Faith Community vs. Membership

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Many of you may remember when Peace Lutheran was first organized, before we had a name, a Constitution, or members, everyone who worshipped with us belonged to our faith community. Whenever we needed to make a decision in establishing this congregation, everybody was invited to participate. Even children could offer their input and cast their vote along with the adults!  Most of the decisions made were unanimous or very nearly 100% in favor. Those elected to positions of service were mostly self-nominated, and affirmed by the rest of us, and everything that needed to get accomplished every step of the way got done!

As we made “progress,” we developed a Constitution to guide us in who was a member and who was not, and who could vote and who could not, how leadership was to be elected, and all those things necessary to be incorporated and regulated. I truly appreciated all the hard work and hours some of you devoted to these details. We probably would not be where we are today without all that.

I’ve sensed in the past few years that people have different ideas about what membership means. Some folks who worship with us are not interested in being a member of the congregation, while others think they are members without going through the proper procedure. There are individuals on our official membership roster who have not worshipped with us for months, while several non-members worship with us frequently.

I’m wondering if we are at a point where we might reconsider our beginning faith community, where everybody who comes here would have a sense of belonging without being labeled a member. After all, Jesus had followers and disciples, not members, and he commands us to “go and make disciples,” not members. Would it be so difficult to be kind and friendly to those who are not members? Couldn’t our leadership be just as capably chosen from among our worshipping community? Is there any good reason not to include everybody who is willing to serve Christ and his church whether they are a member or not?

I have asked the Church Council to think about this; now I am asking the whole congregation. It would require making a few changes in the wording of our Constitution and Bylaws. It would also require a change in our attitude about who belongs at Peace, with the privileges and responsibilities that go with belonging. It would certainly take some time and planning to work effectively, so we won’t rush into anything. Please share with me or those on Church Council what you think. The bottom line could be that we look at each other a little differently, brothers and sisters in Christ, all working together in this place to accomplish the mission for which we have been called.

Pastor Kurt Wandrey