It was truly one of our most enjoyable C4101 classes to date. This past Sunday, we held another information and membership class at my home church, with about ten people in attendance. They came from different theological backgrounds but found unity in Jesus and other essential Christian doctrines. That’s the beauty of the original church and our growing local church family on the N.W. side of Houston. Seeing the central focus on Christ and freedom in non-essential doctrines was beautiful. Witnessing people leaving selfishness behind and stepping up to the plate to serve in a local body of Christ was encouraging. It was heartwarming to experience a true community forming in Christ. It was a good afternoon.

However, this is not the norm for others in early 21st-century America and the West. While many like visiting churches at their convenience, committing is another story. Some will claim that church membership is not a Biblical principle, and if you look for the phrase “Church Membership” in the Bible, you won’t find it. What you will find, though, is commitment.

It is clear from scripture that the assembly of the saints and commitment to Christ and each other is not merely beneficial on a personal basis but also essential. The author of Hebrews tells us not to forsake the assembly of the saints, which is a problem people wrestled with in the first century, as many do now. The answer to the problem is the same: that we commit first to Christ and then to a local body of Christ. We do that not merely for our benefit but to glorify Christ. Below, I’ve listed seven reasons why church membership is essential, but I think a short story is more helpful. Short stories always seem to carry more weight than bullet points, anyway.

The background was a new church in Moscow, Russia, shortly after the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Deb and I served there from 1994 to 1996, helping new churches and establishing a Bible college to train young men and women in Christian leadership and service. The founding of one of those churches forces me to reckon with the importance of committed church membership. No, the essentiality of this commitment.

When the Socialistic and Communist Soviet Union fell, many people in Moscow embraced Jesus Christ and began to meet regularly as an official church. The State allowed them to do so but required them to provide evidence that they were indeed an entity abiding by normal civil laws.

In this legal process, the local Russian authorities asked at least a dozen church members to come forward and submit copies of their passports as proof of the organization’s legitimacy. This they did. At least 12 Russian adults who had grown up under the Iron Curtain complied and submitted their documents. Now, that doesn’t sound too big of an issue for us in the West, especially in the U.S. We often give our Social Security and driver’s license numbers 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 whom the Soviet KGB took to the gulag 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 U.S. don’t understand.

So, when it comes to making a decisive move for membership to a local church, I don’t have a problem asking for one. Official membership is not a legalistic religious merit pointing. Instead, it is simply a call to ask, “Are you in” or not? We have people who attend our public worship services who are not members, and we will never force anyone to join. But when it comes to our growth in Christ, commitment to others is a step we must take, and we acknowledge that. It’s like any other spiritual discipline that we need to grow. It’s something that provides help and hope for others. Above all, it glorifies Christ to announce that we are ALL IN with a local church family. In addition, the Bible also refers to the church as the Bride of Christ, and I can’t think of anything better than being committed to something that Jesus loves so much.

But if you still need bullet points and more reasons, check out what we shared this past week. In short, the question is: “Am I committed? Am I all in?”

 

Why Make a Commitment?

 The difference between “attendees” and “belonging” can be summed up in one word: Commitment. At 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
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 playbook.  By doing this we avoid division and commit to going forward together in strength and unity.
  1. A Legal Reason: It shows our willing submission to the authorities.  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.

What would you add?

 

 

 

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