We could answer that question by referring to the rights and privileges membership offers. According to our church Constitution (Article IV, Section 3, for those who are keeping score at home) membership gives you the right to attend, speak, and vote at business sessions. Additionally, it is generally assumed that being elected to serve on one of our various standing committees requires membership as a prior condition (though the Constitution never explicitly states this). Constitutionally speaking, that’s about it; non-members can participate in and enjoy every other aspect of church life that is available to members.
“So let me get this straight,” some of you may be thinking right about now, “if I don’t ever join Bayshore I can still be involved in almost every aspect of church life. I can sing in the choir or play in the band, participate in a Sunday School class, eat at fellowship meals, serve on mission projects, attend youth and children’s events, and enjoy the worship that is offered up every week? AND, I won’t ever have to attend a business meeting or serve on a committee? Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!”
But what if there’s another way to ask the question? Instead of asking how my membership could benefit me, perhaps I should ask how my membership could benefit the church. On the outside fold of your bulletin every week, there is a paragraph that begins with the following sentence: “Membership is a commitment to identify with this church in its mission to love God and to serve the needs of others.” I like that wording. Membership is a commitment. When you become a member you are essentially saying, “I claim the mission of this church as my own. I now own this church’s purpose as my purpose.” Membership means you want your connection to Bayshore to be more than casual, more than a matter of convenience; you want it to be a matter of identity.
Please understand that as Baptists we are careful to make a distinction between church membership and personal salvation. One can be saved anywhere, anytime. All you have to do is repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Lord Savior. We are saved by grace through faith, not by having our name on a membership roster somewhere (see Ephesians 2: 8-9). But as we have been learning from the book of James this past month, being truly saved ought to lead to a measureable change in our lives. If we are truly united with Jesus, then we also need to be united with Jesus’ people.
If you are involved at Bayshore but have never taken the step of actually becoming a member, I encourage you to consider doing so. Yes, we generally ask those who have never received believer’s baptism to do so. I understand the wrinkle this represents for some, especially those who might have been baptized as an infant in another Christian tradition. (I understand it because my family has faced it; I married a life-long Methodist who was willing to be immersed even though she’d been a believer for decades and even had a seminary degree!) We ask this not because we want to be legalistic, but rather because believer’s baptism is itself an expression of this church’s identity.
Wherever you are on your spiritual journey, please know that you are welcome here. Maybe you are just trying this Christianity thing on for size. Maybe you’ve been burned by church in the past and you simply want to ease back into it. Maybe you are here for reasons that you haven’t fully figured out yet. Whatever your story, we are glad you are here, and we want you to feel free to move at your pace. But in God’s good time, we also hope you’ll eventually move from being an attender to being a member – someone who is not only interested in Bayshore’s mission, but who wants to claim it as your own. If you have any questions about this or want to pursue it further, please don’t hesitate to seek out any of our ministry staff, myself included.
See you next Sunday!