Today’s final installment on the subject of church membership is a contribution from long-time friend, Bishop Ronald Wilson. He served as the General Superintendent of the Congregational Holiness Church, Inc. from August 1, 2003, until July 31, 2017. You will enjoy his insights and as always, you are welcome to share your perspective as well.
Having grown up in the church all my life, I have always felt like I was part of the church, even before I officially became a member. With my Dad being a Pastor, it not only was expected that I would be part of all the activities, but I really don’t ever remember thinking that it should be any other way. It was just part of my life.
Since I was not a Christian in my early teens, it would not have been proper for me to join the church, but once I became a Christian, the concept of membership took on a different meaning. I remember becoming very involved in the church in Nicholson shortly after moving there. Even though I was still a teenager myself, I soon found myself heavily involved in a ministry with the youth that soon spread across the North Georgia District. The stories I could tell from those days would fill a book, but I guess I’ll leave that for another time!
I was still a teenager when Marlene and I married, but I can remember the day we joined the church like it was yesterday. Although I had been around these type of services long enough to know that it should be a formality, I can remember the nerves and the anxiety I felt when we walked down front to officially become members of the church. I wondered if anyone would object to us joining the church; would they ask me a question I could not answer. In my case, I also knew I was making a commitment, not just to a local congregation, or to a denomination, but to God. I wanted my membership to bring honor to the cause of Christ, and not dishonor. Well, I am thankful to report that everything went smoothly and we became members.
Although I had already been very active working in the church, Marlene and I quickly threw ourselves into doing whatever we could. For a while, we taught a Junior Sunday School Class. When Brother Smith Bridges died, I was asked to teach the Adult Sunday School Class. This was when Sunday School was still going strong, and I had over one hundred people in my class each week. Another opportunity soon presented itself, the ministry of Royal Rangers and Missionettes. I soon found myself working on the local, district and general level all at the same time. Marlene was busy working on the local and district level. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to travel together to our churches and organize a ministry for the boys and girls of our denomination. Many friendships were made in those days, which still hold strong today as well as countless boys and girls who accepted Jesus as their Savior.
I could continue this narrative with many interesting and exciting stories, but the point I’m endeavoring to make is that membership has always been important to us. Not only did we do anything we were asked to do, but we did it joyfully. We supported the church not only spiritually, prayerfully, physically, financially, but with our whole heart. We were, and still are, honored to be part of the Congregational Holiness Church.
We are instructed in the Bible to “occupy until He comes.” The Great Commission commands us to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel.” We are admonished by Scripture to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together.” We are reminded in Ecclesiastes that “a threefold cord is not easily broken.” One day, Jesus is coming back for His church, “against which, the gates of hell will not have prevailed.” These, plus numerous other Scriptures, not only show us the responsibility we have to be part of the work of God but the blessings that go with being an active part of the body of Christ.
I am convinced that the world today is hungry for a genuine move of God, and it is through the church that God has chosen to impact mankind. The human touch will always have imperfections, but the divine touch will always be infallible. While the mission has been clearly defined in the Bible, the desire to carry out that mandate sometimes suffers. With all the resources we have available today, we should be able to make the greatest impact on our world that any generation has ever made. With the rapidly increasing population, the need has not diminished; it continues to grow at a rapid rate. The mission field is no longer just across the sea, it is across the street as well. When we combine our efforts, we will be more effective. When we combine our efforts, we will see more souls saved. When we combine our efforts, we will exponentially increase our ability to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. Oh yes, the fields are white unto harvest! The world is simply waiting for our generation to run into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in. May we be faithful to the call.