There have been really excellent comments posted recently in response to this discussion about membership. None more so than this one: 'it can at times appear that someone being in Christ is not as important as being in membership.'
The correspondent went on to share their feelings of being somehow second class because they were not a member, concluding 'the fact that I have a real and active life in my Lord Jesus didn't seem to give me permission to see myself as part of my new church family, it was membership that gave that which I found very sad and still do.' I have to say, so do I.
I have always believed that when people are baptised in a church they should automatically become members of that church. After all, we are baptising people into Christ, declaring that by their faith they are members of Christ's body, so surely by this act they are also members of this local expression of his body? Sadly we baptists have separated theology from practice and ended up with a system that can cause pain and misuderstanding.
But there is another point here too. And that concerns people attending our churches from other traditions, people who are 'in Christ' by virtue of their faith and yet are not 'in membership' and therefore can't participate in key areas of their new church's life. It's this area I'm keen to do something about in terms of how quickly and on what terms we include them fully in the life of the church.
Jane's comment about having a mentor is a key one too. I am about to preach on that and am keen to see some kind of mentoring system established in our church. It seems to me to be key to creating disciples whose lives make an impact. I'll be exploring what patterns are available out there - I'm quite interested in Lifeshapes, but there are others. What I'm keen to see is people in my church in mutually supportive and accountable relationships, growing in their walk with God, becoming intentionally missional.
Thoughts on this would be great.