Thursday, May 4, 2017

Why Hard Conversations about Membership are Good

The following is adapted from an article on membership I was asked to write for the North Central Conservative Baptist Association. –Pastor Daniel

Over a year ago, our church began a mini-series on church membership. In the series, we discussed God’s goals for relationships within our community of faith and how membership—formal commitment to the members of the local church—was necessary to accomplish these goals.

Following the series, I felt convicted. I feared asking friends at church questions about their membership. What if I asked a regular attender why they weren’t a member and they told me it was because they didn’t really like my preaching? What if I asked a missing member where they had been and they told me they were attending another church? What if my questions pushed people away? It seemed easier to just let things be.

I realized those fears reflected unbiblical thinking. Over the past year, we as a church grew in pursuing conversations about church membership that could potentially be uncomfortable. We’re still learning, but the conversations about membership with people have produced some great fruit. Even though some were sad, I am so glad we pursued the conversations.

Here are just a few of many reasons I’m glad we did this.

First, I’m glad we pursued these conversations because of the joy of seeing people follow the Lord by committing to serve one another. Many people who love the church were excited to express that love by becoming members. Relationships are deeper and sweeter because of these conversations.

Second, I’m glad we pursued these conversations because they taught the importance of church membership. To ignore the elephant in the room—a person’s hesitancy to fully and formally commit relationally to others in the church—undermines how important we claim growth together as a local church is. Talking about membership demonstrates that our commitment to one another is not just some abstract theological discussion.

Third, I’m glad we pursued these conversations because some people realized we were not where God would have them be are now growing deep roots in other fields. Because of our conversations, some people did leave the church. This was the exact outcome I had feared and it was sad! But that didn’t mean that it wasn’t a good thing for them. Some had sensed God calling them elsewhere but were afraid to leave. Forcing ourselves to ask questions about what we believe about membership and ministry in the local church was spiritually healthy. I am convinced some who have left our church grew in ways they would not have grown had they remained fellowshipping with us. That hurts my pride but helps me rejoice in God and His work in their life.

I miss friends when they leave and often think of them but I have great joy as I see the people God is bringing to our church who are called to be here. I also rejoice that God is bigger than Bethany Community Church and love to hear how my friends are growing deep roots and producing fruit in other fields. Hard conversations help us to be more obedient to Him and encourage those we love to pursue God with greater vigor.

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