YOU Belong

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about membership in a blog.  But first, let me make a confession here in writing. I have not always been a believer in the concept of local church membership.  There were years when I believed that my spiritual membership in the global church family was more than enough. I believed that membership was mainly about keeping lists, fulfilling denominational requirements, or creating a sense of control over church attenders.  I went through a phase in my life where I said “If it isn’t in the Bible, why are we doing it?!?” Maybe you’ve never thought these thoughts, but I have and I think it is important for you to know, so that when I share my turning points they will have a reference in my story.

I began to doubt my own position when I discovered that many things we believe and do are not explicitly stated in the Bible. Joining the list of extra-biblical church practices along with membership are things like Sunday School, church buildings, paid pastors, AGMs, and more.  And we don’t just have extra-biblical practices, we also cherish deep theological beliefs that are not explicitly stated in Scripture—like the Trinity for instance.  I began to ask really honest, hard questions about these things.  We have to ask ourselves, if we are prepared to ignore membership because it isn’t in the Bible, are we also prepared to cancel Sunday School, sell our church building, and dismiss our paid staff (gulp)? Are we prepared to get rid of the Trinity?

These questions created healthy turning points in me.  I began to realize that many of the things we do were wisely created as tools to help us remain faithful in our relationship with Jesus and to be alignment with what the Bible DOES say.  Sunday School is a great tool for obeying the command to teach our children about God. A church building is a fantastic tool for creating a common ongoing gathering space for the church family. It is a great base for training and equipping people for mission in their daily lives. It also creates a constant reminder of the presence of the community of Jesus in our secular world. Paid staff empower and equip the church family to follow Jesus in daily life without being totally bogged down with the day to day operations of the church organization. 

I experienced a similar turning point regarding membership.  Membership is not explicitly stated or required in Scripture. However, think of what Scripture DOES require: love one another, be devoted to one another, serve one another, bear with one another, encourage and admonish one another, be of one mind, care for one another…these commands and more are all clearly stated in the Bible. The question we must ask is, how do we express our obedience to these commands without some kind of ongoing commitment to one another?

Think also of the images and metaphors in the Bible that are used to describe the church: a family, a temple where God lives built brick by brick on the foundation of Jesus, a human body where every part is deeply interconnected and interdependent on all the other parts.  How do we make these images visible together without some ongoing commitment to a real flesh and blood group of people gathered regularly in the name of Jesus? 

The truth is that we can’t.  The Bible is clear that being a part of the ‘global family of God’ IS ALWAYS expressed by committed fellowship with a local church.   Once we realize this, we become open to the idea that we are responsible to find the best ways possible to ‘live out’ a biblical understanding of ‘church’. And committed membership is a great way to do that.

Let me share one more observation.   Perhaps the most powerful turning point about the value and power of membership occurred in relationship to my growth as a follower of Jesus.  We all know that making and keeping commitments in daily life creates tension that leads to solid growth in my life with God. For instance, if I only read the Bible when I feel like it, there is no tension for growth. When I commit to a daily Bible reading plan I am immediately face to face with all of my excuses and habits.  My commitment to read the Bible daily pulls me past my excuses and laziness and builds a habit that leads to growth. 

Membership is exactly the same. Making a commitment to a local church family creates tension with so many sinful mindsets and idols in my life.  Membership commitment to a local church helps me push past those sins and idols to do the things I’ve committed to. When I feel lazy on a Sunday morning, I get out of bed and go to church because I’ve committed to it. When I’d rather watch hockey on Tuesday nights, I PVR it and head for my small group instead because my church family is counting on me and I’m committed to growing in my relationship with God and others. Here is the radical truth about membership: it is one of the most powerful tools available for your growth as a Christian.

I have completely turned in my thinking and practice around membership.  It is a beautiful tool for showing the world a picture of biblical, localized church family. It is a powerful tool for leveraging growth in my walk with Jesus in daily life. 

As we continue our series on The Church: God’s Plan ‘A’, I’d like to invite you to think and pray about your relationship to Cariboo Bethel Church (or whatever church you’d call ‘home’).  We are moving toward a moment when we will stand together and affirm our commitments to each other as a church family.  I’m hoping you will join us for that important moment.  Grace and peace to you as you listen to God’s Word and His Spirit on this important topic.

2 Responses to “YOU Belong”

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  2. dancome says:

    Hello ~ Awesome content ~ Thank You

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