One of the words I believe is helpful in studying Scripture as it relates to membership is the word join. Join in certain contexts is a great parallel word for what we are trying to understand and gain insight. In fact join is the word often used in the process of becoming a member of a specific church. You will hear statements like, “our family is going to join the church.” So below are scriptures that contain the word join along with my thoughts.
Acts 1:14 “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
- First we can learn that members have a responsibility of meeting regularly. I believe this regularly indicates a gathering together beyond once a week. That is why we have the expectation of our members to be in a small group.
- Second we can learn that there is not a gender qualification in being a participating member. I only state this because I believe this plays into the elder discussion but we can talk about that at another time.
Acts 5:13-14 “No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believe in the Lord and were added to their number.
- There seems to be the distinguishing of two groups that are both believers. There is a group that is in on the mission and a group that believes but hasn’t moved into mission yet.
- I’m stating the obvious, but there was something for people to actually join.
- We can also learn that there are certain levels of commitment. I say this because there are reasons for people to not choose in.
Acts 9:26-27a “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles.
- The disciples were careful who they let join.
- Talking out of both sides of my mouth – membership can often times be a series of hoops that end up keeping potiential kingdom players from ever playing their role. We will err on having less hoops.
I Corinthians 16:15-16 “You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it.”
- Members should be converts. It may sound obvious but seeing church as a country club is not unheard of. In fact, many churches operate in similar manners – you have to show up so many times, you pay dues, and you are allowed certain perks along the way. Members are laborers not consumers.
- There is an element of submission involved. By being a member you are agreeing to certain things. This could vary from one church to another.
Ephesians 2:19-22 “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”
Ephesians 4:16 “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
- You do not have to have it altogether to become a member! We are being built – we are not finished.
- There is an expectation of on-going growing by members.
- The word member(s) in scripture is in reference to us and Christ – to me this could be something different then us and the church. The first is far more important than the second.
Philiippians 3:17 “Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.
- Those who join should live out certain things. Paul was modeling certain things in his context and time. For us at thebridge, we have chosen three things we want our members to model/live out/do.
A few additional thoughts:
- I believe there is a difference between being a member of a specific church and being members of the body of Christ.
- I believe members are partners in the Gospel and that there is a missional component.
- I believe having timetables serves the church and people well. Our membership with a church is flexible but our membership with Christ is forever.
- I believe the context and setting of a church should have an impact on the make-up of the membership process.
- I believe many people will have different thoughts than I do, and I’m ok with that.