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Membership Matters
by Dan MacKInnon
Why should I become a member of the church?

What difference does it make if I become a member of the church? What’s the difference between being a member or an adherent of a congregation?
They look the same. Adherents are often as dedicated to ministry of the congregation as members; sometimes even more so, but an adherent is one who has never actually joined the congregation.
    There are times, however, in the life of the congregation when it does make a difference to be a member. Only a member may sign a call for a minister, be ordained an elder or vote for an elder. In short, a member has greater privileges and responsibilities than an adherent.
    There was a time when a Presbyterian adherent was as rare as lobster traps in Saskatchewan. Virtually every teen attended classes to become Presbyterian members. Prior to 1982, the national church did not keep track of adherents. Only members were counted. Clearly the number of adherents became significant enough to warrant keeping track of them. By 1982 adherents comprised nearly 20 percent of the total number of people associated with our church. By 2006 that number climbed to 40 percent. How do we understand this trend?
    It is said that we live in a “non-joining” age, but there is probably more to these figures than that. Membership is still vital to the life of our denomination and an important step of faith and commitment. Why?
    Principally, because the scriptures portray God as a covenant-making God. God promises to be our God and calls us into community as people of God. When we become members we confess faith in God and make vows of covenantal relationship with God. At the same time, we make vows of covenantal relationship with one another. As an example, members make a legally binding promise to pay their minister a stipend so that the minister can afford to lead and serve them. Because we exist in a material world, we need a constitution (the Book of Forms) based on our theology of grace, hope, peace, joy, love, justice and so on. Members promise to obey it in an effort to live in a covenantal community with God and one another. Members participate in a congregation’s life in full covenant with others and shoulder crucial responsibilities, such as the election of elders, the calling of a minister, and being accountable to the body of Christ and to the discipline of that body.
    Sometimes being a member or an adherent is compared to marriage. You can live with someone and enjoy many of the same benefits of marriage, but when two people marry, they enter into an even deeper bond of commitment to each other before God.  (Taken from www.presbyterian.ca/files/webfm/ourresources/.../Elders_complete_final.pdf)

From Dan’s Perspective:
Here’s why I think membership in the local church is important:
    The world’s model  is to not join anything until we know what we will get out of it. It seems to me that Christ’s invitation is contrary to that - it’s not about what membership does for us but what we do for Jesus Christ and others. Are there benefits to membership? Sure, like like voting privileges, shared commitment to the congregation, etc, but somehow that seems like a backward approach to the subject.
    Becoming a member gives me an opportunity to declare myself; that I belong to Jesus Christ by faith, that I am committed to following Him all of my days, that I belong to His community in this church, and that I believe in the vision and mission of this faith community. It gives me a chance to both express my commitment to Christ and His church and to hear the same expressed back to me by the congregation.
    If you are not a member, joining affords a wonderful opportunity for you to encourage others by the telling of your own faith story. Whenever someone joins Grace we invite them to relate what it means to believe in Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. Inevitably the telling of our personal faith story impacts many in the congregation. I have found that people hear something of the gospel that they never hear in a sermon and all are encouraged by it.