Saturday, June 17, 2006

Church Covenant Series: Part 11 of 11

The final paragraph of the JPBC Membership Covenant is among the most important. It reads:

If we leave this church, we will immediately seek to join another with similar purposes and covenants.

This part of the covenant reminds us that we are always to seek to be vibrant members of a local body of believers. We are convinced that a born-again believer will not be able to go without consistent fellowship in a local church over a long period of time (see Hebrews 10:24-25). If we permanently move out of the geographical area where our church is located, then we need to find a new body of believers where we can transfer our membership as soon as possible. If for doctrinal, spiritual, or personal reasons we are not able to support the local church of which we are members, we should diligently and promptly seek another where we can be joined in good conscience.

This is important for at least three reasons. First, every authentic believer must seek to be a healthy body part (church member). Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers: "Now you are the body of Christ and members individually" (2 Corinthians 12:27). Second, when we transfer our membership to a new church, we relieve our old church of the direct burden of pastoral oversight and concern for us. This is a matter of common courtesy to one’s former church and helps the church avoid an unwieldy list of "inactive" members. Third, when we find a new congregation we desire to join we are able to be a blessing and encouragement to them by becoming a part of their fellowship. Every time a new member joins our church we feel encouraged and affirmed in knowing that someone else wants to become part of our family. Though a new attendee in a church should carefully and prayerfully examine the doctrine and practice of a local church before joining it, he should also beware of avoiding commitment by waiting too long to join. Persons who become long time attendees but who resist making a membership commitment can actually discourage the body through their unwillingness to publicly identify with the church in membership.

You will note that the covenant suggests this should be done "immediately." To avoid legalism, however, no specific time frame is added. Choosing a new church home requires care and patience. In most cases, however, we would encourage anyone who departs from our fellowship to find a new church home within six months. In fact, our church Constitution allows us to remove persons from active membership who have been absent from our fellowship for a period of more than six months, unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Our prayer is that all of our members will be active parts of this body. If a member should leave us, our prayer is that he will, in a timely manner, find a like-minded church family in which he can thrive and grow in Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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