Membership Has Its Privileges (and Its Responsibilities)
Imagine this conversation between you and the mother of 10 year old Johnny who wants to be part of a baseball team:
You: “So I hear you are signing Johnny up to join the baseball team. That’s a big commitment, all the practices and games.”
Mom: “Actually, it’s not bad. Johnny will be watching baseball for about an hour on Sunday mornings.”
You: “Really? Don’t they have practice drills for the team to learn the game?”
Mom: “Yes, but we are only able to carve out this much time from our busy family schedule. Besides, he can learn a lot by just watching.”
You: “So he won’t be playing, just watching?”
Mom: “That’s right.”
You: “But he’ll be going every Sunday, right?”
Mom: “Only when we don’t have another more important commitment. Maybe a couple of times a month…”
You (to yourself): “I hope he’s not playing on my child’s team…”
Was I too obvious? We all like to be members of something: country clubs, performance groups, volunteer organizations, social gatherings. Standards for membership vary from the very exclusive to the “fog a mirror and you're in.”
What exactly are the requirements, benefits, expectations and responsibilities of membership in the church?
Here’s what our Book of Order says about the topic:
Entry into Membership
Persons may enter into active church membership in the following ways:
- Public profession of faith, made after careful examination by the session in the meaning and responsibilities of membership; if not already baptized, the person making profession of faith shall be baptized;
- Certificate of transfer, when a person is a member of another Christian church at the time of transfer;
- Reaffirmation of faith, for persons previously baptized in the name of the triune God and having publicly professed their faith.
Most members come to us under the last two categories. Confirmation students fall into the first group.
But it doesn’t stop there. It continues…
The Ministry of Members
Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a joy and a privilege. It is also a commitment to participate in Christ’s mission. A faithful member bears witness to God’s love and grace and promises to be involved responsibly in the ministry of Christ’s Church. Such involvement includes:
- Proclaiming the good news in word and deed,
- Taking part in the common life and worship of a congregation,
- Lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support,
- Studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life,
- Supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents,
- Demonstrating a new quality of life within and through the church,
- Responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others,
- Living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and social relationships of life,
- Working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment,
- Participating in the governing responsibilities of the church, and
- Reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.
My guess is that I’m preaching to the choir. Many of you who read the blog are doing the things listed above. But we’re all on the same team. We all should be doing the last item on the list. We all need to encourage our other team members to get in the game, to hone their skills, to use their talents to make the team better. Pray for a ministry. Take an educational class. Support a mission project. Volunteer for a program or event. Fill in the gaps of our calling.
We can only be the church God has called us to be if all of our members (parts) are reaching their highest potential, using the gifts given by God’s Spirit to fulfill God’s plan for our church, our community, and our world. Go team!