Ten years ago when ReCAST church was just a baby church, we started with a pretty low view of membership. In my idealistic and poorly informed view of church membership, I brashly stated to many people that church membership is not something that we see in the Bible. And so it was de-emphasized for the first few years as a church.
But my thought have shifted to take in a new perspective through the pages of Scripture. We all grow, we all learn, and we certainly shouldn’t see everything the same way we did 10 years ago. My change came about by considering the word member as it occurs in the text I am preaching this week. In Romans 12:4-5 Paul paints a picture of the church as a human body with various connected members. They each have a different function but they all are unified in one body for mutual benefit. There it is right in the pages of Scripture: member!
Part of my reticence to make much of membership early on was the fact that I was thinking of the word incorrectly. I was thinking about it like a membership to a club or membership to a rewards club. And this made me bristle at the image in my mind of church membership as an insider club. The real church is the membership and everyone else is out.
Seeing how Paul uses the word “members” in the context of a connected part of the body has helped me to come along in using the term eagerly for those who want to “define the relationship” and commit to giving and receiving in the local church. I am eager to encourage people to “put a ring on it” if you love it. I still do not like the idea of membership in a local church as a benefits program. But I love the image of mutual accountability to serve and allow others to serve you in a more formal way. We all need relationships defined. And as a leader, it helps me immensely to know who is here just trying things out and who is committed to working together to serve in this community.
How have you seen membership in a local church as a helpful process? Or what has kept you from joining a local church?