Today we are going to refresh and restore membership in the church in Kharkov. We do have membership but it’s been ‘frozen’ for many years. When the Lord started to deal with me about building the inner culture and identity of the church one of the things brought to my attention was the one about membership. Why membership?
Well there are in my mind many good reasons for it, things like the possibility to send out mail and contact people by telephone to be very small but nonetheless important issues. But I like to liken membership with a relationship. Of course we can date and meet together but when we are serious about a relationship we legalize it, we formalize it, make it official. We put a ring on our finger to show the world I belong to someone and that one belongs to me. We have agreed to commit ourselves to one another on the basis of mutual love and respect, submitting to one another seeking to support and help each other in life.
I think it’s the same with church life, when I get saved and meet Jesus I become a part of a church somehow, or a fellowship of believers. We become members of the body of Christ. Our faith and love for Jesus unites us and makes us one. We start a relationship with Jesus and with the rest of His body. This relationship we call church. Jesus is the head of the body and He has in the body placed a certain order and certain functions like pastors, elders and deacons to lead the church. The fivefold ministries are there to edify and build up the faith of the believer.
God also calls the church to certain activities, 1 Cor 12:6, that must be administrated in and through the church. Different gifts and ministries are placed in the body to support and realize this call of God.
We as a church live in a society and are to abide to laws and regulations as long as they do not directly forces us to deny our faith in Jesus, like the situation during Communism and materialistic atheism. Due to this we have organization and financial requirements we are to fulfill in relationship to the state even though the church and state are separate entities we do have a relationship as a part of society.
So here, in my opinion, formal membership becomes very important. As believers we are to commit ourselves to the Lord and also to His body which manifests through the local church. We can say that the global church is a concept and the local church is the manifestation of that concept. Membership is a way to keep order in the house of God, keep the light shining and to know who has committed themselves to our local church and who are parishioners and guests. Those who commit themselves to live, serve and fellowship are to be treated with respect and it’s also important they are aware of what is going on in the church, know the direction and plans of the church, have a possibility to have a say about those things. And it’s as important to regularly inform them about activities and the financial situation in the church as well as making an annual report of how the offerings have ben spend. For this we need membership, as a Father I don’t tell strangers about family matters and it’s the same in church.