**Thoughts From Matthew**
Online daily devotionals for 2011 written by David Chadwell. (For mobile viewing, click on the link at the top of the devotional page.)
**25th Anniversary and Homecoming**
You can see, watch, and hear events of October 12, 2008, on this website. If you would like to order the video on DVD, contact Ron or Debbie Belote at 452-1240. The cost is $1.00 (plus postage, if applicable).
What do you think of when you hear the word "membership"? In my mind, I recall the slogan of American Express -- "membership has its privileges." I also think of phrases such as "members only" and "member in good standing." In Webster's Dictionary, membership is defined as "the state or status of being a member." As a general rule in our culture, when one is a member of an organization, he or she expects privileges or benefits as a result of that membership. This is becoming true in churches today as well.
I must confess that I do use the terms "member" and "membership" often in relation to those who are committed to our congregation. However, I wonder if the connotation of the word "membership" has not grown too passive and privileged to serve us well when we speak of those who are to be actively engaged in the life of the local church. I'm concerned that being a "member" of a church means little more than "I now have the right to expect the church to meet my various needs and to complain about it when it doesn't." I worry that others have come to understand being a "member" of a church as the full extent of God's call upon their life, as if the church is more like a cruise-ship than a battleship.
What if we employed a different word to describe our involvement in the local church? What if instead of calling ourselves "members" of the church, we called ourselves "partners" in Christ's service? Being a "partner" connotes making an investment, having a shared stake in the outcome, feeling a deep sense of ownership, and sharing a commitment to the cause. When Paul wrote about the Christians with whom he ministered, he used phrases such as "fellow worker," "faithful servant," "fellow soldier," "yokefellow," "devoted to the service of the saints," "ones who work hard among you," and of course "partners in the gospel." Paul also did write about Christians being "members" of the body of Christ, but his analogy made the point that each member is an active and functioning part of the whole, not an appendix tagging along for the ride.
I challenge all of us who are part of our church family to view ourselves as partners with each other in the service of Christ, rather than privileged members of a nice little club. I challenge us to start behaving more as partners in the Gospel, rather than church connoisseurs. I challenge us to take more of an active part in the ministries of the church.
So what'll it be? "Member" or "Partner"?