Recently we had our first “Official” membership class at the Crossings and it was a lot of fun. It was just neat to see so many new and old faces excited about what God is doing in our own little part of the Kingdom. It was neat to see people stepping up to the plate in heartfelt commitment. Now I understand that in the greater body of Christ there’s been some debate as to what to do with Church membership. Some claim it is not a Biblical principle and others hold the opposite position and see it as a great practicality for our day. On my part I lean toward the second camp, so I’ve listed 7 reasons at the bottom of the post as to why we’ve gone with a formal membership at The Crossings. But I think the greatest reason why I fall on the side of a designated church membership for the located body of Christ actually comes from a true story from our time in the former Soviet Union.
The specific event actually took place about a year before Deb and I arrived in Moscow to help with a new church and the establishing of a Bible College. It was the process of forming that new church that shaped how I think about “membership”.
When Russia opened up and a number of people in Moscow embraced Jesus Christ, they began to come together as an official church to meet on a regular basis. The State allowed them to do so but required them to provide evidence showing that they were indeed a legal church entity abiding by the laws.
So the Russian authorities asked for at least a dozen people in the church to come forward and submit copies of their pass ports for proof of the organization’s legitimacy. This they did. At least 12 Russian adults who had grown up under the Iron Curtain complied and their information was submitted. Now that doesn’t sound like too big of an issue for us in the West and especially in the U.S. I mean, we give our Social Security and Driver’s license numbers often when filling out documents. But the big deal for these folks is that by giving out their information they were possibly putting their lives on the line if the winds of politics changed in Russia and the old guard Soviet Union came back. Many of these people had relatives or knew people who were taken by the Soviet KGB in years gone by for religious reasons. So this was a heavy decision for them. But they cared so much about committing to a local body of believers that they were more than willing to take the risk. They had a level of discipleship and commitment that many in the US simply don’t understand.
So when it came down to it, I decided that it was more than acceptable if not expected to ask those wishing to join The Crossings to attend a class and sign a commitment card.
But for those who are still chewing on this issue, check out the seven reasons below. What would you add? (or not add)
Why Make a Commitment?
The difference between “attendees” and “belonging” can be summed up in one word: commitment.
At The Cypress Crossings Christian Church we recognize the need to be a membership-based church and therefore ask you to commit to membership for a least seven reasons:
1. A Biblical Reason: Christ is committed to the church. “Christ loved the church, and He gave his life for it.” Ephesians 5:25
2. A Cultural Reason: It is an antidote in our society. We live in an age where very few want to be committed to anything; job, marriage, and country. This attitude has produced a generation of church ‘shoppers and hoppers’. Membership swims against the current of America’s consumer religion. It provides a model for our society on the value of belonging.
3. A Practical Reason: It defines who can be counted upon. Every team must have a roster. Every school must have an enrollment. Even our country takes a census and requires voter registration. Membership identifies our family.
4. A Personal Reason: It produces spiritual growth. The New Testament places a major emphasis on the need for Christians to be accountable to each other for spiritual growth. You cannot be accountable when you are not committed to any specific church family.
5. A Creative Reason: It creates the type of future we desire. Commitments are greatly misunderstood in our culture – they are often seen as something that ‘ties us down’ or holds us back. But commitments aren’t constraints, they are road maps. They are the tools that God uses to shape our future! Our commitments help us create the type of life and future that will glorify God and fulfill us. We make our commitments, but in the end our commitments make us.
6. A “Same Page” Reason: Membership does not mean uniformity, but it does mean unity. As followers of Christ we are all different and there is really a lot of freedom in the Church of Jesus Christ for all kinds of practices. But when we commit to the same mission and values of the church we commit to each other as a football team commits to the same play book. By doing this we avoid division and commit to going forward together in strength and unity.
7. A Legal Reason: It shows our willing submission to the authorities. In order for us to benefit from non-profit status and 501c3 standing, we must be able to clearly illustrate and define to the State what our membership is. This shows that we are indeed a non-profit entity by their standards.