Why do churches have so many members who give little or no evidence of Christian commitment or even conversion? Why do many churches find it difficult to motivate members to give, serve, pray, and share their faith?
The answer is simple. The members were allowed to join with no expectations placed on them. You get what you ask for!
While becoming a Christian means to commit yourself to Christ, becoming a church member means to commit yourself to other Christians. Paul mentions two different types of commitment in 2 Corinthians 8:5 – “First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will, they gave themselves to us as well.” (GN)
At Saddleback, we call these the first-base commitments. You commit yourself to Christ for salvation and then you commit yourself to other Christians for membership in our church family.
At Saddleback, we only expect of our members what the Bible clearly expects of all believers. These expectations are summarized in our Membership Covenant. It is the most important element of our membership class.
We have four requirements for membership:
1) A personal profession of Christ as Lord and Savior;
2) Baptism by immersion as a public symbol of one’s faith;
3) Completion of the membership class; and
4) A signed commitment to abide by Saddleback’s membership covenant.
I urge you to prayerfully prepare and adopt a membership covenant in your congregation if you don’t have one. It can revolutionize your church.
You may worry, “If we adopt a membership covenant, there will be some who leave our church over it.” You’re right. There will be some. But here is the fact of reality: People are going to leave your church no matter what you do. Don’t be afraid of people leaving. People even walked away from Jesus.
When your congregation adopts a membership covenant, at least you’re choosing the kind of people that stay.
The Saddleback Membership Covenant
Having received Christ as my Lord and Savior and been baptized, and being in agreement with Saddleback’s statements, strategy, and structure, I now feel led by the Holy Spirit to unite with the Saddleback church family. In doing so, I commit myself to God and to the other members to do the following:
1. I WILL PROTECT THE UNITY OF MY CHURCH
…By acting in love toward other members
…By refusing to gossip
…By following the leaders
“So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” (Romans 14:19 NLT)
“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)
“Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” (Hebrews 13:17 NLT)
2. I WILL SHARE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MY CHURCH
…By praying for its growth
…By inviting the unchurched to attend
…By warmly welcoming those who visit
“We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.” (1 Thessalonians 1:2 NLT)
“So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14:23-24 NLT)
“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” (Romans 15:7 NLT)
3. I WILL SERVE THE MINISTRY OF MY CHURCH
…By discovering my gifts and talents
…By being equipped to serve by my pastors
…By developing a servant’s heart
“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10 NLT)
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12 NLT)
“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. … Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being….” (Philippians 2:3-4, 7 NLT)
4. I WILL SUPPORT THE TESTIMONY OF MY CHURCH
…By attending faithfully
…By living a godly life
…By giving regularly
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25 NLT)
“Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing side by side, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.” (Philippians 1:27 NLT)
“On the first day of each week, you should each put aside a portion of the money you have earned. Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once.” (1 Corinthians 16:2 NLT)
“One tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD and must be set apart to him as holy.” (Leviticus 27:30 NLT)