Church Membership vs. Costco Membership
I’m a member at Costco. I’m a Netflix member. I have a membership at the fitness club. In many ways membership, today, means that we get specific benefits or privileges for a basic fee. Is this what it means to become a member of a church?
Free of Charge
At the heart of Christianity is Jesus, who gives generously and freely to all. So if we are to be a church or a people that look like Jesus then we will welcome anyone and everyone who want and need to encounter Jesus in a caring place. No fee required!
As a person begins to put their trust in Jesus they become a follower of Jesus… not a Presbyterian or Baptist or a member of any other tribe other than the one true family of God. Again free of charge.
What used to be called membership we now call Covenant Partnership. This is more accurate because we are making a commitment or a covenant to follow Jesus in a particular place. We are committed to Jesus and to one another as we seek to grow as follower of Jesus who love God, love people and serve the world. We are partners in worship and in the work of God’s Kingdom right here, right now. This takes a covenant because there will be many times along the way when we will want to quit or give up. There will be times when we don’t like one another and so we need something bigger than our likes or dislikes to keep us together on this journey. We need a covenant to remind us that growth comes from commitment and sacrificial love. Because of this we have higher expectations for covenant partners. These expectation are not the “hidden fees” but freeing, life-giving practices that connect us deeply to who Jesus is and who we have been created to be. Our commitment to one another also proclaims to our divided world that people with differences can be united in Jesus.
Here are the expectations of a Covenant Member as described in our denominations practices:
ECO 1.0305 The Congregation’s Expectations of Covenantal Partnership
Each covenant partner (member) shall strive to be faithful to Christ by participating in the congregation’s worship, fellowship, and service on an ongoing basis. Faithfulness in Christ involves each covenant partner’s dedication of time and talents for the congregation’s mission and ministry, in accordance to the gifts that God has bestowed upon him or her. Faithfulness also involves the stewardship of finances. As each covenant partner grows in the grace of giving, financial support of the congregation’s mission and ministry should grow, along with tangible support for other ministries that advance God’s Kingdom. Faithfulness to Christ also involves each covenant partner’s dedication of time and talents for the congregation’s mission and ministry. Those who are invited to take significant leadership roles in the congregation shall be spiritually mature, agree with the Essential Tenets of the ECO, be carefully selected, be trained and/or mentored, and be supervised, and should ordinarily be members for at least a year. Covenant partners (members) of the congregation have differing abilities, varied spiritual gifts, and various levels of commitment. The session shall strive to create an effective disciple-making, ministry-discernment process, and equip covenant partners (members) to be missional Christians, being faithful to nurture covenant partners (members) into spiritual maturity and significant ministry.