Monday, August 22, 2011

Importance of Church Membership

DISCOVERING MEMBERSHIP

1. Introduction

1.A Membership in a temporal local church as part of the visible body of Christ provides certain privileges and carries specific responsibilities. There are many similarities and some differences between membership in a temporal local church and inclusion in the spiritual body of Christ. Inclusion in the spiritual body of Christ is a simple reality, and is based on faith in Jesus Christ which restores a person to a right relationship with God. That kind of faith must give true evidence in a transformed life, characterized primarily by a devoted love for God and a pure love for mankind. Inclusion in the spiritual body of Christ gives a person complete access to God the Father through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, and can only be truly known by God as the Judge of all mankind's thoughts and intents of the heart.

1.B Membership in a temporal local church is also primarily an extension of faith in Christ, which brings a person into a living, right relationship with God the Father. Rather than being purely an individual experience, membership in the temporal local church is essentially a relationship with other believers who are engaged in a common identity and a common purpose. Because of the nature of social, legal and corporate issues that come into play in human organizations, membership in the temporal local church must be regarded somewhat differently than inclusion in the spiritual body of Christ. Where members of the spiritual body of Christ do not debate and decide issues by motions and votes, the members of the temporal local church must follow that very process. Members of the spiritual body of Christ do not create legal commitments which must be completed with integrity, but members of a temporal local church, in fact and in real time, must do that very thing. Members in the spiritual body of Christ cannot create any effective illusion or deception to God of what is true about their faith and walk with God, but the temporal local church must be able to guard itself, and especially its youngest and weakest members, from those who would manipulate the organization or its opportunities for wrong purposes.

1.C Accordingly, membership in the temporal local church must be treated differently than inclusion in the spiritual body of Christ. It must be recognized that what is spiritual and eternal is of greater importance, and what is temporal and temporary is of lesser importance. Nonetheless, it is still of great importance how a local church establishes its boundaries for its membership, and specifies what are the privileges and responsibilities of membership within it.


2. Importance of Membership

2.A. NEOS ZOE APOSTOLIC CENTER Fellowship Membership
NZAC provides for two distinct and yet related classes of membership. The first is Fellowship Membership (identity and ministry) and the second is Church Membership (voting and leadership.)

2.A Fellowship Membership (Identity and Ministry)
2.A.1 Fellowship Membership is open to any person who has made a personal decision to place their faith in Jesus Christ, with the outward evidences of baptism in Jesus name, being filled with the Holy Ghost and testimony for salvation, and who wants to be included in the identity of NZAC Fellowship. For children and youth under the age of 16, a parent, guardian or other adult very familiar with the person must provide supportive testimony as to the personal faith and spiritual awareness of the candidate. Any person who is a member of another local church in the same faith may request a letter of transfer from their locality to NZAC Fellowship, and join as a Fellowship Member. The requirements for Fellowship Membership are as follows:


 submission of a completed Fellowship Membership Commitment to the Membership Director/Directress, which will be reviewed by the Leadership Team in consultation with the pastor for approval.


 a personal spoken or written testimony to a duly called meeting of the current Church Members of NZAC Fellowship.


 public affirmation of the Fellowship Membership Commitment.


2.A.2 Fellowship Membership provides the privileges of identity with the temporal local church of NZAC Fellowship, the privileges of regular and ongoing ministry opportunities to others in the environment of the church, as well as access to all services provided by the church to its members. Fellowship Membership carries the responsibilities of regular attendance at worship, growth and ministry opportunities. As responsible stewards who worship God wholeheartedly, Fellowship Members honor God and support the ministries of the church through giving freely of their resources of time, effort and possessions, and  maintaining a willing involvement in the general life of the church.

2.A.3 A Fellowship Member may request in writing at any time to remove their membership status. Whenever, a Fellowship Member move to another place and transfer to another local church, Fellowship Membership ceases. Fellowship Members may request a letter of transfer to another local church, and their status would be determined by that fellowship. In the event that any Fellowship Member strays from the truth in Christ and from active involvement in the church, every effort will be made by the members of the church and the pastor to restore that person to active fellowship with Christ and His church. Fellowship Membership may be revoked by a 3/4 vote of the Church Members at a duly called meeting of NZAC Fellowship, for clear evidence of the person's actions, character or attitudes that are in violation of the  teachings of Scripture and cause harm or disrepute to the name of Christ or to NZAC Fellowship. Fellowship Members must participate in the annual Celebration of Common Identity and Purpose in order to continue as members. Upon death, Fellowship Membership in NZAC Fellowship ceases.


3. Church Membership


When we speak of the word church, we by no means speak of a building of any kind. Bricks and mortar or any other type of material do not make a church. In the New Testament the word church (ekklesia) in most cases refers to a local congregation of believers (Acts 14: 23); in other cases the word church refers to Christians in a more general sense (Ephesians 5: 27). Also it is of utmost importance to distinguish between becoming a Christian and becoming a church member. First we are saved by grace through repentance, water and spirit baptism in Jesus name, do we become a church member.

It is the duty and the privilege of every saved person to unite with the local church. We find this was the divinely appointed procedure from the beginning. In Acts 2, the gospel was preached, men and women heard the message, were convicted of their sins, repented of their sins toward God, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, all filled with the holy ghost, were then baptized in Jesus name and being saved, confessing Jesus publicly by their obedience in following the Lord's command, and were received into the local church.

For the Christian, the worship of God is not an elective, something he (she) may do, or not do, as their fancy leads. Those who excuse themselves from worship, or dictate how and where their worship shall be offered, repudiate the very spirit of worship by their attitude. Worship means nothing, if it does not involve obedience. It is true that worship can be offered anywhere and at anytime, and circumstances may compel the child of God to fulfill the obligation of worship in strange places and at odd hours. But it is equally true that those who without much thought talk about worshiping God as well at home or some place else, as in the church usually do not worship at all. Hebrews 10: 25 - "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching."

As church members we have a task to perform. We are not asked whether we will accept it. Christ called us into the fellowship of his church for this very purpose. We are to be witnesses of Him (Acts I: 8), like Andrew telling Peter his brother, the very nature of the born again child of God is to share his blessing with others. And when we do, then the joy of church membership is experienced at its greatest and best, for nothing can bring any greater joy to the Christian's heart than to see others saved by God's Amazing Grace.

How tragic it is when church members fail to appreciate the importance of this fellowship of learning within the church. The result is seen in church members who know little or nothing of the doctrines of their church, of the content of the Bible, of the imperatives of the Christian life, and of the obligations of service; members, in fact, who are liabilities rather than assets to the cause of Christ.

Lack of understanding of the character of the church surely explains why many people whose names are on church rolls treat their membership so lightly. A right concept of the church as to its divine origin, its relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, its God-ordained mission, and its glorious destiny should thrill all of our hearts and impel a love and loyalty which can be offered to no earthly organization.

No other cause has ever demanded such devotion as the cause of Christ. Whole periods of the church's history was written in blood, as powers of evil offered resistance to the onward progress of the gospel and sought in vain to extinguish the light by killing the torchbearers. Many of those heroic souls, both men and women, who laid down their lives rather than deny their Lord, are shadowy figures on history's pages. History has preserved the names of some, but little more. Yet, while the details may be blurred, we know, from the evidence of friends and enemies, and that hundreds died, burned like human torches, or thrown to the lions, for no other reason than their Christian faith. These were the church members of their day, whose loyalty rebukes us for our softness and challenges us to meet the conditions of our own times in the same spirit of fortitude and faith.

In calling out his church, Christ had purposes of far reaching importance in the over-all program of his kingdom. Some of those purposes will only be fully revealed and realized in eternity. But he had one immediate purpose which can and should be fulfilled in the present experience of each of us who profess to be his followers. He knew our need for companionship and friendship on the level of our own humanity, and he provided for that in the institution of the church. There is nothing like responsibility to bring the best out of a person. If this is so, church membership should make great characters of us all. For God had no little plan in mind when He designed the church, He entrusted it with his truth, and he relies upon it to guard that truth at all costs and to pass it on unchanged from generation to generation.

The joys of Christian service can be experienced here and now. But they will be known at their highest and best when we hear the Master say: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." Matt. 25:21. Heaven's joys will spring from earth's loyalties, but they will surpass our present joys as the sun outshines the flickering light of a candle. To know that in this life we have pleased our Lord will bring an eternity of satisfaction.

To truly realize the importance of our church membership we must consider the vow we each made to God as we became church members. It is best expressed in what we call "The Church Covenant". The joys of church membership are not of the carnival kind: not passing thrills but lasting satisfactions, realized sometimes after much toil and many tears. But they are joys which have no equal and which none can take away. For they belong to eternity and not to time; they are the gift of God to his faithful people.

For a sample of Church Covenant form, please click this link: http://church-matters.blogspot.com/2011/08/church-covenant-form.html

1 comment:

  1. Church tithe issues? That is bound in the local church rules. Why bring your tithes in another storehouse that you have not pledged your membership covenant and signed up membership form?

    Church organizations which don't have a membership covenant policy usually fall to the same problem. Why there are proselyting issues around? Tithes is involved, definitely!

    ReplyDelete