Often when we think of membership, we consider the benefits to us. What does the organization or club have to offer? What do we get out of it? Why this group or association rather than another? But when it comes to the church, the benefit is not mainly for self. It is first and foremost to bring honor to Christ. It is also to serve each other.
Before someone gives his or her life over to Christ, much of the mentality is consumeristic. Once the Spirit of Christ invades the heart, the mindset is transformed to be occupied with giving and offering. That includes participation with the family of God. It is no longer a fellowship for self-sake but God’s sake and others sake.
Originally, when the church was born 2,000 years ago, there was only one local congregation per town, if that! One may have to travel 10 miles to assemble with other like-minded individuals. What a cherished experience to rub shoulders in the company of those that live the same countercultural lifestyle. It is often still this way in parts of Africa and Asia where traveling by foot for half a day to join the church is the norm.
Now in America, particularly in some parts like the South, there is an assembly on every block. Like the ice cream parlor, there are too many flavors to choose from. If you don’t like the pastor, the building, the décor, the people, or the location, there are options galore. This is not a good thing for the most part. There is something about not being able to choose your pastor, the people, or the gathering place to be a healthy matter [within reason]. Either way, we must still choose whom we are going to place ourselves under. The main consideration is what leader we will submit our lives to in order to be guided, shepherded, and trained. Christ has established leaders for the local body. Of course, some men should never lead and are imposters set up by the evil one. Yet, we have guidelines in scripture to prevent such scenarios and to call out those that are hypocrites not living above reproach. These guidelines can be read and understood by most anyone.
The church is an organism that makes corporate decisions. Sometimes that decision may be to discipline an individual in grotesque sin and other times it is to approve of a new elder/pastor. But if there is no difference between those that visit once a year that don’t have genuine faith in Christ and those that attend every fellowship and cherish Christ, then how can the vote be legitimate? Yes, at one time, membership in the church just meant being active in the only local congregation within 10 miles. It was the rural expression of the universal family. Now, we must reveal that we are serious about being accountable to the leaders, the other attendees, and the biblical doctrine itself based on the local congregation we choose. We join through covenant relationship with the others because like our faith in Christ we desire to be totally committed.
There are various metaphors used in scripture referring to the individuals forming the church such as members, partners, stewards, citizens, and soldiers. At COR, we have chosen the term Partner to express that we all have a part to play, we serve alongside each other as partners, and we are not in it to get something out of it for ourselves as much as offer our time, resources, and gifts. Several verses in scripture use this word describing our participation [Philippians 1:3-5, Hebrews 10:32-33, Revelation 1:9]. Church is not a spectator sport, and we believe the terminology utilized must explain that reality. We do not believe in a “what can you do for me” mentality. Obviously, some begin gathering with the church having this mindset initially, but it must never remain.
We are not called to follow the leadership of every pastor. So, which one is Christ calling us to? We can’t bear the burdens of everyone, so whose will we align with even if inconvenient? We are not to use or consume the benefits of a local body but are to offer and contribute our gifts. So where will we Partner? Will we be all in? There was often only one local body in a town in the 1st century. Now we must choose.
Becoming a COR Partner means going public with our faith. It includes participating in the ordinances of baptism and Communion as a way of expressing our life of faith in Christ. It is an intentional investment in the local church, providing a voice amongst the corporate group, and challenging us to hold accountable each other in our faith journey including restoring those that are weak or struggling. Our core values and beliefs are listed on our website. When someone is aligned with these standards, it will guide them to serve others, be in a smaller group together, and give generously without compulsion. Is Christ calling you to be a COR Partner? Contact us with questions.