Many of you will be part of organisations outside of the church and will know that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract new members to anything, be it a bowling club or a gardening club. People are wary of any sort of commitment. We see it in personal relationships. I’m puzzled when friends say: “we don’t want to get married; it might change things”.
The same is true in the church. People are wary of church membership and the reason I hear most often is not an issue with faith, but a fear that membership makes them eligible for committees! This is not what church membership is about, but in any case, the question our young people challenged us with a few weeks ago was: “Do we come to church to serve or to be served?”
We’re fortunate that we have a God who sees things differently. The bible uses the concept of “covenant” to describe God’s relationship with people. Covenants are agreements but ones which differ from contracts with which we are perhaps more familiar. Contracts are closed, well-defined and based in law. The covenant God makes with us is relational, open-ended and based in God’s unmerited love which we call “grace”. The story of God witnessed to by Scripture is the story of human beings letting God down and yet God refuses to walk away and tries again. Far different from church where one bad experience can lead people to say “I am never going back there again”. We’re flawed people and when things have gone wrong in the past, we’re very sorry.
Church Membership is the way in which Methodists commit themselves to following Jesus Christ in this covenant that God offers us. When we welcome people into membership, we welcome them firstly in the One Church of Jesus Christ, secondly into the church in a particular place and only thirdly into the part of that one church called Methodist. Being received into church
membership is about making the deeply counter-cultural declaration that I am going to commit myself to be part of God’s rescue plan for the world. I am going to be part of this work in this place and I will ask others around me to “watch over me in love” as I seek to do so.
There is nothing I would like more than to discuss Church Membership with any of you. Please get in touch with me or a member of the Leadership Team and we’ll have an informal chat.
Andrew M. Emison
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Written by the Minister & Members