The Church and You
Should You Be a Member?
The Church Jesus Gave Us
The Bible’s first mention of the church is Matthew 16:18 when Jesus says, “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” This is a good place to start a discussion of the church because Jesus’ words remind us that the church is not simply a human institution. It was established and continues to be built by Christ himself, and it will endure on earth until he comes again.
What We Believe
When we recite the Nicene Creed, we profess three important things about the church. We say, that it is holy, that it is catholic and that it is apostolic. In these three words, we sum up what Christians have believed about the church for thousands of years.
The Church is Holy
The first word, holy, means to be dedicated and set aside for the use of God, and this is just what the church is. Those who belong to the church accept the lordship of Jesus Christ and offer their lives to serving him and doing his will.
The Church is ‘catholic’
The second word, catholic (with a small ‘c’), means world-wide or universal. When we say that the church is catholic we mean that even though there are many sects, denominations and individual congregations, these are all part of the one church that Jesus founded. The Greek word that Jesus used for the church is ecclesia, which means “those who are called out.” God calls his people out of all nations to be his church.
The Church is Apostolic
The third word the creed uses to describe the church is apostolic. When Jesus ascended into heaven, he gave his apostles authority over the church, and as we read the book of Acts we see how the apostles directed the church, appointed its leaders and settled questions of doctrine among believers. Today we do not have the apostles bodily present to guide us, but the church has the teachings of the apostles as written down in the New Testament. In saying that the church is apostolic, the creed affirms the continued authority of the apostles over the church.
Are You a Member of the Church?
If you are a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ and accept the teachings of the apostles, you are a member of the church which Jesus founded, but the worldwide church that we belong to is made up of local congregations, and it is these gatherings of Christians in worshiping communities that we usually think of when we think of the church.
The Local Church|
God desires all his children to attend church for worship, to be equipped for service, and to have fellowship with other Christians. While each of us has his or her own personal relationship with the Lord, God also speaks to us as part of the community of the church. Thus, we see that nearly all the New Testament is addressed to us as members of local churches rather than as individuals.
The Shepherd and His Flock
Jesus described his followers is as a flock of sheep. He is the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep and wants to keep them from straying into danger, so he appoints shepherds to guide us. At AlamedaCRC our pastor is the chief shepherd of the congregation. He leads us with the help of the elders, who oversee spiritual matters such as worship and teaching ministries, and the deacons, who are responsible for the church’s financial resources and for providing help to those in need, both in the congregation and in the larger community. The pastor is considered one of the elders, who along with the deacons form the church council, which is the governing body of the church.
In Church We Worship
Our local church, is first of all, the place where we go to worship. Together we praise God, confess our sins and hear God speak to us through the scriptures as the pastor unfolds its meaning for our lives and for our salvation. We can worship God wherever we are and we can worship him by ourselves, but Jesus promised a special blessing for those who join together in worship, saying that when two or more are gathered in his name, he will be will with them.
In Church We Receive the Sacraments
Jesus also commanded us to meet together to take part in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which we also call communion. In the Lord’s Supper, we remember Jesus’ death for our sins, and we celebrate our unity with Christ and with one another.
In Church We Help One Another Live and Grow
As Christians, we are not alone. The Apostle Paul tells us that we should bear one another’s burdens, and it is within the local congregation that we do this. We pray for one another and support each spiritually and materially through all the ups and downs of life. As brothers and sisters in Christ we also help one another grow spiritually so that together we become the people God wants us to be.
The Gifts of the Spirit
What Are the Gifts?
God gives each of us special gifts through the Holy Spirit so that we can help one another. These spiritual gifts include talents for leadership, teaching, evangelism, healing, generosity, good judgment and service.
Who Receives the Gifts?
We may have more than one gift, but there are no Christians who have not been entrusted with some gift that God intends them to use for the building up of the church community and for spreading the Gospel to those who need to hear it.
The Body of Christ|
Paul calls the church the body of Christ, and just as the body is made up of hands, feet, eyes, ears and all the other limbs and organs, so the church is made up of individuals who all have their own important roles to play. The work of the church is to equip those who love Jesus to use their gifts to share his love with one another and the world around us.
Becoming a Member
What Does Membership Mean?
You may attend worship, join in the fellowship and exercise your gifts at AlamedaCRC without formally becoming a member, but joining the church will allow you to fully participate in the life of the congregation. Membership allows you to be part of the decision-making process of the church by voting at congregational meetings on the church budget and other important issues. You must also be a member to hold the leadership positions of elder or deacon.
What is Required?
To become a member, we ask that you have a basic understanding of the teachings of this church and that you promise to lead a Christian life. This done either through the sacrament of baptism or through a public profession of faith. We expect our members to support the church financially if they can, but the amount you give is up to you.
Everyone is welcome at AlamedaCRC, whatever his or her level of engagement and spiritual maturity, but we strongly believe that the decision to become a member of a local congregation is an important step in the life of a Christian. Our love and commitment to God are reflected in our love and commitment to the church Jesus founded.
To become a member or to get more information please talk to Pastor Mark or one of the elders and plan on attending our next membership class.