Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit...
This passage from Philippians 2 is one of those that can wash over us and leave us with a general sense of rosy comfort about how the Church is meant to be. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I think it's one of the most challenging passages of Scripture that exists when it comes to community life!
After all, when the Bible tells us "abide in Me" or "do not covet", we only have ourselves to consider. Here, however, we have to work on obeying the instruction alongside other people - people who might disagree with us about things!
Last week I preached from 1 Thessalonians on how life in Christ gives us a common identity and a common destiny, and how as a result, we need to live open lives and honour the leadership that helps us to move forward. But whether we use the language of common identity and destiny, or the language of being "one in spirit and of one mind", there are two key challenges: how do we do live it out, and how do we know if we're living it out?
This is where we find membership to be a really helpful tool. Our "exploring membership" evenings are a chance to talk about our shared history as a community, to dig deeper into what foundations we see as key parts of our common identity, and to talk about the medium-term and long-term call of God on our Church family. That means that we talk about what that "one mind, one spirit" looks like, and get to agree together whether that's a reality for us.
In the next few days, I'll be writing a bit more about what membership does and doesn't mean to us, but for now I'll just leave you with the details of the next "Exploring Membership" evening: Sunday November 26, 7:45 for 8pm. Perhaps I'll see you there!