Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's not always this easy...

...To tell who is a member of your organization.

Here at New Hope, we've added quite a bit of structure to the membership process over the years. If a person wants to become a member of New Hope, they must complete the "New Hope 101" class, go through a pastoral interview, sign the membership covenant, and then be voted in by the congregation.

The New Hope 101 class is taught by yours truly, and is an overview of our past, our present, and our future. It's an opportunity to present what God is leading us to do, and what He can do for them. Over the years we've had a couple of people come to trust Jesus during them.

The pastoral interview gives me a chance to nail down some theological loose planks if there are any. I ask the person to give their testimony and describe their growth in Jesus (this assumes a believer), and sound them out on areas in which we might hold to a different belief or practice than other churches. We pray together and I offer them the membership covenant to pray over and return when they are ready to become a member.

Then I'm able to recommend to our church family someone who understands who we are in Christ, who we are as a church, and is ready and committed to help us.

Has it cut down on the number of people who have joined? I don't think so. If it has, then I do think it has headed off some possible conflicts. People come from other churches with patterns of belief and behavior that may be outside the norms here. We do not apologize for being different, and we offer alternatives to them if they express reservations about our New Hope way. They can remain as our friends and guests. We can help them learn more about why we do what we do. Or if we cannot come to agreement, we can help them find a place where they can serve God in harmony.

If more churches would be "tighter" on the front door, I don't think the back door would stay so wide open.

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