Members Only (Not the sweet jacket)
Recently I’ve been wrestling with what membership should mean at our church. We are a congregation that’s been around for 90 years and membership is an assumed part of the life of the church. It’s existence is where the assumptions stop. Ask ten people at Mountair what membership means and my guess is you’ll get ten different answers. This was true when the church was comprised almost solely of older lifelong church-goers. This issue is complicated by the rising number of people with little to no church background who don’t have any idea what membership would mean (a great problem!).
I’ve thought of membership as a number of things–an antiquated way of saying “this is my church”, a way of expressing the expectation that a local church will care for you, an official affiliation, or even a commitment to contribute in some way. None of these seem like viable reasons to have membership. There’s a part of me that would like to jettison membership altogether. But recently I’ve been rethinking that perspective. In any movement (which the church is at its best) growth and influence require people who understand the cause and are fully committed to it.
So I’m kicking around the idea of making membership=an intentional commitment to being a disciple of Jesus and making disciples of Jesus. This is our mission as a church and I’m not sure why anyone would want to be a member unless they wanted this (we don’t have a spa or anything). Making this shift would require making sure people understand what discipleship is–someone conforming their life to Christ in all their uniqueness, not someone who comes to church or follows the rules. We’d also have to provide ongoing support to help people know how to pursue being a disciple and making disciples. And there needs to be a concrete commitment, not just an amorphous agreement.
My starting point for consideration in how to make this concrete is to as every member (disciple/discipler) to commit each year to having at least one person intentionally and regularly contributing to their growth as a disciple and at least on person they are intentionally and regularly helping grow as a disciple (certainly all these relationships go both ways). We could help facilitate this as a church but people could also choose people who are already in their lives.
There’s a lot to work on yet, but if membership is to mean anything it has to have some teeth to it. Membership needs to be an expression of the mission of the church.