Why do churches have so many members who give little or no evidence of Christian commitment or even conversion? Why do many churches find it difficult to motivate members to give, serve, pray and share their faith?
The answer is simple. The members were allowed to join with no expectations placed on them. You get what you ask for!
While becoming a Christian means to commit yourself to Christ, becoming a church member means to commit yourself to other Christians. Paul mentions two different types of commitment in 2 Corinthians 8:5 – “First they gave themselves to the Lord; and then, by God’s will, they gave themselves to us as well” (GNT).
At Saddleback, we call these the first-base commitments. You commit yourself to Christ for salvation, and then you commit yourself to other Christians for membership in our church family.
At Saddleback, we only expect of our members what the Bible clearly expects of all believers. These expectations are summarized in our membership covenant. It is the most important element of our membership class.
We have four requirements for membership:
A personal profession of Christ as Lord and Savior, baptism by immersion as a public symbol of one’s faith, completion of the membership class, and a signed commitment to abide by Saddleback’s membership covenant.
I urge you to prayerfully prepare and adopt a membership covenant in your congregation if you don’t have one. It can revolutionize your church.
You may worry, “If we adopt a membership covenant, there will be some who leave our church over it.” You’re right. There will be some. But here is the reality: People are going to leave your church no matter what you do. Don’t be afraid of people leaving. People even walked away from Jesus.
When your congregation adopts a membership covenant, at least you’re choosing the kind of people that stay.
The Saddleback Membership Covenant
Having received Christ as my Lord and Savior and been baptized, and being in agreement with Saddleback’s statements, strategy and structure, I now feel led by the Holy Spirit to unite with the Saddleback church family. In doing so, I commit myself to God and to the other members to do the following:
1. I will protect the unity of my church.
- By acting in love toward other members
- By refusing to gossip
- By following the leaders
So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up (Romans 14:19 NLT).