One of the things I’m learning as we implement a formalized church membership (what we call partnership) is how much people absolutely abhor signing their name to things and formalizing a current reality.
“It feels too corporate.” “I don’t know why it’s important.” “It’s not in the Bible.” “I’m already showing up.”
I have heard it all and I realize why most churches just don’t poke the sleeping dog. It seems like too much trouble and even threatens to run folks off. To be honest, it is much easier to just let people show. “Why can’t we all belong?”
We sign our name to thousands of documents in our lifetime to secure anything from homes to cell phone agreements and do it without even reading the contracts most of the time. When it comes to “belonging” to a people of God however, we turn into a conspiracy theorists and feel threatened. It’s an interesting thing to watch.
As I prepped the sermon for this week (5/24/15 “Why I Sign on the Dotted Line…”) something struck me as to how formalizing an already existing reality is something we already do without blinking an eye. When we marry each other and sign a marriage license and vow to love each other, we never feel like a signed covenant cheapens the union or is unnecessary. We are excited to do it because it is a celebration of the love we already have. Church partnership isn’t very different.
As Christians, we are already members of a body we don’t deserve to be in. Jesus is our head and we fit together to nurture and care for each other. This all came by the Gospel’s effect on our lives. We are truly members who cannot lose our membership because the dues were paid by Another.
This is why we use the word “partnership” to formalize the reality that already exists. We know most traditional churches refer to this as ‘membership” which is fine, but we believe that word is empty freight in our culture and is already taken Biblically through salvation. We aren’t trying to be hip, but clear.
Formalizing such a union (church partnership/membership) is a way we can know who we are responsible for as a church AND who we as leaders are responsible for. It also allows church discipline to occur to the glory of God. (See the sermon audio) Without it, we as leaders are unable to love and protect the body and serve it well.
To simply attend and volunteer at a local church without partnership is nothing more than “hedging your bets” as we are ready to extricate ourselves and cancel our “belonging” when it doesn’t fit. It’s saying, “I love this place and love coming, but want to remain a private individual with no responsibility or covering, and covenanting with you guys is too much.” It also reminds me of finally getting a heart tattoo on our arms but not putting a name inside the heart, because the “beloved” might change.
My question is this, If signing and formalizing a covenant with your local church is too much for you to swallow, what will you be like when the persecution around us gets much hotter? If a signature causes us to balk, what about losing our reputation, or business, or life?
Jesus didn’t die to create a service where people went based on convenience, but to create a church where people were committed to each other and partnered with each other in a covenant. The local church is God’s instrument to change the world and to not partner to one is to be sitting the bench.
Jesus died and rose – we are good to leave the bench now.
Jesus died to glue you into community – you are good to stop being all about the individual
More resources on church membership