Over the last two years, God has led me on a journey of deepening my discipleship. By his grace, the beautiful simplicity of Jesus’ teachings has been revealed and rooted in me. As I listened to Jesus, a marvelous picture of the Christian church became clearer and clearer. Unfortunately when I looked at the broader church, and even Bethel, there were parts of the picture that didn’t quite match up, and others that weren’t there at all. I was compelled to look back at Jesus and asked, “Did he really mean this?” I think he did. Then I looked to the first Christians and asked, “Did they really do this?” I think they did. Finally, I looked back at the church and asked, “Should we do this?” I think we should.
It is from this desire to reclaim the heart of Jesus’ teachings that the Heart of Membership was born. I am convinced that a congregation of disciples who have their hearts in the right place is a powerful force for the Kingdom of God. That is why we are implementing the Heart of Membership at Bethel Lutheran Church. The Heart of Membership is divided into two sections. First we need to reclaim the heart of Jesus. Jesus captures the heart of faith and the deepening expressions of discipleship in the Beatitudes. It functions as a prelude to the entirety of what Jesus teaches and demonstrates for us to follow. The first half of the Heart of Membership explores the Beatitudes. This is the narrow way. This is our heart.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3-10
The second half of the Heart of Membership is based on the experience of the first Christians. These were the disciples of Jesus living out the things he had taught them both before and after his death and resurrection. No doubt, we can glean something from them about what we should prioritize as a church! We find their pattern for life in Acts 2:42-47. Take a look at what the first Christians devoted themselves to.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” – Acts 2:42
When we devote ourselves to all 4 of these things, our life together becomes a powerful expression of God’s grace and we all participate fully in the mission of God. That’s why it’s the heart of membership. We are all members of the Body of Christ. We all play an integral part in this body and none of us are more important than another. We all work together for the Kingdom and Jesus leads the way as the head of this body.
“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:27
We should strive for nothing less than the fullest expression of what Jesus teaches us. He has given so much to us through his sacrifice for our sins. We are the living representatives of that truth here today. Let’s make his heart our heart and let’s do it together.