Sunday, July 16, 2023

Members Or Partners?

Recently I was invited to give a class on the book of Philippians in Africa. The students, I'm told, would be pastors from 4 different national churches that have partnered together for the purpose of church planting and pastoral training. I thought to myself, "How appropriate to teach Philippians to people like that. After all, the letter is all about partnering together for the sake of the gospel."

Did you know that some local churches refer to their parishioners, not as "members," but as "partners"? They don't have "members meetings." They have "partners meetings." People aren't asked to consider becoming a member of the church. They are asked to consider becoming a partner with the work. In sermons, they are not referred to as "church members" but as "church partners." In one such church, their website invites people to "become a partner." 

If you see our church as your home church, you are encouraged to explore Partnership -- a commitment to regular fellowship with others, and to prayer, serving, and giving.

Now this is a church that understands the concept of church membership!

Webster defines "member" as "a distinct part of a whole." It defines "partner" as "one who is united or associated with another or others in an activity or a sphere of common interest." A synonym of membership is roster. A synonym of partnership is collaboration. "Member" implies we're together in time and place, but "partnership" implies were together in purpose and spirit. "Member" means we're together in location, but "partnership" means were together in labor, sharing the same goals, values, and guiding principles based on Scripture. Members know where the church meets. Partners know why the church exists.

Partnership. How we need that concept today. Membership on a roll is never enough. There is no substitute for people who are willing and able to serve the kingdom of God alongside others. William Carey had Adoniram Judson. Lottie Moon had the Missionary Union. Every mission unit that Christ sent out in the book of Acts was a team of two or more so that the burden was shared. God's work needs everyone working together. We all need to see ourselves as partners in the task.

Pastor friend, would you consider leading your congregation in a nomenclature change from "member" to "partner," from "membership" to "partnership"? It's something to think about.