Monday, September 6, 2010

Membership Has its...Responsibilities

Remember the old American Express commercial "membership has its privileges?"  Well, the United Methodist Church could say "with privilege comes responsibility."  In the book, Restoring Methodism, by James and Molly Scott, it is asserted that according to findings by the National Council of Churches in the book Why Conservative Churches are Growing the "primary reason conservative churches were growing was their clear and strict rules for belief and practice, which translated into membership requirements."  The book further stated that conservative did not necessarily mean conservative in the beliefs and practices they were so strict about, and often these conservative churches were liberal in their social gospel. 

Simply put, the churches required something from their members, and so in order to be received into the membership of the church one would be required to attend classes before taking the membership vows.  I personally take confirmation of the youth very seriously and they are required to attend classes before they can join the church, but I have been admittedly lax in this when it comes to adult membership.  A friend of mind posed this question to United Methodist Clergy on facebook, "Does your church require training in a membership class before a person may join?" I would love to, but would feel the need to apologize for those who are already members who do not live up to their membership vows. 

The book Restoring Methodism also suggests that if members are not supporting their church by their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness, our membership vows, then we should remove them from membership rolls of the church.  John Wesley was known to hold Societies accountable, but he was also known to allow himself to be held accountable.  What do you think it would be like if United Methodist Churches today removed those members who were not fulfilling the covenant vows made at their membership? 

Since I feel the biggest threat to Christianity today are 'token' Christians, those who are Christian in name only and their actions are far from the ideals and teachings of Christ, I think more accountability is necessary.  But how do we bring this about?  My question is how do we get from here (with low or no accountability) to there (where we hold our members accountable and require membership classes to become a member)?  If you are a member of The United Methodist Church, would you be willing to be held accountable to your membership vows?  Would you be willing to take a class for membership?  And would you be willing to take "refresher courses" as you or your pastor felt was needed? 

Let me hear your thoughts on this subject.

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