Your Church: Moving from Definition to Integration with New Converts
By Paul A. Murray
Two of the weakest areas in the infrastructure of many local churches is in the areas that deal with the classification, definition of church new membership and the responsibility of the new member to the work of the kingdom. In the world we live in today, without a clear and concise definition of new membership, a church is open to potentially devastating problems. The other issue is what does the church do with their new members?
I believe that connecting to a local church remains an important part of the life of a follower of Jesus. According to Paul, whether we like it or not, when we choose to follow Christ we become part of the “body of Christ.- 1 also believe that the Apostle Paul could not imagine a follower of Jesus who was not connecting with other followers of Jesus in homes or gatherings in the city in which they lived. There are two things that the church must focus upon when it comes to new membership:
(1) Defining and developing a solid new membership process.
(2) Integrating new members into the fabric of ministry.
A Solid New membership Process
In creating or adopting revised new membership guidelines, outside of defining new membership benefits, there are three areas to address to ensure a level of protection from non-member and disruptive new member intrusions. They are:
* Who is a new member
* How to become a new member
* How membership can be revoked or suspended
Who is a New member
This is the most important concept and often taken for granted with many details overlooked. A clearly defined new membership criteria removes any ambiguity and assumptions. For example, to be a new member, each person must meet and agree to the following:
1) Agree to the Statement of Faith of the Church by signing a membership covenant which specifies the particular scriptural mandates as set forth in Acts 238, Acts 2:4, 1 Timothy 3:16, and Galatians 5:22-23.
2) Meet a minimum age requirement, recommended being at least 16 years of age.
3) Agree to proper Christian behavior as related to I Timothy 4:2, IT Corinthians 7:1, I Thessalonians 5:22, Romans 14:21, and Matthew 5:16.
4) To dress as becomes modesty and holiness as expressed in I Peter 3:1-5, I Timothy 2:9.10, I Corinthians 11:1-11.
5) Must be faithful in attendance of services and meetings.
6) Must faithfully support the pastor and work of the church with one’s prayers and financially with one’s tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:10; I Corinthians).
7) To respect and obey the pastor that he may give an account with joy and not with grief (Hebrews 13:17); and 8) to seek to win the lost to Christ and to manifest a spirit of brotherly love and fellowship to all God’s people.
How to Become a New member
Membership is granted after an individual meets the requirements as set forth in your Bylaws. Membership should not be automatic. A six consecutive month requirement is a good time frame before membership can be extended. In addition, verbiage that gives the pastor and board of director’s authority to refuse membership to anyone that arrives with ulterior motives (ie: to cause division within the church).
New membership Discipline
This area clearly spells out the authority the church has in the discipline, suspension or revocation of membership. Any new member failing to cooperate with the rules of the church or failing to support the church with his/her tithes and offerings, or manifesting a lack of interest in attending services for more than a 30-day period, or consistently showing wrong attitude, disloyalty, or disrespect toward the pastor and/or other board new members shall be automatically suspended, removed from the new membership (II Thessalonians 3:6), or be dealt with according to the following methods:
1) If any new member of the church corporation be overtaken in a fault, he/she shall be dealt with according to Galatians. 6:1; I John 5:16-17, and James 5:19- 20;
2) Any grievance arising between individual members of this church shall be dealt with according to Matthew 18:15-18.
By incorporating such verbiage, the church is raising a shield of protection around itself. With a clearly spelled out and articulated definition, requirement, and conditions for new membership, there is no room for ambiguity for those seeking new membership or for the pastoral and administrative staff in adhering to such guidelines. Now that the analytical and sometimes mundane, yet vital, applications of new membership have been put in place, we can now move onto the integration of new members into the ministries of the church.
New membership Integration
Church membership is not enough. Too many churches have more members than attendees. In other churches, new members may attend, but they are not engaged whatsoever. Unfortunately, membership in a local church sometimes feels like joining a gym. You start going for a few weeks and then stop when you get too busy. The main reason is because a process of integration that is an effective team effort in transitioning a guest (the outsider) into a vital part of the ministry (the insider) has not been accomplished.
In other cases, churches have allowed the mantra from American Express, “Membership has its privileges”, to infiltrate their culture. Church members become more consumeristic or concerned with power or what is in it for me, that they miss the core message of discipleship which centers around serving others and sacrificing for His sake. Finally, the word “member” ends up emphasizing who belongs and who doesn’t. As a result, too many of our churches have become a fortress from the world rather than “salt and light” in the world.
We must be cautious, yet if we do not engage and encourage the involvement of attendees, they will very rarely become new members. It is important that discipleship classes are created and promoted as a central part for the growth of any person coming into the church and building or re-establishing a relationship with Christ.
The born-again message and experience is an absolute necessity. However, we must remember this experience is just the beginning it is a birth not the grand finale. We have not accomplished anything, for God does the infilling and puts these new ‘babes into our care. This is where we step in as pastors, teachers and ministers. We must nurture them and help them grow, pick them up when they fall, wipe away their tears, feed them when they are hungry, and chastise them in love when necessary.
We cannot be afraid to use people who do not have ‘history’ with us. There are many ministries within the church that one can become quickly involved with that does not jeopardize the safety, sanctity or spirituality of the local church. Integration is a process and one that when established with teaching, mentorship and phases becomes a successful tool in retaining and growing-the body of Christ in the local church. The metaphor, “Use them or lose them,” holds much truth in the church today.
This article ‘Your Church: New members Moving from Definition to Integration’ was written by Paul A. Murry. From: www.aog.com web site. July 2008
”This article may not be not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, ‘Eat meat. Throw away the bones.’