Requirements of membership – oh, my!


My elders are currently studying the denomination’s new Form of Government.

There is always a small number of people who can’t get enough of this sort of thing, but ordinarily studying one’s constitution is not terribly exciting stuff.  And it’s not typically why people agree to be elders, for which I’m grateful.

And then, just when I’m ready to be bored silly, just when I start to worry that my elders will be bored silly, I come upon a section about what it means to be a church member, and I get really excited.

And nervous.

Take a look at this. This is a description in the new form of government of what it means to be a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  No, not a deacon. Not an elder.  Not even a minister of word and sacrament (I know we don’t call them that anymore, but you know what I mean.)  This is about your typical, run-of-the-mill church member:

  • proclaiming the good news in word and deed,
  • taking part in the common life and worship of a congregation,
  • lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support,
  • studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life,
  • supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents,
  • demonstrating a new quality of life within and through the church,
  • responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others,
  • living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and social relationships of life,
  • working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment,
  • participating in the governing responsibilities of the church, and
  • reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.

What about that last one –“reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership”!  We should all take honest looks at ourselves?  Really?

I don’t know that I’ve ever served a church where the membership even came close to this, and the truth is, I’ve served some wonderful congregations.   And yet, wouldn’t you want to belong to a church where people aspired to this?

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.


11 Responses to Requirements of membership – oh, my!

  1. Bob Sadowski May 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

    gosh, so simple yet inspiring.

  2. mike May 29, 2013 at 7:11 pm #

    That wasn’t a hot poker kind of reminder… or a bucket of cold water kind of reminder…but it was a dang effective reminder that there’s no time like like the present to conscript an army of “Brand Ambassadors” at FirstPres. It’s on the list, right?

    • Doug May 29, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

      Wait ’til you hear about the requirements for elder!

    • Doug May 30, 2013 at 4:49 am #

      Okay, Mike. Now you’ve got MY attention. Would like to hear more about that.

      • mike May 30, 2013 at 7:47 am #

        I’ll write-up my thoughts about forming a large group of “Brand Ambassadors” at FirstPres. Will do it over the weekend. It’s follow-up to the “out-of-the-box” evangelism meeting.

        Here’s a teaser – I think the role of being a Brand Ambassador will have a connection to Curly’s famous line in the movie CITY SLICKERS….and it’s also kind of like “Harry & David’s” F.O.T.M.C., too.

        4:49 AM! Blogging is a round-the-clock responsibility, isn’t?

        • Doug May 30, 2013 at 9:40 am #

          Must have been some mistake with that time! Or elves were playing with my computer.

  3. Bruce chapman May 29, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    Integrity starts with one’s inner core, that personal space where, as someone else said, “we stand naked before God.” Church is among a few current human institutions that sees this honestly & openly & works to inspire it universally. While “membership” is anathema to many today, I trust our church’s definition prompts some critical mass of them to pause, cautiously, and think again.

  4. Dave Bayer May 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    I would certainly love to be a member of such a church, and I know many others who would also. Let’s find a way to get there!

  5. Lee Hunsberger May 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

    At those times in my life when I was broken and just needed God’s nuturing love, if you had told me these were my membership expectations, I would have gone to another church. Jesus said, love God and love your neighbor as yourself. I’m still working on that. I doubt I can ever meet your membership requirements; oh, wait, I am already a member. Is there a grandfather clause?

    • Doug May 30, 2013 at 4:46 am #

      Lee, I suppose my headline was misleading. The list gives us the characteristics or qualities we should aspire to. If the list really were about requirements, we’d have a small membership. As a follow up I should print the characteristics of pastors. I’m glad you’re still working on the love God and love neighbor stuff. So am I.

  6. Gail Monsma May 29, 2013 at 11:32 pm #

    Yup, there’s an excellent Confirmation curriculum written on these principles from 1989 or 1990 and I contend that the youth have learned about this and found us lacking. On the other hand, WHAT IF?? How exciting!

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