by Pastor Ben Holden
In the first part of this thread on membership we pointed to a blog post by Dr. Wes Feltner, the Lead Pastor at Berean Baptist Church, and the Biblical case that he made for why membership matters. You can read the Biblical case that he made for why membership matters HERE.
In the second part of our discussion, we took a short look at what it really means to be a member and to live in a covenant relationship with one another. You can read this post HERE.
For part 3 of of our closer look at membership, I want to discuss why at Berean we require church membership for a number of our serving areas within the church.
When looking at the early church in Acts 2 we see a community of believers who were committed to loving and serving one another as each had need.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (ESV),
This is the heart and basis for serving in the church. 1 Corinthians 12 teaches that we all have given gifts so that we can minister, love, and care for the body of Christ. We are one body with many parts. Each part plays its own important and necessary role. Therefore we are to look at the needs of the body and care for them as we are called and able.
So it makes sense when living in a covenant community with others to care for the body and serve the church and its mission, but why might it be important to be a member in order to serve in certain areas of the church?
I think this question is still born out of misunderstandings of what church membership is and why it is important. I would again refer you to the biblical case made in the two previous posts. However, I understand the confusion on this based on the level of confusion our churches have had on membership in recent years.
At Berean, we have some areas that you can sign on to serve and be a part of a regular team prior to joining the church, but we have other areas that require membership. In order to serve in our Family Ministry, specifically Kids, Preteen, and Youth Ministry, membership is a prerequisite. So why is this the case? Let me give you five reasons:
We take safety very seriously at Berean when it comes to minors. Parents are entrusting their kids to us during all sorts of times throughout the week and the year. This might be on the church campus or off (I am writing this post from Germany while leading a missions team of high school students). Not only do we want to help parents in the process of exposing their children to the gospel and discipling them, but we need to make sure they are in a safe environment for this and that they will be cared for appropriately. I don’t need to go into the realities of the dangers that exist in our culture today. Our stance on this is that we can’t be too careful in this area. Too much is at stake.
Part of our efforts to help keep kids and students safe and vetting those who will spend a lot of time and hold great influence on their life is membership. This allows us to say to parents that we know these volunteers, we have spent time with them, they are living in covenant community with us, they are willingly submitting to the authority of the elders and church leadership, and they have exemplified that they can be trusted. This doesn’t guarantee the safety of our children, but along with other measures that we take, it strengthens our ability to minister safely and build trust with parents.
Not only do we need to build trust with parents in terms of safety, but we need to be able to trust that those serving have been born again and are capable of teaching in a way that aligns with the theology and beliefs of the church. What better way to vet this than through the membership process? It is the responsibility of our elders to hear and affirm the testimony of those in our body and to help shepherd and steward the teaching of the Word. If this is a biblical concept and practice, then it makes sense for us to utilize this process in helping us be able to trust the teaching and influence of those on the front lines of ministry.
This is a big one for our family ministry at Berean. All of us are one team, going after the same goals, working toward the same mission, as a part of one FaithFamily. It is critical that we are committed to the same things and to one another. Church membership allows for this and fosters this. We can’t afford to be going after different things, in different ways, and there be no allowance for accountability.
If we are to be unified in our efforts to partner with parents and influence the next generation with the gospel then there has to be an allowance for accountability. To reject the accountability of church leadership and other covenant members of the body is both dangerous and impractical. As members of a local body of believers we are called to hold each other accountable to the faith we profess. Without church membership, the platform for true accountability doesn’t exist. A formal commitment doesn’t exist and can’t be upheld.
I love watching college basketball. I grew up on Tobacco Road in North Carolina which has one of the largest and highest quality concentration of this level of basketball (Go Tarheels!). Every year teams enter the season with expectations, with some being very high. Without fail though, every year there are teams with high expectations and the talent to rise to them that fail miserably. When you peel back the layers and see where things went wrong, inevitably you see a lack of trust, unity, and accountability. Players quit listening to the coach. There is no cohesiveness. Every player begins to play for themselves and their own glory rather than the goals and glory of the team. The wheels have come off and there is an absence of health.
Can you see the parallel?
Without the points stated above the health of the ministry and the church is at risk. But what is at risk is far greater than goals of wins, championships, and awards. What is at risk is the effective ministry of the gospel and the souls of today’s generations and future generations to come. The healthier we are as a church the more effective we can be for the gospel. Church membership helps to breed health within the church and these areas of ministry and service.
These are the main reasons why we ask all volunteers in our Family Ministry at Berean to be members. Family ministry and its programming is not childcare. We are teaching kids and youth the Bible, declaring the gospel, and putting all our efforts into discipling them in partnership with their parents. We are helping them wrestle with truth. We are working to shape their view and understanding of God, His Word (truth), and develop a biblical and healthy worldview.
In this process we need to be able to say to parents (and they trust us in the fact) that those that are in partnership with them and are holding this level of influence in their children’s life (which parents are deliberately doing with a purpose), are born again Christians who have obeyed God’s command to publicly identify themselves with God and His body (via baptism and endorsement by the elders). They are willing to be held accountable by the body and its leaders (elders and pastors) and uphold what we believe as a church to be true, right, and in line with God’s Word. They have made a covenant commitment with our local church body and can be trusted.
I hope that if you are a parent that this makes sense, it encourages you, and that it builds trust.
If you are a current Family Ministry volunteer, I hope this is a great reminder of the mission you have been called to and the FaithFamily you have to lean on.
If you are a potential volunteer leader with one of the ministries in this area I hope that you understand why we require membership. I pray that it makes sense and gives you comfort in the intentions of how we are engaging in ministry. I also hope you will take the steps of becoming a member and that you will join us on mission for the gospel.
You can find more information on the membership process at Berean and how to get started HERE.
You can find more information on serving with one of our Family Ministry teams HERE.