Posted tagged ‘Church Membership’

Monday is for “kingly” administration: The Membership Process, Part 2

June 7, 2010

Last week, I took up the first part of the membership process, namely the membership application and class.  Today, I want to finish up the membership process by taking up the interview and congregational vote.  It goes without saying that these processes are always being evaluated and subject to change as we look to discover how to give faithful oversight and care to the health and growth of the church.

The Membership Interview

Grace is the first church that I have attended or have been on staff with that conducts membership interviews.  For many Baptist churches, a person is accepted into membership upon filling out a membership card and being presented to the church almost immediately.  I would argue that such approaches have played a significant role in the unregenerate state of membership in the Southern Baptist Convention.  But that was not the point of this post, was it? 😉  But all jesting aside, answering the why question for interviews will play a significant role in how you do them as well.

We schedule membership interviews throughout the week, and we generally do them before/after services on Sunday or in the late afternoon/evening during the weekdays.  At least two elders are present at the interviews (although we are looking at possibly doing it with just one), which typically last an 1-1.5 hours (depending if a couple is interviewed together).  The prospective member is asked to bring with them a written version of their testimony which we add to the application (we had already received).  Our approach to the interview is conversational and somewhat informal (it is intimidating enough for most people!).  The outline of our interview typically flows in the conversation like this:

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Monday is for “kingly” administration: The Membership Process, Part 1

May 31, 2010

There are four major components of what I call the “Commission Continuum”–that is the metaprocess of kingly administration from beginning to end.  Those four components are assimilation, membership, discipleship, and leadership.  I just completed the first component of the assimilation process and want to address the membership process in a couple of blogposts.

Once regular attenders have expressed desire to become members of Grace, the process looks something like this:

a.  Membership Packet (with application for membership)
b.  Membership Classes
c.  Membership Interview
d.  Congregational Vote (during Members’ Meeting)
e.  Formal Recognition at Communion Service (last Sunday night of the month)

Membership Packet

Inside the membership packet, we include the following information:

1.  Membership Application
2.  Church Purpose and Vision
3.  Church Covenant
4.  Church Confession
5.  Church Constitution

I am currently working to add our church’s core values/practices and philosophy of ministry which includes being a church planting church and interweaving gospel, community, and mission in the fabric of our identity. We ask the prospective members to read through these documents, become familiar with them, and note and questions or issues they may have with these pre-commitments.  We also make these documents available on our church website (we plan on revising/editing our constitution and updating the language of our covenant later this year).  For those of you who would like to see what our application looks like, click here.  It is a simple, one-page application that prospective members fill out and give to one of the elders who assists in setting up the membership interview.

Membership Classes

In the past, we have held our membership classes on consecutive Monday nights, devoting 2-3 hours each night to instruction, discussion, and fellowship.  However, we are looking to rework the schedule for a Friday night-Saturday noon deal where the class can be taken in one weekend.  Although we have not done this yet, here is a schedule I have worked up in recent weeks:

Friday Night

6:00-7:30 Dinner with Pastoral Team and Their Families (Grace Gathered)
7:30-9:00 Session 1 (Who we are, what we believe, core values/practices)

Saturday Morning

8:30-10:00 Session 2 (How we live and operate, systems and structures)
10:30-12:00 Session 3 (What we are doing [ministry] and where we are going [mission])
12:00-1:00 Lunch with Deacons and Grace Growth Group Leaders (Grace Scattered)

The goal behind these classes are not simply to drill them with information about the church but to give them access to the leadership and gain a sense of life in the body.  With two opportunities to share meals with the church leadership, prospective members can have everyday conversation and learn more about the day-to-day lives of those serving the church whether pastors, deacons, or small group leaders.

Those who attend the membership classes will have various degrees of exposure to church life, but it is important not to assume anything, especially the gospel.  There may some, perhaps several, who are seeking to become members of your church who are unconverted, and it is through the membership class that they learn of their need first and foremost to repent of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ.  Another important aspect of the membership classes is the informal approach that can be adopted where they feel comfortable asking questions or raising issues they have without feeling embarrassed or intimidated.  Whether newly converted or believers who have been long-time members of another church, if you are careful and intentional in the various expressions of church life, people will have questions or express curiosity as to why things are done the way they are.

In my next post, I will conclude the membership process talking about the membership interview, pastoral assessment, and congregational vote.  For those of you do membership classes, I would love to hear how you do it (format, content, how often, etc.) and in general what your membership process looks like.  Thanks for contributing to this discussion!

Monday is for “kingly” administration: The Assimilation Process, Part 4 (Prospective Members)

May 24, 2010

The Assimilation Process:
Part 1: First-Time Guest
Part 2: New Believers
Part 3: Regular Attenders

The fourth and final aspect of the assimilation process is the prospective member (I will launch into the membership process next).  Membership in a local church may be a difficult thing for some attenders, especially if they think that it is not required or feel that they are being forced to sign a contract.  But membership in a covenant community of local believers is vitally important.  To assist our attenders in understanding membership better, I have compiled these excellent Q&A links from IX Marks and printed them off for their reading pleasure.  Also here is an excellent four minute response from John Piper on the importance and necessity of church membership:

I don’t want to jump ahead into the details of the membership process just yet, so let me just say a few things in general at this point in the membership process.  As a Baptist church, we at Grace strongly believe in regenerate church membership which simply says that the church should be comprised of born-again, baptized believers.  We also believe that a church ought to be pre-committed in what we believe (church confession) and how we agree to live together (church covenant).  During the assimilation process, regular attenders ought to be exposed to the nature and constitution of your church, including how intentional and careful you are when it comes to membership.

If your approach to church membership is fickle or flimsy, it is likely that you will experience nominal church members, a wide back door open, increasing need for corrective church discipline, and greater potential of disunity in the body of Christ.  Obviously, none of these things can ultimately be eliminated, but if you are careful and intentional with how you handle membership on the front end, you communicate to the congregation that you genuinely care for the sheep and you communicate to the prospective member the privilege and responsibility of membership from the beginning.  In a way, a healthy and robust approach to church membership serves as a form of church discipline and an expression of devotion to Christ, the church’s Head, in pursuit of a pure church who embrace the gospel and are unified with a common purpose to glorify Jesus in word and deed.

So who are those that are prospective members?  People who have come to understand/embrace the gospel and have also come to understand/embrace your church.  In the next series of posts, I will explain the membership process that we have laid out here at Grace.  Till then, let me hear your thoughts on you approach membership.  As a learning community, I believe we can strengthen and encourage one another’s efforts to serve the body of Christ!

The Church Consumer

March 23, 2010

Now I know this video is somewhat silly, and I assume intentionally so (to make the point).  The question I think worth asking is, “Does the culture in my church accommodate, encourage, or tolerate this kind of perspective about the church?”

HT :: Phil Awtry

This Week at Sowing Grace (6)

December 22, 2008

The following posts were made available at Sowing Grace this past week:

Sunday: n/a
Monday: Monday Is for Membership: Gospel Saturated, Part 2
Tuesday:  Missional Moleskine (Journaling) [Cultivating Community Contacts, Part 8]
Wednesday: n/a
Thursday: Atheist Penn Jillette on Hating Unbelievers
Friday:  Fuel Friday: Acts 29 Boot Camp (Dallas)
Saturday: Never Empty Your Brain of the Gospel!

You can subscribe to the Sowing Grace feed or check out the site for more information and upcoming posts.

This Week at Sowing Grace (3)

November 23, 2008

The following posts were made available at Sowing Grace this past week:

Sunday: Paul’s Prayer to the Ephesian Church
Monday: Monday Is for Membership: Biblical Theologian, Part 1
Tuesday: Developing Missional Patterns (Cultivating Community Contacts, Part 4)
Wednesday: Leadership in the Early Church (study in Acts)
Thursday: Greatness Redefined (chapter 3)
Friday: Fuel Friday: Church Planting Novice (Jonathan Dodson)
Saturday: Mark Dever on Three Things for Church Planters

You can subscribe to the Sowing Grace feed or check out the site for more information and upcoming posts.

Steve Lemke on Bethlehem Baptist Church, Baptism, and Church Membership

October 14, 2008

Steve Lemke is not a fan of Together for the Gospel.  The second half of his article is entitled, “Baptists and Presbyterians Not Together: Nine Marks Which Separate Baptists from Presbyterians,” where Lemke lays out his argument for Baptist separation (or, as I would argue, isolation).  Interestingly enough, his first two marks are “soul competency” and “age of accountability”–not exactly bedrock doctrines of the Baptist tradition.  In any case, he proceeds from there to believer’s baptism (mark 3) and baptism by immersion (mark 4).  In the fourth mark, we find yet another major error in Lemke’s presentation–this time it is Bethlehem Baptist Church‘s position on baptism and church membership.

In the pertinent portion of Lemke’s commentary, he writes:

“Piper’s proposed statement did not find general agreement among the church’s elders, and the issue was discussed for several years.  An amended policy was finally enacted in August 2005.  Although expressing preference for baptism by immersion, the amended membership statement expressed the desire ‘not to elevate beliefs and practices that are nonessential to the level of prerequisites for church membership.’  Thus, according to the new policy, ‘Christians who have not been baptized by immersion as believers, but, as they believe, by some other method or before they believed, may under some circumstances be members of this church.'”

Now, for those of you who can remember back in 2005, the debate over baptism and church membership was no private matter.  Documents were made public, and the discussion was one of the most heated in the blogosphere.  I recall in particular one church’s elder body, Clifton Baptist Church, writing a letter to the elders of BBC encouraging them to reconsider the proposed amendment by the elders.

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Dangerous Is the State of Unregenerate Church Membership

May 22, 2008

Mark Dever, in his book Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, explains how dangerous the perpetuation of unregenerate church membership is for the “inactive” member.  He writes:

If the church is a building, then we must be bricks in it; if the church is a body, then we are its members; if the church is the household of faith, then we are part of that household.  Sheep are in a flock, and branches on a vine.  Biblically, if we are Christians we must be members of a church.  This membership is not simply the record of a statement we once made or of affection toward a familiar place.  It must be a reflection of a living commitment or it is worthless.

Worse than being worthless, it is dangerous.  Uninvolved members confuse both real members and non-Christians about what it means to be a Christian.  We “active” members do the voluntarily “inactive” members no service when we allow them to remain members of the church.  Membership is the church’s corporate endorsement of a person’s salvation.  Yet how can a congregation honestly testify that someone invisible to it is faithfully running the race?

 – Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), 162-63. Emphasis mine.

Hurting for the Gospel

April 25, 2008

From a roundtable discussion with Ed Stetzer this past week (video by Chris Elrod):

HT :: Thorn