Members of the Church are those who have made a public commitment to God and to Jesus Christ. They have committed themselves to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, and to service him in his church.
God commits himself to love and care for each one of us. His commitment means we can rely on him. Our best response to this is to commit ourselves to God.
Your promise is not only to God, it is to the others who are part of the local congregation. You are committing yourself to serving God alongside them. It is a bit like a marriage – that’s when a couple decide they want all the people who care about them to know they are committing their lives to each other.
In some ways, no, in others, yes. This is simply a renewal of your commitment to serve Jesus Christ and from a place that you love – the local church. Some people make a renewal of their marriage vows on a special anniversary or after a particularly difficult time, this is similar. All that you bring from your Christian past will enrich the life of the church.
The Christian life is all about receiving to give. As a member of Christ’s church, you receive the privilege of sharing in the celebration of all God has done and is doing in Jesus, and you have the duty of witnessing to all of this both inside and outside the walls of the church.
But also, the decisions which affect the life of the church are taken by those who are full members of it. These decisions include the appointment of Elders, the calling of a minister, as well as matters to do with the church’s worship, mission and finance. These decisions are discussed and decided in church meeting, under the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.
The membership roll is also important when ministry is being considered and financial contributions to the wider work of the United Reformed Church are based upon it.
Apart from the responsibility to share in the worship, witness and life of the church you wouldn’t have to take on any additional responsibility. Your relationships with other people, your service to the community, your voice in shaping opinion and public policy, your work and your leisure – these are where you exercise your responsibility as a member of Christ’s church.
Your service within the local church may be limited. You may choose just to attend worship or you may take on additional responsibilities because of your special gifts. Whether you accept is up to you, but you cannot hold office in the church unless you are a member.
This hesitation is taken seriously. But don’t think that all church members in other churches are strong believers, untroubled by doubt. Look around you during worship next Sunday, you will see others who are sharing your anxiety about the quality of their personal faith, however confident they may seem. The church is there to help us all grown in our faith. It is good sometimes to admit that our faith is weak, and we need to be willing to learn all the time. We believe that with Christ all things will eventually become clear to us. Faith is a pilgrimage, a journey which each of us makes. But pilgrimages are not solitary. We make the journey along with others in the Church, giving and receiving support along the way. And taking the step of committing ourselves, making a ‘leap of faith’ when our faith feels weak can be the very thing that strengthens our faith.
None of us are, that’s why we are Christians. The Gospel is good news for those who know they are sinners. As members of Christ’s church, we try to follow his high standards, but we all know how far we fall short. Jesus often said he did not come for those who knew they were good but for those who wanted to be good!
Time is a problem for us all. But being a church member doesn’t need to be another demand on your precious time – you show your discipleship in everything you do.
Energy, imagination, time and money are all needed to do Christ’s work through the local church. If you are truly committed to love and serve Christ, then you will want to give regularly and generously. But the decision about how generous is completely and only yours. Some give just pence, others pounds. The church can help you in various ways to give regularly through the envelope scheme and if you pay income tax, then the church can recover the tax on your giving if you’ll sign a covenant.
If you have any questions or if you have made up your mind then please either speak or write to Alan Barnes.
But why not? The invitation is from Jesus Christ. By becoming a member you are confessing your faith in him, sharing that faith with others, and pledging yourself to be part of his church.
The local church is ever seeking to undertake God’s will as it moves forward. You have a unique opportunity to become a member along with others. So why delay? At least pray about it and then, we hope, your prayer will lead to your decision and action.