Many people resist the idea of church membership in our culture. Part of that may be because people distrust institutions and part may be because they misunderstand what it means to be a member. If you see the church as a corporation, then you probably don’t see the need for membership. But if you understand the biblical picture of a church as a place of belonging, as a family, as a place where you grow spiritually and a place where you can express your God-given gifts, then your view of church membership is different.
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. Doesn’t that miss the point entirely?
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 afterward. 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. I believe these steps are necessary for “membership.” Notice that these steps are all about participation and are foundational to growing into a committed follower of Christ:
Identify – We must identify with Christ through salvation and baptism. Only then can we truly be a part of a church. You identify with a church when you attend regularly and hear the teaching of God’s Word so that you can grow in your faith.
Involve – Getting involved by serving is vital to the Christian experience. God has gifted you and you have something to contribute. Getting involved with a group of believers for fellowship, support, and growth is critical for spiritual growth.
Invest – 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.
Invite – 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.
What about you? Are you a 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! Make sure to participate in our Next Step class at 9:30 each Sunday in August.