In this post I will not be going through the biblical justifications I gave for church membership this past Sunday, but focusing more on application. I have attached a link to a sermon series below that could be helpful when considering the biblical justification for church membership.
I have 3 ways church membership can be helpful for young church plants. I cannot say they are true for every church, but they are helpful for young churches starting out—trying to survive.
First, church membership lets us know who we can count on. For instance, it is difficult to make your guest feel cared for when you don’t have child care, people to work your sound system, or greet people as they walk in. Young churches are putting systems and structures together to take away any distractions they can to make sure people get a chance to hear the Gospel, but in order to do that we need to know who will be there to help. We need to know the people that will hold each other accountable. At Refuge we have had 600 guests in 3 years. That is a great deal of people to make sure that are being cared for. Right now we have 70 adults regularly attending our church and another 10-15 kids each week. But we have only 23 members. Making sure each of those members doesn't get burned out each month is challenging. I have never been a part of a large church or mega church, yet I can imagine it gets only more difficult.
Second, it is hard to plan when you don’t have members. I mentioned the amount of people attending our church. At the rate we are moving we will outgrow our space VERY soon. Older or more mature churches help young churches for a season, but they can’t sustain that forever. Eventually that church needs to become self-sustaining. We can’t just keep going back to them asking for more money to buy a new building or lease new space. Eventually we need some of those guests to become members so we know who to count on. Leasing or buying space downtown is not cheap. Property is either in pretty good shape, therefore it is expensive, or it is cheap and needs lots of renovation. We need to know who will help with those projects.
Thirdly, one of the things that make church plants go really slow is a lack of quality leaders. I am one of those guys that HATES the idea of a church being pastor-centric. I would prefer it be Christo-centric. But in order for a church to have multiple influential voices that are heralding Jesus Christ people need investment, and investment takes time. That first pastor/planter is being asked to disciple, develop, and invest in many people who may never develop into the leaders the church needs. I have been happy to do it. My wife has been happy to do it. But it is hard! It is hard knowing that someone you spend 9 months or a year investing in will never enter into the church you love—that you are pouring heart into.
So I close with this thought. I mentioned this at our Sunday Gathering. Not being a member of a church is like one continuous dating lifestyle. It can be thrilling and fun in the beginning, but eventually it wears you out. Each relationship requires so much effort, thought, affection, and etc. Eventually you just want to find someone you can settle down with, and do life together. The older you get you know the person doesn’t have to be perfect. But if they are willing to commit to you, and you to them, and ultimately they love Jesus then why not go for it? So please friends, stop dating the church. You will never find a perfect one. Pick one that loves Jesus, and heralds His name with everything they've got. Find a family you can count on, and count on you. Please don’t make the same mistake I did, of avoiding church membership for so long. I don’t care if you pursue church membership at our church but pursue membership somewhere.
J. Pope - The Doxa Dude