this whole concept of church membership has got me thinking this morning…
back in the day, being a member of a particular church felt different than it does now for me. for the first forty years of my life, church membership was a pretty formal thing. i can remember people walking forward at the end of the service, shaking hands with the minister, repeating their confession of faith, and placing their membership in my home church. sometimes, they even brought letters of transfer from their previous church!
church membership was a badge of identity in the community. i have filled out paperwork that asked what church i was a member of. to play on the church softball team, the parks and recreation department required proof of membership (as if we would ever get ringers to play on our team!). in the church, only members were allowed to vote, to hold leadership positions, to teach classes, to serve important ministry positions. sheesh, i’ve even heard of churches that would only let members take communion!
now don’t get me wrong. i’m not dissing church membership. i am saying we need to take a careful look at it, though. honestly, the bible never speaks of church membership. the bible speaks of the church as the body christ. it speaks of those who follow christ as being members of one body and members of each other. it doesn’t speak of membership, as we speak of membership. with that said, membership, as culture has defined it, is still not a bad concept.
these days, it seems like churches fall into a couple of different categories when it comes to church membership. first, there are churches that take sort of a hard line when it comes to membership. people are not allowed to become members until they attend a certain amount of classes, agree to particular important doctrines of that church, agree to certain expectations (attendance, joining a small group, giving money, not undermining current leadership, etc…), and sign a document attesting to such agreement. these churches then keep these documents on file for future reference. sometimes, former churches are contacted for references or, at least, for insight as to why the “applicant” has left the previous church. before membership can be finalized, the new people must go through some kind of interview process with a church leader to determine whether membership should be consumated.
other churches take a “softer” approach to membership. no formal classes, no signed documents, no official interview process. the same kind of expectations are communicated (attendance, giving, involvement in fellowship and ministry, doctrinal agreement), but no formal requirement. sermons and classes teach commitment to that particular church family. leadership encourages, but does not require, this commitment.
north point certainly falls into the second category. now for the important questions for today…do you think this contributes more to a larger front door…or a larger back door? what do you think we should change? what should remain the same?