On the Radar

June 16, 2008

Meaningful membership in the SBC is officially on the radar of our denomination.  I couldn’t be happier about this development.  Please take time to read carefully Resolution 6, passed by the convention last week in Indianapolis.

Before Concord called me to serve as pastor seven years ago, I wrote a letter to the membership detailing several pastoral convictions of mine that were likely to seem strange.  One of those convictions had to do with meaningful membership (i.e., how we understand membership, and how we receive, care for, correct, and count our members).  Where do we stand right now?  Here is my brief assessment: 

Awareness is rising.  Many of our members are becoming more aware of the biblical issues involved with meaningful membership.  We are learning that admitting someone to membership is supposed to be our affirmation that this person is a baptized believer who is walking in fellowship with Christ.  We perceive that having 1000 members at Concord reflects poor health rather than good health when only 35% of those members are actively involved with our fellowship.  And we’re more familiar with neglected and uncomfortable passages like this and this.   

Small steps have been taken.  We receive people into membership only after they have expressed their understanding of the gospel, shared their testimony of conversion, and discussed details about our church.  Hardworking members of GO Outreach have contacted most of our inactive members by mail, more than once.  We’ve tried (and are continuing to try) to help our members engage with one another more personally in prayer and spiritual conversation.  Over 35 of our men have read What is a Healthy Church? and discussed meaningful membership.  We have begun praying through our entire membership list.  

More ground needs to be covered.  We need to hear more teaching about this, and not just on Sunday or Wednesday nights.  We need to take more concentrated steps in reclaiming or releasing our ~600 inactive members.  We need to consider expanding the “business meeting” to a “members meeting” that includes more emphasis on membership matters.  We need to formalize parameters and procedures for restorative church discipline.  All of this before the year 2010 concludes? 

I dream of the day that Concord’s membership roughly equals its attendance, that nearly all of our members are actively engaged in some form of mutual spiritual encouragement, and that we are more prepared to handle sin biblically.  I dream of the day that meaningful membership has become vital to our pulse.  I dream of the day, ultimately, that God’s glory is more fully displayed among our neighbors and the nations through our increasing commitment to corporate love and holiness.

Membership should mean more than having a name on the roll and voting privileges.  Concord has already moved in that direction, and I’m hopeful that God’s grace will continue compelling us forward.  And, in the wake of the annual convention, I’m thankful that this formerly odd conviction of mine is growing less strange in our denomination.  Resolution 6 has formally put meaningful membership on the radar.         

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