Deacons and Church Unity: Part 1

Deacons and Church Unity: Part 1

Some days I sit down and go through the list of covenant members at Emmaus and I will consider how well I know each member. Those are discouraging days. They are discouraging because despite extensive effort, I simply can’t know all of our members well. Emmaus is now running over 200 people and by the end of October, we will likely have around 140 covenant members. That is not a large church, but it is too large for me to know each and every member well.  I wish that I could. I remember crying myself to sleep at night in my previous church because I knew it was impossible for me to care for all the people God was sending to our church. Just today our elders were having a text conversation about the growth Emmaus is seeing and one said in a half-joking / half-real way, “I’m having panic attacks over here.”

I can only imagine what the Apostles must have felt as the church in Jerusalem exploded after the day of Pentecost. Suddenly their church of a few hundred was running in the thousands and would be considered a mega-church even in todays culture. I wonder if they cried themselves to sleep knowing they couldn’t know all of the new members of their church.

In Acts we see that it was at this moment that division began to grow within the church. Some of the people felt that their needs were not being met by the Apostles as much as the needs of others. There were hurt feelings, disappointments, frustrations and longings to know their leaders on a more personal level.

This is where we are introduced to deacons within the church. The Apostles called for deacons to be appointed for a specific purpose: to preserve unity within the church by caring for the needs of the members.   

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-5

Notice that deacons were part of the solution for a problem. The problem was a complaint of favoritism and neglect of some members (the beginning of disunity). The solution was that some of the members would be specifically tasked with the responsibility of seeing that the needs of all the church members were met so that unity would flourish. The deacons give their primary time and energy to this goal so that the pastors of the church can give their primary time and energy to pastoring the church through prayer and preaching of the scriptures. Obviously pastors do a lot more than this. Pastors care for needs, pastors equip the members to do the work of the ministry, etc. But the pastors primarily care for needs and primarily equip the members through “prayer and the ministry of the word.”

Deacons exist in the church as an extension of care from the pastors to the people in order to preserve a culture of unity. 

In part 2 of this post, we’ll look at how deacons will serve the members of Emmaus.

Hail Sacred Union (a Lost Hymn, Rediscovered)

Hail Sacred Union (a Lost Hymn, Rediscovered)

We are forgetful creatures. We spend most of our time from rut to rut, apathetic toward the magic around us and in us. We exist in a universe spoken into existence out of nothing. Trinitarian beauty is woven into every part creation, and every existing fact testifies to God’s existence and his goodness. Our response?

*Yawn*

For unbelievers, this indifference is understandable. Their default disposition, after all, is to suppress the truth about God—they cannot help it, it is in their DNA to whistle in the dark; no one needs to teach them how to resist the overwhelming revelation in which they are immersed. And of course, there, but for the grace of God, go we. Yet, we could say, there, despite the grace of God, go we still. Because, despite the fact that we have had our eyes opened by grace to recognize God’s activity in the world, we respond to his artistry with slow blinks.

But it’s not just the magic of general revelation that we ignore. As Christians we can absent-mindedly read the words of God in the special revelation of Scripture.

God’s words.

Words, that God has spoken and written. We can read a book authored by God absent-mindedly… (go ahead and read that out loud if the ridiculousness didn’t strike you the first time)

For Christians, these words contain promises of assurance. Promises which belong to us in Christ—they’re our (new) birthrights! Promises like:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39

It’s a funny thing, that words like this can become familiar to our ears.

Maybe funny isn’t the right word. Odd, or perplexing, perhaps?

Better yet, tragic.

Yes, let’s go with tragic.

It is tragic that we can read these words, or hear them read, and remain un-phased and indifferent. When I stop to think about my own attitude towards the claims in scripture, I’m embarrassed. How jarring does God’s Word have to be to shake me out of my lethargy?

God: Hell itself cannot separate you from my love, Sam.

Me: *Yawn*

We need to be reminded, not just of what the gospel is, but what it means. We need to regularly be grabbed by the shoulders, shaken, and screamed at: ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?!

A good hymn does this. When a good hymnists writes a potent line, he is casting light on the same familiar gospel from an unfamiliar direction, thereby exposing you to shades and contours you had either forgotten about, or had never noticed before. The gospel never changes, but like a diamond which refracts light in a thousand ways, we get to be freshly mesmerized by this never-changing-gospel when it’s presented to us from different angles, and when it’s exposed with light from a different direction. This is what John Kent does for us in his hymn, “‘Twixt Jesus and the Chosen Race” (which we are renaming Hail, Sacred Union).

John Kent was an English hymnist who lived at the turn of the 19th century. This fellow was actually a shipbuilder who wrote hymns as a hobby, and he was relatively unknown even in his own time (despite the fact that his hymns were among Charles Spurgeon’s favorites). As relatively obscure as Kent was during his own lifetime, his obscurity only increased over time; the last hymnal to include Kent’s hymns in them was published in 1872. This is something of a travesty, however, because John Kent is a wordsmith on all accounts, and his songs beautify the gospel better than most.

This particular song was discovered by Pastor Ronni Kurtz, who stumbled upon it while researching Charles Spurgeon for his (other) job. He approached me with the idea of resurrecting this hymn with a new, singable melody, and I was eager to do it. You can listen to it here.

Let’s break down each of these verses a bit more:

Between Jesus and the chosen race

Subsists a bond of sovereign grace

That hell, with its infernal doom 

Shall never dissolve or rend in two

Right out of the gate, Kent drops this breathtaking statement: Jesus and his chosen race (his Church) are bound by grace with a bond that hell itself could never touch. Kent is referring to the doctrine that we at Emmaus are in love with: union with Christ. When are united to Christ by faith, we are united to all of Christ for all of eternity – we “hitch our cart” to a “wagon” that sits at the right hand of God the Father. This is the doctrine Kent intends to examine throughout this wonderful hymn.

This sacred bond, shall never break

Though earth should to her center shake

Rest doubting saint assured of this

For God has pledged his holiness

Now Kent applies this doctrine to the uneasy and tender conscience of the doubting Christian. “God’s very own holiness” Kent assures the doubting saint, “is pledged to this promise: your bond with Christ cannot be broken. His status as a ‘holy God’ is staked on your salvation!”

He swore but once, the deed was done;
‘Twas settled by the great Three in One
Christ was appointed to redeem

All that the Father loved in Him

In this verse, Kent points to the fact that this gospel message—this glorious, unbreakable union between Jesus and his Bride—was a plan conspired in eternity past between the three persons of the Trinity. This intra-Trinitarian agreement is what theologians refer to as the pactum salutis, and it essentially conveys the idea that the gospel is a God-wrought plan from beginning to end. That first line communicates the finality of this divine agreement; Kent is saying, “He swore it, and it was done.” Each member of the Trinity agrees to play a different role to collectively finding their terminus in the salvation of sinners to this glory. In this verse, Kent alludes to the Father’s role (in love, predestining a people in the Son and appointing the Son to redeem them) and the Son’s role (he obeys the Father and redeems those people). In the last verse, Kent will touch on the Spirit’s role.

Hail, sacred union, firm and strong

How great thy grace, how sweet the song

That rebel worms should ever be

One with incarnate Deity

This is the height of the hymn, the natural burst of doxological gratitude that comes with meditating on the doctrine of union with Christ. Kent highlights the contrast between who we are who the God is we are bound to: we are “rebel worms” who become “one with incarnate Deity.” What else could we do but exclaim, “Hail!”?

One in the tomb, one when he rose

One when he triumphed over his foes

One while in heaven he took his seat

While seraphs sung at hell’s defeat

Here is the most explicit definition of union with Christ we find in this hymn. It is in this verse that Kent explains what we have in our union: Christ’s death becomes our death, Christ’s resurrection becomes our resurrection, Christ’s triumph over his enemies, becomes our triumph over his enemies, Christ’s security in heaven becomes our security in heaven. In this single verse, we are reminded of past, present, and future salvation—we have justification, sanctification, and glorifications. All of our sins were nailed to the cross with Christ when we were united to him there, and they were all buried in the grave when he took us there, and we have all been resurrected with him to walk in newness of life by virtue of his resurrection. That’s what our union grants us at our initial conversation. But now that we have been united to Christ in his resurrection, we also get his triumphant life in order to overcome our foes (our own sin, our flesh). In other words, our continued victorious triumph over our sin is a privilege afforded to us in our union with Christ! And lastly, we see highlighted in this verse the reality that our station before the Father is secured by this union as well. In other words, if you are a Christian, your chances of spending eternity in the presence of the Father are as good as Jesus‘.

Blessed by the wisdom and the grace

The eternal love and faithfulness

That’s in the gospel scheme revealed

And is by God his Spirit sealed

In this concluding verse, Kent now explains the third Person’s role in this Triune bond—the Spirit seals and applies all of these glorious truths. Which is to simply affirm the reality that our union with Christ is a spiritual union (that is, a Spirit-ual—Holy Spirit wrought—union). It is the person of the Holy Spirit who does all the binding work we’ve been reveling in up to this point.

 

7 Things I’m Excited About at Emmaus Church Right Now

7 Things I’m Excited About at Emmaus Church Right Now

1. Community Groups – With nearly 30 new participants in the last three weeks, we are starting new groups, reorganizing some old ones and gearing up for gospel-community that transforms lives! 

2. Men and Women’s Mentoring – Last spring we held our first semester of Women’s Mentoring with over 30 women meeting in groups of 3-4 to study scripture together. This fall we are launching into it again, but also starting men’s groups! 

3. Family Equipping – This fall we will begin to expand our intentionality in equipping families to make disciples. Expanded kids ministry (including 3rd-5th grade) and intentional sermon helps and catechisms for conversation between parents and kids are going to boost our process of making disciples.

4. Hospitality – This week I have had four people tell me they visited Emmaus and where greated with such hospitality that they aren’t going anywhere else. From warm greetings in the lobby to friendly faces in worship to invitations to lunch and to community groups by members, these four (and many more) have felt the hospitable grace of Jesus. 

5. Gospel conversations – I won’t share specifics for the privacy of those still in these conversations, but we’ve had more post-service gospel conversations with unbelievers over the last month than in the two years prior. God is calling the lost to come, and our members are sharing Christ! 

6. Church Planting – Emmaus has officially launched 2 church planting partnerships: Genoa, Italy and Seattle, Wash. May God save people, and may healthy churches be planted!

7. Refugee Ministry – This fall, Emmaus members are setting out to love, serve and disciple refugees in our city through ESL, tutoring and soccer. Pray with us for the nations to hear the gospel here in our own city! 

Why We Joined Acts 29

Why We Joined Acts 29

I often get asked the question, “What kind of church is Emmaus?”. That is a tricky question to answer. Is the person asking what denomination we are? We are Southern Baptist. Are they asking “What style is your church?”. Um, we are simple, liturgical, biblical. Are they asking what ministry philosophy we hold to? We would say that we are gospel-centered.  The list seems endless.

One of the ways in which a church can identify itself is through whom the church partners with. For example, we are part of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) because we greatly value cooperation in the advancement of the gospel and no one collectively cooperates through giving for the training, sending and supporting of pastors and missionaries like the SBC. The SBC has invested money and energy and prayer in our church plant and so many others. We love our SBC tribe deeply and are thankful to be part of the SBC.

In 2016 I and Emmaus were presented with an opportunity to join a network that would help us in 3 primary areas:

  • Cultural Identity
  • Missional Practice
  • Relational Support

Acts 29 (A29) is a diverse global family of church planting churches.

A29 is not a denomination, and joining A29 did not forfeit our cooperation and affiliation as an SBC church. Rather, A29 helps us to more intentionally clarify who we are and what we are about while also providing the opportunity to practice what we say we are about. Here are 3 ways this is true.

Cultural Identity

When I speak of cultural identity as a church, I am not referring to the culture of the community our church is in. That is a whole other type of cultural identity. I am referring to the theological, missiological and philosophical culture of our church. Allow me to share two examples of this:

  • A29 churches agree to a theological statement that helps us to more clearly communicate what we believe about several theological issues.
  • A29 churches are church planting churches, meaning they give themselves intentionally and strategically to see more churches planted. This is not only done through giving of money to the network, but by every A29 church actively participating in the planting of churches. By joining A29 we are making a statement that a central part of our identity is that we will actively plant churches.

When we say we are an A29 church, we are saying something about our theology, our missiology and our philosophy; we are making a statement about our cultural identity.

Missional Practice

A29 is a network of church planting churches. As I mentioned above, part of being in this network is that we agree to actively pursue and support the planting of other churches, not only through giving of finances, but through our physical and spiritual partnership.

Emmaus is partnered with an A29 church plant in Northern Italy to help strengthen it and plant others from it. In addition to our partnership with this church, other A29 churches have financially and physically supported us as we have planted.  The partnership goes both ways.  Through A29 we are able to partner with other church plants around the globe for the advancement of the gospel

Emmaus has a pastoral residency that allows us to journey with men for 2.5 years as they prepare to go pastor or plant churches.  Not all of these men will pastor churches that are part of A29, but many will and A29 will be a resource for helping find partners for their churches as they plant and pastor.

Lastly, A29 has the best process that I have found for assessing, strengthening and coaching pastors and planters. By partnering with A29, we have access to this assessment for our residents who are being trained to pastor and plant. This helps us be assured that our guys are called, gifted and prepared to plant churches.

Relational Support

While planting my first church, most of those watching from the outside were simply caught up in the quick growth of our church and assumed that everything was ok because of our quick growth. But an A29 pastor put his arm around me and asked if I was ok. He proceeded to become a mentor and a coach through many seasons and decisions as a pastor and to this day is still a mentor as well as the pastor of one of our churches supporting churches.

That is not the only story like this; whenever I have a question, a struggle, or advice I need, the men that I go to are mostly A29 pastors. They have invested in me, poured into me, prayed with me, and walked with me.

In addition to these friendships, I went through an extensive assessment process to join A29, in which a room of pastors pressed on me, asked me terribly difficult questions, dug into my personal life, and more. All of this was so that they could encourage and exhort me as a man and pastor. I’ve seldom felt as loved as I did in that “gospel interrogation”.

A29 is a family of brotherhood and pastoring is a job of isolation. As a pastor, I am surrounded by people, yet often feel all alone. The relational support of A29 has been life-giving to me, and I believe it’ll be life-giving to all of our pastors.

How did we become A29?

My wife and I went through a long process of questions, tests and assignments for several months. These questions covered a wide range of topics including; our salvation, marriage, intimacy, parenting, finances, theology, ecclesiology, pastoral care, calling, personal health (mentally, physically, and spiritually), church life and more.

After completing this phase we had a phone interview and then were invited to an assessment week in Dallas where we spent 2 days with pastors, being assessed in pretty much everything we did. We were put into social settings, I preached, we had case studies to work through while everyone watched and listened to our reasoning and decisions, and we sat in a room of assessors as I described above and were lovingly pressed on to see if we were holistically healthy.

A few weeks after the assessment week, we received a report of our assessment that had several conditions we needed to address and work through. These were things they saw at our assessment time that they thought could be hindrances to our ministry or dangers to ourselves and others.  After several months of working through these conditions, we submitted a report of our progress and were granted membership in Acts 29.

Why Did I Write This?

My goal in sharing this process with you, Emmaus, is so that you would know that your pastors and their families actively submit ourselves to the oversight, rebuking, and coaching of others to ensure that we are healthy leaders of our church. In addition, we seek to join Emmaus with organizations and people that will help us to clarify our cultural identity, practice our mission, and strengthen our leaders through relational support. Acts 29 is a network that takes this process seriously and therefore it is a network that we are excited to join.

*Coming Soon: Why We are Southern Baptist and Why We Joined the SendNetwork at www.emmausblog.com

Meaningful Church Membership at Emmaus

Meaningful Church Membership at Emmaus

Becoming a member of Emmaus was a foreign experience compared to the church context I grew up in. Before coming to Kansas City and Emmaus, I was previously a member of three different churches, and at all three becoming a member worked exactly the same way. On a Sunday morning, I walked down the aisle and said I wanted to join the church. The pastor asked me if I was a believer and if I had been baptized. If the answer was yes, then I was presented as a member of the church. Not a ton of hassle.

Emmaus was different. Becoming a member of Emmaus is a process. At the time, membership applicants had to attend six new members’ classes held on Sunday after the service. Then (as is still the case) new members had to have interviews with the pastors (our interview was at Panera Bread, which made up for the six membership classes). Finally, after going through both the classes and the interview, we were allowed to sign the church covenant, making us official members of Emmaus!

The process of becoming a member of Emmaus was surreal, but that is only the start. What is truly foreign to my church context is what was expected of us after we became members. When I signed the Emmaus Church Covenant, I was covenanting to a myriad of responsibilities. I was covenanting to be at church, to be a member of a community group, to love and serve the church, and to love and pray for my pastors. I was promising to abstain from sin, and to pursue holiness, and lead my wife well. Church members covenanting to responsibilities on the front end is a far cry from the membership that I grew up accustomed to.

Many of my fellow Emmaus members can identify with how strange that process can feel. This is because many of us grew up in churches that did not practice meaningful church membership.

Meaningful Membership vs. Casual Membership

The term “meaningful church membership” is, to an extent, biblically redundant. It’s like saying “a Christian who loves Christ,” or, “a non-believer who is not a believer.” Of course a Christian loves Christ, and of course a non-believer is not a believer. The same is true of a church with meaningful membership: of course membership in a local church is meaningful and committed.

The distinction is needed, though, because many churches do not practice meaningful membership. Instead, they practice a “casual membership.” Across America, church membership rolls are littered with the names of people who joined the church on a whim and never returned, or who have long since moved across the country, or who died in 1987. They are filled with the names of people who are only casually associated with that church. They are not membership rolls so much as guest books, signed by whomever decides that walking down in front of a crowd is not too large a price.

We Americans are particularly prone to casual membership. Church becomes a place that is frequented as we see fit, not a place (and a people) that demands priority in our lives. It becomes a place where we are entertained. It becomes a place that makes us feel good. It becomes a place that primarily exists to be our social club, or daycare, or self-help seminar. It is a place where we want all of the benefits – or what we think are the benefits – without any of the hassle, and in so doing we misconstrue the true benefits of membership.

That is not the portrait of membership the Bible paints.

A Portrait of Meaningful Membership

How does “meaningful membership” differ with “casual membership?” In short, meaningful membership means accepting equally both the responsibilities and the benefits of church membership.

To understand what these responsibilities and benefits are, we must look at how the Bible describes membership. So, what does meaningful membership look like in the Bible?

1. Meaningful membership places a priority on church. Believe it or not, Christians are actually commanded to go to church. In Hebrews 10:23-24, the author says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Church members are not merely given good advice to go to church, or told to go to church when they can, but are instructed to not neglect meeting together.

Unfortunately, our generation has swung the pendulum from a legalistic, “go to church or the devil may get you” mindset that was pervasive during our grandparents’ generation to a “church is optional” mindset. However, we must remember that going to church is not only mandated by Scripture, but it reaps unimaginable benefits for the church member. Paul says that Christ is present with us in a special way when we gather together (1 Cor. 5:4), Again in 1 Cor., Paul says that unbelievers will recognize God’s presence in an assembled church worshipping (1 Cor. 14:24-25), and as we will discuss shortly, gathered church members are able to bring spiritual maturity (Christlikeness) in a unique way – but only if they first gather.

Of course, nowhere does the Bible say how much absence constitutes “neglecting to meet together,” but the point is not that we know just how much we can skip before we sin, but that church should take priority in our lives and schedules. I knew families growing up that missed most church services due to travel ball (spoiler: none of those kids even made it to play in college). I know couples that seem to be out of town half of the weekends of the year for one reason or another. How do these members navigate around the command to not neglect the church? They can’t. They run their ships right smack dab into that iceberg. Not going to church isn’t necessarily a sin, but it absolutely can be.

2. Church members are to live for one another. The phrase “one another” appears over 100 times in the New Testament for dozens of reasons. Church members are to be united to one another (Phil. 2:2, 1 Pt. 3:8, 1 Cor. 1:10), they are to love one another (Rom. 13:8, 1 Thes. 3:12, 1 Pt. 1:22), they are to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), they are to encourage one another (1 Thes. 5:11), and they are to stir one another up in faith and good works (Heb. 10:24). There are so many examples to give, but the point is this: Church members live with the well-being of the whole church in mind. They don’t show up to church when it is convenient. They don’t expect to be catered to every waking second. They don’t suck the life out of others but instead pour themselves out for one another.

This is impossible when membership is reduced to an individual selfishly looking for what they can get out of church. If members live on the peripherals of the church rather than throwing themselves headfirst into the church, then it is impossible to fully obey the “one-another” commands of the New Testament, and equally impossible to receive the benefits of those commands!

3. Church members share in the responsibility of maintaining the holiness of the church. Along with the pastors, the church members are called to protect the holiness of the church from the poison of sin. Hebrews 12:15 states, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 10:23-24 again says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” It is the responsibility of the church members, then, to help pull up any weed of dissention and to stir one another to faith and good works (i.e, holiness) so that “no one misses the grace of God.”

Not only do the church members actively press each other to faith and good works, but they are also tasked with pushing out unholiness. It is the church members who are tasked with enacting discipline on members who have fallen into sin (Matt. 18:17, 1 Cor. 5:12-13). The idea of a church actively punishing sin seems harsh, but as F. F. Bruce argues, “If some incipient sin manifests itself in [the church’s] midst, it must be eradicated at once; if it is tolerated, this is a sure way of falling short of God’s grace, for the whole community will then be contaminated.” Church discipline is necessary to protect and remedy the members from the poison of sin.

How does it benefit church members to have a church body keep watch over each other’s souls and enact discipline when necessary? After all, the thought of dozens of other believers having a vested interest in your spiritual life could set anyone’s teeth on edge. But the church is not your 11th grade civics teacher who hides behind corners to see if he can catch you with gum in your mouth. The church functions as a parent, helping to guide, correct, push, and sometimes discipline us so that we may purse Christ and holiness. The goal of watchful care and discipline is for the church member to grow in Christlikeness.

With casual membership, how does the church keep up with “members” enough to know the state of their spiritual life? How can a church discipline a member in sin (with the goal of repentance and grace) if that member only shows up to church every so often? On a more personal note, how can you help your brother and sisters in Christ be more Christlike if you don’t even know their last name? How can the church help you to be more Christlike if you are not willing to help the church be Christlike?

4. Church Members are to care for their pastors. Lastly for our list, the church members have a special responsibility to care for and honor their pastors. Paul instructs church members to respect their leaders and hold them to high esteem (1 Thess. 5:12-13), to be slow to bring charges against elders (1 Tim. 5:19), to imitate the faith of their elders (Heb. 13:7), to provide material support for their elders (1 Cor. 9:14, Gal. 6:6), to pray for their pastors (Eph. 6:19, Col. 3:4), and to obey and submit to their authority (Heb. 13:17). Church members do not just sacrificially love and serve other church members, but they love and serve the pastors whom God has appointed to shepherd over them (1 Pet. 5:2).

Again, how can a shepherd care for a sheep that refuses to actually be a part of the flock? If the members of the church are only casually associated with the church as a whole, who is standing in the gap for our pastors? Who is providing for our pastors as they set about the ministry of the world? How will we be fed with the gospel if we do not listen to our pastors? How will we be pushed into holiness if we recoil at any guidance from our pastors? Casual church members must be convinced that they are sheep who need no shepherd, since they are not committed to loving and being loved by the undershepherd that God has appointed to protect us until he returns or calls us home.

Meaningful Membership at Emmaus

This is the portrait that the Bible paints of Biblical, meaningful church membership. It is our conviction at Emmaus that we are to carefully hang this portrait in our own house, taking the principles that the Bible requires of members and applying it to our own context.

So, what does meaningful membership look like at Emmaus?

1. Emmaus members are expected to come to church. We take serious the charge to not neglect meeting together. When new members sign our church covenant, they sign to commit to “pursue spiritual growth…through worship gatherings.” Obviously we do not have a running ledger of who comes how many times, but if it is noticed that a member has missed either several weeks in a row or regularly over a noticeable length of time, the church will reach out to them to find out if there are needs that need to be met, or sin to be dealt with.

2. Emmaus members are expected to live sacrificially for one another. At Emmaus, one of the primary ways that we serve one another is the context of a community group. By joining a community group, members are able to pray for one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, and fulfill many of the other “one another” commands in small, intimate settings which serve as microcosms of the whole church.

Another way that members serve one another is by volunteering. Every member of Emmaus is expected to serve on a team that helps to make our Sunday morning gatherings successful, whether it’s in the band, as a barista, or serving in the kids ministry.

3. Emmaus members are expected to watch out for one another. Unlike the church contexts that many of us grew up in, members of Emmaus are expected to take a vested interest in the lives of their fellow church members – especially in the lives of their small group members. Emmaus members are expected to pray for one another, confess sin to one another, love one another, and, if needed, correct one another. Correcting one another is often awkward and painful, but the end result is so beautiful that it makes the awkwardness and pain worth the while, because there is a special beauty in a believer becoming aware of sin, repenting of that sin, and enjoying anew the grace of Jesus.

4. Emmaus members are expected to be easy sheep to shepherd. New Emmaus members also covenant to obey and submit to our elders. Again, this may seem weird or scary, but it’s important to remember that our pastors are ordained by God to care for us until Jesus returns. We are commanded to honor, respect, care for, and pray for them while being easy sheep to shepherded – and lest the idea of being an easy sheep seems daunting, if you are committed to coming to church, loving your fellow church members, watching out over your fellow church members, and loving and obeying your pastors then rest assured, you will be an easy sheep.

At Emmaus we wish to cultivate an understanding of membership that does justice to both the actual benefits and the responsibilities that are inherent with church membership. Membership is neither casual nor selfish, but is instead an intentional, selfless giving of oneself to a church family. May we consider membership to Emmaus with the same consideration that Christ considers Emmaus, and the whole church, when he gave himself up for her.

Jake Rainwater is the Director of Membership and a pastoral resident at Emmaus. He attends Midwestern Seminary where he is pursuing a Master of Divinity in Biblical Languages. Jake is married to his high school sweet heart, Tabitha. They have a Great Dane named Scotland. Follow him on Twitter at @JakeRainwater

4 Reasons Emmaus is Moving to North Kansas City

4 Reasons Emmaus is Moving to North Kansas City

If you did not see our announcement on Monday, Emmaus Church is moving to North Kansas City (NKC) this summer! We are incredibly excited about this opportunity.  I’ve had several people ask me why we are moving, so I thought I would take the opportunity to share that with you briefly.

Emmaus is a Growing Church

We planted Emmaus in 2015 with a few dozen people. Today, Emmaus is averaging just under a couple hundred. The last two years have seen growth, and one thing keeping us from continued growth at this point is space. This move allows us to double our worship capacity and remain in one service at this time! We have considered remaining where we are and moving to two services, and we have looked at other options as well. At the end of the day though, those options continued to have closed doors for either logistical or philosophical reasons. NKC, however, continues to have an ever-wider open door. We are excited to double our space and continue to reach people in the Northland.

Emmaus is a Church for the Northland

When we planted, we planted in the community of Parkville. Our desire was to reach the people of Parkville with the gospel. That is still our desire! We can say that because when we planted we were not only planting to reach Parkville, but the Northland. If you are not familiar with that term, the Northland is everything north of the Missouri River in Kansas City).  Parkville is part of the Northland, and so is NKC. God has brought Emmaus members from every corner of the Northland, and by moving to NKC we are centrally locating our gathering location for all of the Northland. With 5 interstates and highways flowing through NKC, we will be under an 18 minute drive from anywhere in the northland. Our members will gather together in the center of our region to worship Jesus each Sunday and then will be sent back out to their corner of our region with the gospel to be missionaries in their communities throughout the week.

Screenland Theatre is a Unique Gathering Space

Our new location is the Screenland Armour Theatre building on Armour Road in NKC. The Screenland is not going out of business. In fact, their business is doing very well. We will be renting the theatre from them on Sunday mornings. This is costing us less money than renting a school, requires less setup and provides a great gathering space for our church.

In addition to the Screenland theatre, our kids and office space is located in the same building.  This will be permanent space to meet in throughout the week, and we do not have to leave the building for our kids ministry on Sundays. This unique blend of permanent and mobile setup fits our church well.

One of the most confirming aspects of this move is that we were able to secure all of this space for less money than we have currently be paying for half the space.

North Kansas City is a Unique Community for our Church

Emmaus is a young church organizationally and individually. We often joke that if you are 30-35 you are middle age and if you are 35+ you are a senior adult at our church. That makes yours truly a senior adult. (I’d like my discount please).  Our people are a people who care greatly about social needs, community investment, racial reconciliation, refugee relocation and sharing the gospel with those who are not believers in Jesus. NKC is a community that offers a plethora of opportunity for our people to engage in these issues. NKC is becoming the urban hub of the Northland. With restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and more opening up almost weekly, it is an area that is gaining the attention and presence of people from all walks of life. The racial diversity is greater than in many Northland communities and the socio-economic diversity is even greater. I believe that God has uniquely gifted Emmaus members with the ability and the desire to immerse themselves in a community like NKC in order to see it flourish while also reaching their own communities throughout the week.

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