Breaking barriers – five

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?

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5 thoughts on “Breaking barriers – five

  1. I like the NP approach. It allows you to give freely of both our time and our belongings. Not out of requirement to be a member of the body of Christ but because we are member. Jesus didn’t ask his followers to sign a release form. He called them to put down their worldy things and join Him

  2. Mike, I think that again there is middle ground to be had and claimed in order to make a smaller back door and a larger front door.

    I came from a church that looked favorably on membership to churches that required a series of classes/courses…and oddly I found the classes and courses COMFORTING – the material covered helped me understand more of what the church believed, what their mission statement was really all about, what spiritual gifts mixed with natural talents I could identify with and then how I could associate what God had given me talent-wise with the church’s mission statement to get involved.

    In fact, if you remember, when we came to North Point I felt “lost” like I didn’t know HOW to join, how to get involved….and alot of times when there’s alot of transition in my life (i.e. new baby) or transitions at North Point – I don’t know how to re-join or get involved again.

    Not everyone is going to come from a churched background similar to North Point – in fact – probably less than 10 percent will!

    Solution:
    North Point should offer a series of “new member” classes – NOT as a requirement for membership but for ministry. At various levels the participants can learn about NP and its structure, goals, and then go through studying/workshops on things like spiritual gifts, how personality works inside of church ministry, identifying the felt needs of NP members as well as the immediate Lewisville community. From there the natural progression forward of doing child protection training and plugging into NP ministries would be a more ready and natural process for a newbie looking for a way to blend with the Body of NP.

    For members who have been at North Point – we’ve got to have refresher on-site, involved renewal courses that help to reactivate the desire for service. I’m not sure if this looks like sitting down with our missionaries (like Peter and Cathy), visiting CCA or volunteering as a mentor one weekend, or doing smaller courses to teach specialized interests…but this sort of revival of interest has to happen or else the “toddlers” will tend to get stuck in their ways and the only thing they will be carving out in regards to North Point is an indention in the seat they sit in on Sunday.

    Honestly, the only REQUIREMENT for membership should be a desire to be a member, common shared beliefs/vision for NP and well, they’ve got to know the secret handshake. =)

  3. It’s interesting that this is the topic for today. In my quiet time this morning I studied Luke 14:25-35. Jesus asks those who are really serious about being a disciple to do two things. 1) Love him more than anyone else and 2) Take up our cross daily to follow…meaning every day die to ourselves in order to be completely committed to him. This is what it takes to be part of the kingdom.

    Does this have any relevance to our doors? I want us to have a huge front door and a small back door at North Point because people are meeting Jesus here and serving and in deep relationships with each other and making a difference in our community. For me…I can’t imagine calling any other place home. I love it here!

  4. I don’t know that we have enough “newbies” to do a class. It would be awfully awkward for the poor lone person to be going through some class all by themselves. I don’t think its a bad idea, I just don’t it really fits our need right now, or honestly, with our church personality. People learn about us by spending time with us. I think we’re pretty quick to put people to work! (in the nicest of ways). All the new person has to be is willing.

  5. I think that the way we go about things now, kindof keeps the doors half open in a way.

    Being a newbie to NP almost a year ago, if we had not sat down with Mike beforehand, we would be the ones that just made the indentations on the seats on sundays (well maybe not, but you get the point)

    It might be nice to have, at the end of each sunday service, a meet and greet for new people. An opportunity to talk to Mike, Buzzy, Angela and the other leaders of the church. At this point, we could have a brochure with NP’s mission statement, goals, our outreach programs etc. AND, have them fill out a new member sheet to contact them afterwards…

    This would give the newbies an opportunity to see what we are about…

    Another way to push that door all the way open.

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