For two Sundays beginning this Sunday, we are going to consider membership in Christ’s Holy Church, specifically NBUMC. During our Faith Enrichment hour (9:00 a.m.), I will lead a “New Member Class.” Rather than a curriculum complete with video presentations, I am going to lead us in a discussion of the UMC’s understanding of membership and the liturgy and vows new members participate in when joining the local church. Here’s our first clarification: did you notice I said “joining the local church?” We “join” the Holy Catholic (read: universal) Church at our baptism. Consequently, baptism is a prerequisite of joining the local Church. We then profess our faith publicly and assume the vows of membership. So what? That is the question we will strive to answer during the next two weeks. Unlike the Roman church, membership and participation aren’t necessarily tied to our salvation.
I can’t help but wonder if American Express co-opted the modern church membership attitude years ago with it’s credit card tag line, “Membership has its Privileges.” Does church membership somehow confer privilege on folks? Do we achieve favored status in the kingdom of heaven? Is membership a beneficial entry on our resume, as on Confirmand once claimed? I had a lady at a previous congregation started almost every sentence with, “I’ve been a member of this congregation for well over 50 years….” Favored status, indeed.
What if church membership, rather than bestowing special privilege, asks persons to assume special responsibility? This would include maintaining and growing the church, both physically and spiritually, as well as working to build the Kingdom of Heaven beyond the walls of the building. What about accountability? Does the Church have the right to expect anything of its members other than names on a roll?
We are also going to tackle church membership in worship. Sunday we will spend our time in I Corinthians 12:12-26. What does it mean to think of the church as the body of Christ? Is there an organic wholeness? Is the brain more important than the little toenail? Why or why not? Does Christ by the Holy Spirit assign hierarchical value to various members as the earthly church does?
We have some hard work ahead of us for the next couple of weeks. Why do it? Simply because redefining what it means to be church and how each of us fits into it will provide us guidance as we look to move into our future.
Those prayerfully contemplating becoming members of NBUMC who do not run screaming from the building in the next couple of weeks will be welcomed into membership during worship on Sunday, September 10. I am excited to be part of this work with you.
See you Sunday (if you dare!),