The first church I served as senior pastor is a wonderful church with a strong core of committed believers. Soon after I became their pastor, however, I made a shocking discovery. There were lots of people who claimed to be members of the church but they never attended, served, or gave. They were members in name only. They signed a piece of paper saying that they had received Christ and been baptized and that they wanted to “join” the church. That was pretty much all that we required of them. This scenario is true of most churches with which I am acquainted.
Many Christians treat church membership like they treat a gym membership. They sign on the dotted line. They show up occasionally. They are usually sore for a while afterwards. They like the idea of being a member but they do not ever fully experience the benefits of being a member because they never fully participate.
The biblical model of church membership is not as much about joining as it is about participating. That is why at Avalon Church we emphasize participation rather than membership. Does signing a piece of paper make you a member of the local body of believers? No! Participating with a group of believers makes you a part of the group. Signing a piece of paper is about exclusion but participating is about inclusion. You only really belong when you participate.
So how do you participate? We emphasize taking your next step in your relationship with Christ. No matter if you are a new believer or a mature believer you must always take your next step. Our vision at Avalon Church is, “Bringing people, wherever they are, into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The following values statements capture what it means to be a member at Avalon Church:
- Your Next Step Is Your Most Important Step – We must identify with Christ through salvation and baptism. Those are the first steps but they are not that last. The Christian life is a series of next steps.
- We Are Better Together – The amazing thing about the church is how God designed it to be such an incredible blessing to our lives. When Saul of Tarsus (the guy who persecuted the early church and later became the Apostle Paul and wrote around half of the New Testament) encountered Jesus his life was changed. Jesus asked him, “Why are you persecuting me?” He was persecuting believers in the church! Jesus let us know that it is not about you but it is about us! It is much more than singing next to someone on Sunday. We are to do life together. We are to serve, give, love, and support one another. We believe this is best accomplished through serving and through small group participation.
- Generous People Are Happy People – Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” You are far happier and more fulfilled when you give generously. By giving to spread the gospel through a local congregation you are helping fulfill the biblical mandate to take the good news to everyone everywhere. You can give without loving but you cannot love without giving. Generosity is a big part of obeying Christ’s command to love others.
- Inviting Is Evangelism – You play a huge role in bringing others to Christ. By simply inviting others to church you are also inviting them into a relationship with Christ. You play a role in God’s story. God wants us to share that story with others.
- We Embrace The Mess – Jesus lived among the messy people. People’s lives are messed up because of sin. When we embrace the mess we mean that we embrace messy people. The church is a hospital for the sick, not a county club for the privileged. When you love people and bring them to Christ you are going to include people who have a long way to go. It is OK not to be OK but we believe that Jesus will not leave you there.
- Participation Is Membership – You only really belong when you participate. We emphasize being involved rather than signing on the dotted line.
So what about you? Are you paper signer or a participant? Lots of church members are not really church members yet – but you can be by taking your next step today!