We’ve had a number of new people to the church. We don’t approach people about becoming members, because we feel like it’s a decision people should come to on their own; however, we still want want people to know we’re a church that has membership. I think because I was saved in Calvary Chapel (which doesn’t have membership), I always held a pretty negative view of membership until I received my first pastor position at Grace Baptist. Then I saw some of the advantages of membership for the congregation and church leadership.
Membership is basically just a way to formalize commitment and call WCC home. It’s also a way for us to respond that we view you as part of our church family and will do everything we can to love and support you. While it sounds nice to say, “You should love and support everyone” it should be pretty obvious that if we tried to do that we wouldn’t help anyone effectively. I can definitely say from a pastor’s perspective many times people come to WCC and spend some time in a season where I wonder if they’re still looking around. I understand choosing a church is a big deal, requiring people to spend some weeks at different churches while they’re looking around, which is why I see the “looking around period” as a necessity. The problem is sometimes this makes it difficult for me to know who’s part of my flock. When people choose to become members, I can tell they’ve become my responsibility. Again, it sounds nice to say, “You should invest in everyone and not just people you consider to be part of your congregation” but God has called me to pastor WCC. He hasn’t called me to pastor people at other churches and He hasn’t called me to pastor people that aren’t part of WCC. If I tried to pastor all the people outside WCC I would fail as the pastor of WCC.
There’s nothing required for membership other than being a baptized Christian and attending a meeting with one of the leadership and myself and our wives. This meeting is casual and is to ensure people have the opportunity to ask us any questions about the church, while making sure you’re aware of WCC’s beliefs and distinctions. We also invite potential members to share their testimonies.
If people struggle with membership it usually relates to a perceived absence from Scripture. While I’d say the word membership isn’t in Scripture, the practice of membership allows churches to obey other areas of Scripture. For example, in 1 Cor 5:12-13 Paul challenges the church to judge those inside the church and leave judging those outside to God. How did the Corinthians know who was in and who was out? They knew whom Paul was talking about because some people had formally, publicly identified themselves with the church in Corinth while the rest of the city had not. Those who had were inside the church. They were the church’s members. Those who hadn’t were not.