Confessions of a lay elder: Be bold, biblical, teach and test- Part 1
Hebrews 3:1 “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus the apostle and high priest of our confession.”
Consider Jesus and his mission. TGC13 in Orlando was an eye opener for me in so many ways. It was my first national conference of this kind. The numbers of people gathered was amazing, the preaching was revealing and the music was excellent and uplifting. My wife, Betty and I were privileged to share this experience and thankful to our church for their support. We have been married 42 years (yes, I am older) and started out as students learning together in Montreal. It’s was an honour to be asked to join the other vocational elders in attending TGC13 as a new lay elder. It was a feast of biblical proportions, so many resources and people to meet and so many other pastors. One personal memory lingers as all 5000 attendees sang Holy, Holy, Holy acapella on that last day, it was a special moment. They were wonderful memories of good preaching, fellowship and insight into God’s word. There were also lots of workshops to choose from. I was glad to have selected the one on church membership (months before) since it is a timely topic today. It turned out to be a primer on the pattern we need to follow in adding new members. It doesn’t hurt to ask how others have wrestled with these issues and share their thinking and see how they have adapted the biblical principles to their local context.
The theme of the conference TGC13 was His Mission; Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. The TGC Atlantic continues this theme by “Follow Me” asking our guest speakers to focus on Christ as he leads us.
Today I’d like to encourage everyone to be bold and biblical in their approach to church membership. One workshop I attended was titled: “Why membership matters for the Church’s mission……or Hurts it” sponsored by 9 Marks and co-hosted by Jonathan Leeman and Mike McKinley. The panellists were; K. Edward Copeland, Andy Davis & Matt Chandler. They came from different contexts but had similar approaches to membership. It challenged me to think through the whole process of how we orientate and ‘teach & test’ new members in their understanding of church membership means and later to covenant together to support Christ’s mission for the church.
Three observations from the panel discussion: First, take your time, allow people to see what you are all about and allow them to express the God given character, their giftedness and attitudes toward service and submission to the Lord Jesus Christ; Secondly, be deliberate and persistent in designing and implementing the teaching of what it means to be a church member, their role, their commitment and understanding of the Gospel and how discipleship works; Thirdly, the elders need to interview the prospective members, after their full orientation to what it means to be a covenant member of your church. The elders can test their understanding and application of the gospel to life and what it is to communicate the reality of our new life in Christ Then after this deliberate, intentional process the formal recommendation for membership can take place and you can introduce them to the church and welcome them as a new covenant member of your local congregation.
This process doesn’t leave any doubt in the minds of those wishing to join the church and be part of a covenant body of Christ, and focused on His mission. We as the leadership at GBC are reading together Jonathan Leemans’ book on Church Membership, so we can develop our own understanding of what we need to do locally. It will take us time but we are encouraged. Jim Newson is a lay elder at Grace Baptist Church in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island Canada.
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