Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Membership Matters

The church in America is in a crisis. The ratio of converts per church members is 1:85 per year. One out of six church members cannot name the four gospels. There is growing denial of basic tenets of the faith. One of four evangelicals do not submit to the truth of John 14:6.

Churches view membership in three ways:

1) Have minimal expectations of its members. When membership does not matter, the members will care little about their levels of commitment.
2) Does not encourage people to become members.
3) View membership as an expectation and a means of accountability.

It is easier to join most churches than to join a country club. Churches often expect less of her members than a country club does of hers. In most churches, attendance does not lead to action. Church is more about receiving than giving, more about coming than going, and more about being served than serving.

What does the Bible say about church membership? Read this article by Chuck Lawless to see.

So why does membership matter?

1) Church membership is our public commitment to serve with a specific group of believers.
2) Church membership is our vow to be part of God’s family in a local area.
3) Church membership is our agreement to be accountable for our Christian growth.
4) Church membership is our pledge to get directly involved in God’s work.
5) Church membership is our official commitment to the work of the Great Commission.

Joining a church is one way to say, “I am committed to the Great Commission, and I will work with this local church to reach others for Christ.”

Out of the study done by our Connection Development Group, we came to these conclusions:

1) Membership Does Matter. Biblically it means something to join a local church. Churches who take membership seriously on the front end are more likely to produce healthy, fruit-bearing disciples of Christ than churches who have low-front-end expectations of their members.

“The churches we studied made time for membership classes because they believed in their importance. Strong church membership begins with the front door process. People tend to be more committed if the church publicly expects them to be committed up front – and a membership class provides a place to communicate these expectations. It is an opportunity to say, ‘What we believe and we do is important.’ ” - Lawless, Membership Matters (32-33)

2) An upfront membership class. Enhances health in a church. More churches are requiring this tool. Assists in moving attenders into membership and ministry. Prevention becomes the best cure for lack of involvement. Make the membership class a priority

3) Greatest benefits of a membership class. They learn about the heart of the church. They build relationships. They get to know the pastor and other leaders. They hear the church’s expectations.

4) Teach key ingredients. How to identify with the church. Attending worship services and small groups. Serving in ministry. Protecting church unity. Giving financially. Basics of theology and spiritual growth

5) A church covenant. The expectations are expressed in the covenant. Covenant is built on the core values of the church. A covenant binds us to one another. Church leaders in our study told us that a covenant is important because it puts expectations in writing.

Lawless writes, "An effective membership class lays the foundation for church members to participate fully in the life of the church. Raise the standards of church membership; promote these standards through an intentional class – and then expect people to live up to them. The church may well be stronger than it has ever been."

At The Spring, we have adopted seven core values, that we call stones, and a membership process based on these stones:

Week One – Character (salvation, baptism, identity in Christ, godliness)
Week Two – Prayer (the habit of prayer and the habit of a daily quiet time)
Week Three – God’s Word (the habit of God’s Word, theology)
Week Four – Fellowship (the church, biblical community, small groups)
Week Five & Six – Worship (lifestyle of worship, spiritual gifts and service)
Week Seven – Discipleship (evangelism, disciple-making, missions)
Week Eight – Family (family-equipping, the habit of giving)

Our membership class, Membership Matters, consists of 8 sessions, each one teaching through the 7 Stones. On Sunday nights this summer Pastor Rhett is teaching through our membership material. We should conclude Membership Matters by August 28. Those who have gone through MM together will then become charter members of The Spring. Thereafter, we will offer Membership Matters several times a year, depending on need.

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