Winning Church Membership
"In every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive." Titus 2:10
Church membership ought always to be winning and attractive. It ought to be so happy, so beautiful, so interesting, that it would draw people into the Church, that they might also share the gladness.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:42-47
We have here in the Acts, a striking picture of the church membership of the first Christian Church ever organized. The picture is most winning. This Church of three thousand members was born in one day. It was not easy to get so many people of differing beliefs, conditions, tastes and dispositions to blend in happy family life at once. But in this case they seem to have come together in a wonderful way. They met in the church services, at the Lord's supper, in meetings for prayer. Some of them were poor and those who had means shared with these their plenty, They had a happy home-life, cheerful at their meals, their hearts full of praise.
The result of this was that they had favor with all the people. That is, their life was approved by their neighbors, and made a deep impression upon the community around them. It is said in history that at a later period the heathen were strangely impressed by the way the Christians lived together, saying among themselves, as they watched them, "Behold how these Christians love one another!" Their church membership was winning.
This should be the story of church membership everywhere. It should always be attractive. For one thing, it must be hearty and cheerful. There is no restraint in it. The members come into the Church of their own accord. They come because they have felt the power of Christ in their hearts, and earnestly desire to unite with the Church.
"Your people offer themselves willingly in the day of your power." Those who come into the Church should want to come. They should come enthusiastically. They should be happy Christians. Few sights are more beautiful than a company of young Christians, full of enthusiasm in their life. They love each other, they find their joy in it, then their cheer and gladness are contagious. They have favor with the people about them.
Winning church membership must always be unselfish, ever striving to do good. The Church is not a club of people, combining together to have a good time. It is not a limited company, seeking the prosperity of its own members alone. It is banded for service. It is meant to grow by bringing others in. It is a company of lifesavers. Its motto is to be the largest possible blessing to the world.
Winning church membership must be marked by true Christian love. In the Pentecostal picture, this quality is indicated in the word fellowship. It appears also in the people's helpfulness, the one to the other, the strong helping the weak. They lived together as one family. Their interests were common. What one had that the other lacked, the one shared with the other.
The home is the true ideal for the Church. The members love each other. This means that they carry each other's interests in their hearts. If one suffers, all are touched by the suffering. If there is joy in one home, every other home is happier and brighter.
It is said that if a branch of a tree is hurt — bruised or broken — every other branch, even the smallest twig of the tree, sends something of its own sap, its life, to help heal the hurt branch. So it is in the ideal Church. If there is misfortune in the life of any member, if some calamity falls upon some home, if there is some sorrow that casts its shadow upon anyone — all the others bring of their own happiness, their own good fortune, their own health, to help restore the one that suffers.
Church membership becomes very winning when it has such sympathy as this with all who are thus associated together. There have been experiences in the life of many a church when certain members could not have come through the times of grief or sorrow which befell them, had it not been that their fellow-members gathered close about them with love and warmth, with faith and prayer, sharing their sorrow and imparting their strength and their very life. The help they gave was so real, so human, so divine, that the burden was lightened until it could be borne.
A boy met with a terrible accident. He fell into a tub of boiling water and was dreadfully scalded. The doctor said the only way to save his life was to have others give of their skin to be grafted upon the boy's body. Half a dozen young men voluntarily gave the help needed, and the boy's life was saved.
There are people who are doing the same thing in various forms continually in their church life. They deny themselves, they make costly sacrifices, they carry heavy burdens uncomplainingly, they endure suffering and make sacrifice, they pour out of their own life's blood to bless others.
The social life of a true Church illustrates the winningness of church membership in the friendships that are formed, and that grow into beauty and sweetness through the years. Where love exists a beautiful social life is formed, which grows very sacred. The loom of friendship weaves its web among the members, and in time marriages and new homes are started and are growing entirely out of the social life of the Church. This is one of the finest outcomes of church membership — the harvest of sweet friendships.
It must be noted that it was the Holy Spirit that produced all that was so winning in the Pentecostal church membership. Before the Spirit came upon them, the three thousand people could not have been brought together to live so happily, so joyfully, so unselfishly, so affectionately. The Spirit was received into their hearts, and it was his love and peace and gentleness shed abroad in them, which made them what they became. Winning church membership receives its inspiration from Heaven. Ethical culture will never produce it. We need to have Christ in our hearts, or we cannot be good. We cannot love all sorts and conditions of people, unless we have the very love of Christ in us. It is only when we understand something of the fatherhood of God that we can grow in any sense into true brotherhood, loving and serving each other as brethren. We can make our church membership winning only by having the mind and Spirit of Christ in us.