Members or owners

“Did she really say that?” I wondered to myself.

She did.

As the church began to grow, one of the members commented to me directly, “I like my little church exactly the way it is.”

I am not sure what I said in the moment. I may not have said anything at all. But her comment hints at a bigger problem in the church: a pandemic of personal preference.

I recently heard a conference speaker explain the difference between the mindset of church members versus owners. He said, “Members have rights, but owners have responsibility.” Whether someone prefers the term members or owners isn’t the point of this article. For those who are on the church roll, we would all be better off if each person took responsibility for the well-being of the church.

What are the responsibilities of a church member? This list is not exhaustive, but it is a good starting place.

1. I am responsible to attend the services of my church: As a child growing up in a Kentucky Baptist church, I remember hearing the older men voice the closing prayer each week. They would inevitably pray, “Lord, see us safely home and bring us back at the next appointed time, unless we are providentially hindered.” Even as a little boy, I knew that half-hearted excuses for missing church did not qualify for being “providentially hindered.”

2. I am responsible to give financially to the work of my church: Your church pays a pastor and possibly other staff. The church has bills and financial obligations. Kentucky Baptist churches invest heavily in ministry and missions through the Cooperative Program. Every church member should give a tithe of their income to help fund the work of their church.

3. I am responsible to pray for my congregation: While reading through Nehemiah recently, I was reminded that God’s work will always face opposition. If your church is carrying out the will of God, it will face opposing forces. We must pray that the church will stay on mission and carry out its assignment in its community and the world — especially as the culture grows more hostile to our message.

4. I am responsible to guard the unity of the church: Christians are unified by our common belief in the God of the Bible, the Bible itself, the cross and resurrection of Jesus and much more. As a church member, I am responsible to guard the unity we have in Christ. I must guard it by believing the best about fellow church members, and not participating in gossip or division. We should settle disputes in a way that honors Jesus.

5. I am responsible to grow as a Christian: Growing, maturing Christians are a blessing to their church. Growing Christians tend to become more humble, more patient, more caring and more loving. These are the kind of people who are attractive to outsiders. Every church needs more people who are growing in Christ.

6. I am responsible to serve according to my gifts and availability: God has gifted each church member for service and every member can do something to help the ministry and mission of the congregation. I may not be able to sing on tune or even in time, but I can preach a sermon and I love to greet people who attend the services. Everyone can do something and the thing we can do is needed in our local assembly.

7. I am responsible to share the good news of Jesus: There is only one way to be saved and that is by hearing the gospel, repenting of sin and trusting in Christ for salvation. For lost people to hear the message, we must share it. There are not enough preachers in Kentucky to share the good news with all the lost people in our state. We are each responsible to share Jesus with others.

Whether your church uses the term “member” or “owner” or something else to refer to those who are on its roll, my prayer is that you and I will be the kind of Christian who takes their responsibility seriously and makes a worthwhile contribution to the life of our local church.

May your church be better off because you are part of it.

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