Last month, we had our first birthday as Sound City Bible Church. We’ve experienced God’s favor and grace to us in some amazing ways in this past year. And while it seems like it was only yesterday, it was about this time last year that the provisional board and founding elders were prayerfully and busily meeting together almost daily in an effort to establish the basic foundations of this newborn church.
We were digging into the Scriptures together, drawing from the good and the bad of our own experiences, and relying like crazy on the Holy Spirit to show up and lead us into the establishment of many of the pillars that would come to support this church as its foundation; things like our mission statement, our doctrinal statement, our core values, our bylaws, and our approach to church membership.
What shaped Sound City’s views on membership and recommitment?
As I reflect on those earliest of conversations about church membership, several things come to mind…
- Our conversations regularly turned to reflecting about the nature and character of our God, as a covenant-making God, who has set his people apart for committed relationship with him, marked by his good promises to us and our faithfulness to his precepts and instructions. See examples in Gen. 17:7; Jer. 31:33; Heb. 9:15.
- Our early membership conversations also often turned to the presumption of completeness in faith and devotion to Jesus, to which the Scriptures exhort God’s people. In our study, we found the Bible to be replete with the language of activeness and intentionality with regard to faith in Jesus, and that contributed a great deal to our conclusions about what membership ought to look like in a local church. See examples in Ps. 25:8–10; Ezek. 11:19–20; Jer. 24:7; Matt. 7:21; 1 Thes. 4:1.
- Our conversations regarding membership also often turned to the regularity with which the biblical writers admonish us to meditate on, reflect on, recount, and remember: the truths of God’s Word, his good instructions for his people, and his never-ceasing love, grace, and faithfulness to them. See examples in Jn. 16:4; 2 Pet. 3:1–2; Ps. 1:1–2, 119:11; Josh. 4:1–24; Ex. 28:9–12, 39:6–7; 1 Cor. 11:23–26.
It was with verses like these in mind––informing our understanding of the character of God, and his desire for the people of his Church––that our earliest conclusions about church membership and the inclusion of an annual rhythm of membership recommitment were born.
So why have church membership and a membership covenant?
Because ‘covenant’ reflects the nature and character of our God, and the sacredness, activeness, and intentionality of the relationship between Jesus and his disciples—past, present, and future.
And why have an annual Covenant Member Recommitment?
Because the process of annual recommitment carries forward the exhortations of the Scriptures to us to: remember, recount, reflect on, meditate on, store up, and memorialize the truths of God, his instruction to us, his character, his nature, and his love for us. Said another way:
- The annual Covenant Member Recommitment Period rightly drives us to an annual consideration and affirmation of the Covenant Member Commitments to which we first pledged our faithfulness when we became Covenant Members of Sound City Bible Church.
- The annual Covenant Member Recommitment Period creates time and space for all existing members to exercise the truth that our commitment to God and one another is never meant to be a ‘once & done’ or a ‘commit and forget’ sort of thing. Rather, it is intended to be a sober yet joyful undertaking, born of conviction to see the name of Jesus made much of, and to see our lives ever-increasingly submitted to God’s will and ways.
- The annual Covenant Member Recommitment Period also gives Sound City Bible Church Covenant Members the opportunity to reflect on, and to affirm again, both corporately and individually, their commitment to our mission to glorify God by proclaiming Jesus, receiving grace, being disciples, and making disciples.
- Finally, our annual Covenant Member Recommitment Period also communicates a priority, a seriousness, and a high valuing of our biblically-formed membership commitments to all of those who are not yet Covenant Members of the church.
So, how does the recommitment period work, practically speaking?
For those of us who are active Covenant Members of Sound City Bible Church, it means that all members will be asked use the link shared with them on Sunday February 21, 2016 (and about this time each year hereafter) to prayerfully complete an online survey that will walk them through the member commitments that they have previously affirmed, and allow them to then indicate again their intention to joyfully living out those biblical instructions together with the rest of church’s members, leaders, and elders in the coming year. It will also give each member a chance to request time to meet with a leader if their reflection of the member commitments has stirred a desire to ask for help with a given area of commitment or to ask any other questions that the process might bring about.
But I'm not a Covenant Member yet.
For some of you, if you’re not yet a Covenant Member of the church, you might be wondering, “what kind of commitments are we talking about?” And that’s a good question. The kind of commitments asked of our members includes only those things that the Bible asks of all Christians, and you can find a full list of all the Member Commitments on our membership page, by finding and then clicking on the link to the Covenant Member Packet.
Another thing you can do from that same membership page, when you're ready, is to begin the steps of Covenant Membership yourself. It's all outlined there, step-by-step, and ready for you once you've prayerfully considered and decided to take that intentional step of faith by pursuing membership in the local church.
So why go through all this effort?
Membership. Covenant. Commitment. Recommitment. Body. Community. These words are important. These words are biblical words.
Words that remind us of the truth of Rom. 12:5 that as fellow Christians we are all very literally members of one another, each relying on the other’s living out of their faith—for God’s glory and the good of all those who love Jesus.
Words that remind us of the reality of Eph. 4:11–16 that as Jesus’ disciples we’re each called, individually and as one body, to pursue unity of faith, increasing obedience, knowledge, and wisdom, depth of relationship with Jesus and one another, and growth in our maturity of faith such that Jesus’ bride—the church—is built up and sustained in love.
Sound City, that’s why we do membership, that’s why we joyfully covenant together in pursuit of growth in Christ and in pursuit of God's glory, and that’s why we annually pause to reflect on and recommit ourselves again and again to this good work. Amen.