by Jared C. Wellman
In 1938, a film was released entitled The Sword and the Stone, portraying how a young boy named Wart became the great King Arthur.
The film begins in sixth-century England when the country was grieving the loss of their king, Uther Pendragon. Uther did not leave an heir to his throne, which leaves the land sullen. Suddenly, a mysterious sword appears trapped tightly within a stone with an inscription stating, “Whoso Pulleth Out This Sword of this Stone and Anvil, is Rightwise King Born of England.” For years no man was able to pull out the sword, so it soon became an afterthought.
Years later, a twelve-year-old orphan named Wart is introduced, training to be a squire. He eventually becomes the squire for his foster brother, Kay, who is elected to fight in a jousting tournament. It is declared that the winner of the tournament will become the next king of England. When Wart and Kay arrive at the tournament, Wart realizes that he has left Kay’s sword back at the inn, which has since closed for the evening. In a nearby churchyard, however, Wart notices an abandoned sword in a stone and pulls it out effortlessly, unwittingly fulfilling the prophecy. When Wart brings the sword to the tournament, it is recognized as the sword in the stone and the surrounding knights proclaim, “Hail! Long Live the King!”
Young Wart was called to be something great, but it took him a while to realize it. He was not fulfilling his potential because he didn’t realize who he was created to be. This concept can be applied to believers. Followers of Jesus sometimes miss the mark when it comes to church membership. We are like young Wart, destined to be a “king,” but serving as a “squire,” falling short of our potential. God calls the church member to lift the sword from the stone, and this only happens when we realize that churchmanship isn’t about going to church, but about being the church. This is to say that church is more than something we do; it’s something we are. It’s a lifestyle.
If there is a passage that outlines this, it’s Acts 2:40–47. The passage provides at least seven ways—although space prohibits all of them to be unpacked here—that the early church lived and breathed their membership as the church, and these ways serve as a schematic by which church leaders can understand and facilitate this kind of mentality with their church’s members.
1. Being the Church Begins with Exhortation
“And … he kept on exhorting them, saying, ‘Be saved from thisperversegeneration!’” (Acts 2:40).
The foundation to “being” the church is summarized in Acts 2:40 when Peter exhorts the unbelieving crowd to “be saved.” His exhortation focuses on the death, resurrection, and lordship of Jesus Christ. It is a message that “pierced” the audience “to the heart” so that they couldn’t help but ask, “What shall we do?” Peter instructed them to “repent” (v. 38).
The overarching idea is that Peter exhorted the people to fulfill what every person was created to be: a follower of Jesus. This point might seem like overkill, but the salvation of the church member is an incredibly important issue. Thom Rainer suggests this in citing that “nearly one-half of all church members may not be Christians.”
If we want our members to be the church, we ought to start by exhorting them to “be saved from this perverse generation.”
2. Being the Church Means Being Evangelistic
“So … there were added about three thousand souls . . . day by day” (Acts 2:41, 47).
The key phrase of Peter’s evangelism strategy is, “day by day.” This is to say that it was a way of life, not a program. The Lord added to the church “day by day” because Peter evangelized “day by day.” The idea is that you cannot expect these kinds of results if you rarely, or never, evangelize.
A recent study conducted by LifeWay Research found that 80-percent of those who attend church one or more times a month believe they have a personal responsibility to share their faith, but that only 61-percent have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the previous six months.  This is a major problem, and one that reveals that we are operating completely opposite of how the early church operated. Instead of “day by day” evangelism,” we operate by “sixth month by sixth month” evangelism, yet we expect the same results. Church members need to be encouraged to be an evangelist, not to just do evangelism.
3. Being the Church Means Encouraging One Another
“… devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship … breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together …” (Acts 2:42, 46).
Another characteristic of being the church is encouragement, which is especially expressed through the breaking of bread, or “fellowship.”
The phrase “breaking of bread” refers to the Lord’s Supper, but it also suggests a biblical mandate to fellowship together around food (“taking their meals together”). Practically, this is expressed by going from “house to house,” which advances the concept of community. Many churches practice this literally by hosting weekly home studies, which is a great way to cultivate encouraging fellowship. This is one of the more practical examples of how a church member can “be the church.”
4. Being the Church Means Being En Masse
“And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44).
Acts 2:44 is the climactic verse of the entire passage, and therefore an appropriate way to conclude and summarize this article. The verse perfectly captures what it means to “be the church,” which is encapsulated in the word “together.” And this togetherness happens because of the commonality of Jesus.
When it comes to church, many tend to think of the “Three P’s,” which are a place (a building), a plan (an order of service), or a passion (feelings about church). But church is so much more than this. It includes another “P,” which is people. Jesus didn’t die for a building or an order of service or our feelings, that is, so that we can “go to” or “do” church.” He died for people, that is, so that we can “be the church.” And when a host of people come together to lift high the name of Jesus, those people invoke the early church’s climactic example of living a lifestyle of church, one that proclaims that Jesus is the one in whom we “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). This is our goal as leaders, to get people to “be,” not to just “come” or “do.”
Jared C. Wellman currently pastors in Odessa, Texas where he lives with his wife and daughter. He has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Master of Arts in Theological Philosophy from the Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, and is currently working on his Ph.D. in Theology from South African Theological Seminary in Rivonia, South Africa. He blogs regularly at jaredwellman.com. This article was adapted from his book, The Church Member.
— Rainer, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 63. Rainer’s research revealed that 31 percent of those who responded to diagnostic questions gave answers indicating that they definitely were not Christians, while another 14 percent were too ambiguous to classify.  Stetzer, “Lifeway Research Blog,” para. 5.