Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tear it down ... and build it up

I agree with Wulf that tearing down is a lot easier than building up - though it is the essential prerequisite for building anything.

But tinkering at the edges leaves us with more anomalies and exceptions. So tear the whole thing down - what do we lose?

I think we lose a rigid 'them and us' mentality.

I think we lose a 'first' and 'second' class attender mentality

I think we lose the distinction between joining the Body of Christ through Baptism and joining the church because an unrepresentative minority of members voted you in on a wet Wednesday evening.

I think we lose the impenetrable wall between member and non-member that can only be navigated around by a member helping the non-member to appropriate 'our way of doing things'.

I'm not convinced any of these things are worth keeping anymore.

What we gain is the opportunity to replace our current pattern with something simpler and more flexible.

Early Baptists were people of covenants. They covenanted together to be church in a particular place and at a particular time. Can't we get back to doing that?

I know of one Baptist church that has an annual covenant service at which everyone covenanting together to be in relationship and serve the community in the mission of the church is counted as a member for the following year.

I like the sound of that. This is a model of membership that captures Mike Thomas' principles: it's based on relationships, it recognises that the choice of whether to be a member for the coming year rests solely with the individual - will they commit themselves to fellowship and working with this group of Christians in the church's mission? If yes, then welcome aboard.

It also makes the BUGB body count simple - how many covenanted together to be church? Everyone who signed the covenant. That's how many members we have this year.

There is the issue of how you join the church in June - but I'd have thought it happens by the same principle: give the person the covenant, ask if this is what they're looking for; if they say 'yes' invite them to the next members meeting and give them a mop and bucket and welcome them aboard...

I'm sure it's shot full of flaws and needs a thousand caveats entered, but.... like democracy, it's the worst way of organising a church - except all the other ways.

1 comment:

Wulf said...

How long do you think it would take to organise and follow-up? I wonder if a longer membership period would work better - something like two or three years (obviously with provision for those moving in and out of membership)?

I like the idea of a yearly covenant service but if it was a yearly renewal of membership (presumably including time to explain what that means, collect some signatures and follow through with people who weren't there or chose to opt out) that could be quite a burden for you (or, at least, for someone like me, who can be a bit of a stickler for detail!).