Whenever I bring up our third core value, I am often met by a number of different responses. You see, many of our core values are relatively self-explanatory. While it is important for me to fill out exactly what I mean with each core value, there is usually some common starting place to begin.
Not so with this third core value: church membership!
I have found that there are just about as many different ideas that come to mind about church membership as there are people. Some people see it as something restrictive. Something all about rules and punishment. Some people see it as something that needs to happen very quickly – as soon as they begin to become a regular attender. Some people have thoughts about a country club that come to mind, including all of the fees and dues along with the prestige that might come with joining. Still others think church membership is something that is akin to opening a spiritual bank account – free and easy to start but also very easy to close as well.
What I have learned in the last 12 months is that there is at least a hint of truth in almost anything people compare church membership to. But there is also usually a good bit that isn’t exactly true either! People are often close to what church membership is when they begin to describe it, but the areas where they are a little bit off have more of an impact on how they view this topic than the areas where they might be right. And that was true for myself as well – which is why this third core value has been so important for me in my own life.
Church membership has three primary components. First, church membership was established by God for a purpose, and understanding that actually gives us a deeper appreciation for who God actually is. Second, church membership comes with some very important benefits – things that any Christian apart from a church home simply does not enjoy. And finally, church membership always has responsibilities – responsibilities on both church members and church leaders. I usually spend a good amount of time on this in our membership process at Verdae Pres, and I cannot say everything that needs to be said here. But I want to at least introduce each of these three components in today’s blog.
The purpose of church membership is wide ranging and includes countless biblical references. But I always find it most important to note that God has specifically given the church as a gift to his children – a place for his people to belong. God does not intend for believers to live their Christian life on an island. In fact, his desire is the complete opposite of that. And the reason is that God’s purpose for the church is to aid followers of Christ in their journey through this life. Simply put, without the church life as a Christian is significantly harder than God designs.
The benefits of church membership have already been alluded to above, but it goes much deeper. Yes, Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, but part of the way that he is good is that he provides “under-shepherds” – church leaders – to care for the very souls that he has redeemed. And in fact, he will call those under-shepherds to give an account for how they shepherded each and every soul. But this doesn’t happen for a person apart from the church. Not even for the regular attender who has yet to make a formal commitment to a specific body of believers. God has built in “soul-care” for every believer – through church membership.
The responsibilities of church membership are important as well, and again there are many things that we note during our membership process. But I believe that all of the responsibilities of church membership can be summed up in the final question that we ask all of our members: “In loving obedience, do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of this church, promising to seek the peace, purity, and prosperity of this congregation as long as you are a member of it?” It is this mutual commitment between members that form the foundation for a strong church body. And it to this biblical calling that all Christians are beckoned to upon conversion.
I mentioned at the outset that there are as many ideas about church membership as there are people, and that means that you are someone with a unique idea about church membership. And the reality is that reading this blog hasn’t answered all of your questions. But then, it wasn’t designed to. That is something for our Inquirer’s Class!
Rather the purpose of the blog today was to simply reframe the questions we have in a way that is consistent with God’s Word – and thus causes us to ask the right questions. Because we can only ask the right questions when those questions rest upon the truth of God’s Word. His Word that reveals to us the purpose, benefits, and responsibilities of church membership. Truly a divine calling!
“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” – Hebrews 13:17a