living in our community. They live so close. Here’s our mission.” But the chairman of the board said, “Oh, I don’t think so. They wouldn’t fit in here.”
Craddock replied, “But they need the Gospel. They need the church.” “No, I don’t think so,” said the chairman. And the next Sunday night, the board passed a resolution: “Members will be admitted to this church only from families who own property in Anderson County.”
Years later Craddock took a trip back to that community. He searched for the church and found it. It was still a pretty place. But out in front of that little church was a sign that read: “Barbecued Chicken, Ribs & Pork.” It wasn’t a church anymore. The church had died. It was a restaurant now and was full — full of all kinds of people, sitting in those same pews, at long wooden tables, eating barbecue.
The building was packed and Craddock said to his wife, “It’s a good thing this isn’t a church anymore. These folks wouldn’t be welcome.”
Any church that forgets WHY it exists and WHAT it’s supposed to do is in trouble.
When I became a Pastor back in August of 1980 (38 years ago), Janis and I were invited to a dinner at the Rose City Café in Punta Gorda, Florida. There were about 30 people in attendance. We ate dinner and then they had a question and answer time for their prospective pastor (who was only 24-years old at the time, I might add). One of the first questions came from a gentleman who asked, “Mister Preacher, are you going to take orders or give orders?” I still remember it like it was yesterday. I said, “We’re not going to do either. We’re not running a restaurant. We’re going to follow orders. The ones we’ve been given by Jesus Christ.”
We expect all of our members to give their tithe, time and talents enthusiastically and energetically to help us accomplish the task of reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 28:18-20, the Bible says, “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”
Most churches start out doing that well. But then, somewhere along the way, they become inward focused and the church becomes more about its members than the untold millions of people who don’t know JESUS.
When someone joins the church, what should be expected of them?
1) They will WORSHIP regularly. Christians (church members) should attend worship every weekend and worship with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. (No exceptions, no excuses.)
2) They will MATURE continually. It’s an ongoing process that happens best in a small group environment where significant relationships help produce consistent, spiritual growth. That’s why Connect Groups are a huge priority at Crossroads.
3) They will SERVE enthusiastically. We are created to serve, gifted to serve and commanded to serve. Every member has a function in the body of Christ, and when someone isn’t serving, the body is hampered and becomes unhealthy.
4) They will GIVE generously. Mature, growing believers have a generous spirit. We expect all of our members to give their tithe, time and talents enthusiastically and energetically to help us accomplish the task of reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
5) They will PRAY daily. Every member of the church ought to be a prayer warrior, privately and publicly. We should pray for one another and pray that God would help us be more effective and more productive serving Him and building His kingdom.
6) They will PURSUE unity. God is only glorified when His church is unified. The church doesn’t expect or encourage uniformity, but it has to demand unity. Disunity dishonors God, disables the church and destroys our ability to impact the world.
7) They will SACRIFICE personally. Membership means ownership. We own the fact we are under divine command to reach the world with the Gospel. There is no sacrifice too great, no price too high, to reach people for Christ and to make fully devoted disciples of them. We gladly set our preferences aside in order to reach people who are far from God.
Our New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is the same thing we’ve been doing since day one: Connecting people to God and to one another.
We could use your help.
© 2018. Barry L. Cameron
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.