Within the American Church, we have been through many seasons when the need for organization, structure, and commitment have been devalued. But even a surface level look at the Scriptures proves their value to our great God. From the beginning of creation in Genesis, we see that our God is in favor of order and structure.
And ever since “in the beginning,” God has by His marvelous grace been calling people into a place of commitment to Himself and His Church. The need of the Great Commission, which our Savior has charged us with can only be accomplished through the commitment of Church membership. Let’s get a fresh perspective on that.
By assigning a high value to church membership, many leaders have divinely aided the effectiveness of their mission. By God’s grace, they have helped create a win-win situation. Church membership is an assumed covenant within the New Testament. As such, it is clear that there are responsibilities as well as privileges that come within this committed relationship. Yes, financial support is expected, but so is the responsibility to live committed to the rightly divided teachings of Scripture.
Let me explain a little about the organization I serve. To begin with, we have a congregational form of government, which is why we are called the Congregational Holiness Church. Within our Discipline, we have guidance in regards to membership. On pages five and six there is much that we have agreed upon as a denomination, all of which is clearly biblical. This is important because church members in good standing have a voice and a vote in official church business meetings. As a pastor of Congregational Holiness Church congregations, I felt it was my responsibility to treat church membership with a certain degree of seriousness. I did not simply open the doors for church membership, but there was a process often going on in the background that led up to that time. I gave a copy of our Articles of Faith, Conditions of Membership, and Personal Commitments to any potential church member. At some point, the candidate would have to affirm with me that they had read these, was in agreement, and ready to covenant with the church in membership. I would then publicly ask them two very pointed questions. First, “Do you confess that you personally know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior in the full pardon of your sins?” I’m strongly anticipating a “yes” answer, or “I do” to indicate the individual is ready to proceed. With the right answer to the first question I would then ask, “Are you presently involved in any willful sin that would bring a reproach to this church or her Lord?” Of course, I expected a “no” response indicating this individual is ready to commit to the covenant of church membership.
It was important for me to know and believe the individual was redeemed and living like a redeemed person because this new member would become an essential part of helping us fulfill our mission to reach others with the message of Jesus Christ, as well as helping us make business decisions. This might sound unique, but because we are congregational in our church governance it is important that membership is highly valued. And I knew those who were committed to the local church would most likely stay on board with our mission to make a difference for the Savior.
Just as it is important to the mission of the local church for individuals to grow into responsible members, it is likewise important for our ministers and local churches to become responsible members of the organization at large, that is to say to their respective district, and the district to the general level. As a matter of historical fact, the only reason the Congregational Holiness Church has district levels and a general level is because groups representing local churches believed it to be the will of God and set this structure in place in order for us to more efficiently accomplish our mission. General and district level leadership work hard to serve the member congregations and ministers of this organization. From my perspective, these leadership positions should be seen as resource officers set in place to assist in the overall mission of the organization. But the effectiveness of our service is dependent upon local churches and ministers fulfilling their responsibilities as well as exercising their privileges as members of the organization at large.
But what are the real benefits of individual believers belonging to the local congregation and local churches being responsible members of the Congregational Holiness Church organization? It really is a matter of covenanted association and the benefits are readily seen with the help of these four principles: encouragement, empowerment, investment, and accountability.
The blessings of encouragement are received through fellowship on the personal level within various settings. Such horizontal encouragement comes from one servant to another during shared participation of group events. Within the local church and the organization, various ministers and congregational members encourage one another.
Empowerment takes place when submission to divinely appointed authority takes place on the personal level. Such vertical empowerment comes from the corporate anointing of the organization, the local church, and the individual anointing of her leaders. This empowerment enables our ministers and member congregations to be more and do more for our Lord in the work towards Great Commission fulfillment.
A significant investment takes place when fellowship on the corporate level is experienced. Responsible church members and member congregations are invested in broad-based ministry opportunities through participation in established programs. It is at this level where our members and ministers share their time, talents, and treasures with the local church and organization at large, and also receive from the investments of others.
Biblical accountability is a principled reason for an individual believer to become a local church member and for a local church to be a responsible member congregation to the organization. When in submission to divinely appointed authority on the personal level, our ministers and members are accountable for doctrine and behavior. This level of integrity provides protection for our various churches and ministries, which have agreed to an established standard of faith and practice.
I hope to encourage you in the coming weeks with some guest posts on this issue. Hopefully, you’ll be able to provide a hearty “amen” to the insights to come. As Christ followers and local church members, we have been granted great responsibility and privileges within the Kingdom of God. Let’s highly esteem the connection between membership and mission. In reality, it’s a win-win situation!