On October 1, 2017, Poquoson Baptist Church will be celebrating a special day of renewed commitment to Christ and His church. The following is excerpted from our congregational strategy to cultivate meaningful membership.
We believe the Bible teaches that a local church is the most important organization in the world. Therefore, due to its sacred nature and the teaching of Scripture, the local church should have high standards for membership. The New Testament pictures the local church as a body filled with activities like burden-bearing, serving, fellowship, accountability, confession, discipleship, mutual submission, and church discipline. But if a church does not know its membership, doing any of this well is impossible. Therefore, every local church should strive to have meaningful membership.
For months we have been discussing the importance of meaningful membership at Poquoson Baptist. We’ve taken some small steps to move in this direction, but the reality is we still have a long way to go. We still have many “members” on our list that have not shown any recent interest in being involved in PBC life. We believe these inactive “members” should be encouraged to decide whether or not they want to remain a member of this church.
For the health and wellbeing of Poquoson Baptist Church, we’re taking a giant leap towards meaningful membership by asking existing members to “opt-in” to affirm their membership.
Before you misunderstand, let us explain what this effort is not. First, this is not church discipline. Church discipline is to be exercised in the case of (1) unrepentant immorality (1 Corinthians 5), (2) unrepentant doctrinal heresy (Titus 3:10), and (3) unrepentant disunity in the church (Matthew 18:15-17). While it’s possible that a severely delinquent member could fit one or more of these categories, that is not our primary concern with Harvest Day.
Second, this is not a witch hunt. We are far more interested in gaining people than in losing them, but we feel that the Lord’s church should not have standards of membership less stringent than the nearest country club. Meaningful membership is not about having names on a list, but a body of Christ-followers who have covenanted together and are actively involved in each other’s lives.
Third, this is not kicking people out of heaven. Removing a name from our membership list means nothing of the sort. Only God knows their true spiritual condition. Many of the names on our list may be faithfully serving Jesus in some other local church. We’ve just lost track of them through the years. Don’t forget that the idea of a membership list is really more tradition than anything. The body consists not of those who are on a membership card or in our computer, but of those baptized believers who are actively committed to the local church. We simply want our membership list to be as close to reality as possible.
Fourth, this is not laziness on our part. Our existing constitution permits us to remove names from membership after two years of inactivity. Many of the names on our membership list haven’t been active in far, far longer. But rather than simply removing these inactive names from membership, we want to restore a culture of meaningful membership. And we believe this is the best way forward.
Fifth, this is not cutting people off. Many of our active members have children and/or grandchildren that are inactive members. Removing those names from our membership list does not imply that we no longer care about these individuals, or that they are no longer welcome at Poquoson Baptist Church. To the contrary, we hope that by finally being honest about what membership means, those who aren’t with us will be drawn to return.
What we have agreed upon is a comprehensive effort to update our membership list to discover who really is a part of this church family. We believe if we follow this plan, we will grow to reach even more people. In addition, we may gain some of those we have not seen in a long time. Finally, we will implement certain checks to make certain this will never happen again. God being our Helper, we are committed to keeping track of all of our members so that we never let ourselves get in this position again. Soli Deo Gloria!