Membership has it’s privileges. For decades American Express reminded us. You pay their annual fee, you get their perks. This is the base-line concept of membership for Americans.
For generations membership in a local church meant something else. You were committed to the body and wanted to became part of serving Jesus alongside others. You walked the aisle, took a class, or completed confirmation and became a “church member.” The member concept came from the biblical idea that believers are members of the body of Christ (Rom 12:4-5).
Due to cultural drift, almost no one sees membership the way the church does. Membership in private clubs is status. Members pay for access, privileges and rights. Saying one is a “church member” creates a mental image far from the Biblical concept of united brotherhood.
Is the the body of Christ the same as a country club, YMCA, or gym? It may be time for the church to say membership is dead.
Yet churches must know who is pursing the great commission and the great commandment with them? There must be a way to identify those who have banned together on Jesus’ mission locally.
As we wrestled with what to call those who are joining us in our mission, the Great Commission, our Lead Pastor Donnie Williams came across this verse.
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:4-6)
It struck him that what we were asking people to do was partner with this local body in the gospel mission. So we started calling those who joined with us mission partners. It was a different biblical concept to describe being unified locally, and it stuck.
If someone takes on the role of helping lead other partners in the gospel, they are a mission leader. They are coached, developed and encouraged to help others progress spiritually. It’s pretty simple.
So what do you think? How do you see membership? Does that concept work with being unified with Jesus and a local church? I’d love to hear your thoughts.