“Maturing Members or New Members?”
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in His Great Commission made it quite clear that The Church is to go and make disciples of all nations. Jesus tells us then how that is done; by baptizing and teaching. The Church is not charged to try to find, attract, lure or steal disciples, but to make them. A disciple is a child of God who is committed, generous, devoted to God’s Word, maturing, frequently partakes of the Lord’s Supper and follows Jesus. A disciple is enabled by Christ to be a servant!
Over the decades I have frequently heard that cry that the church needs new members. I haven’t been around any church that hasn’t promoted their need for new members. Interesting, Jesus didn’t say much about ‘new members.’ He spoke a lot about seeking and saving the lost, loving one another, sharing His Word and making disciples. So the issue has to be raised why such the insistence on new members? Is it that new members are needed and asked to carry the load, do the ministry and support the church as a lot of current members aren’t? Are new members asked to do work so that many current members can continue in their current state of being comfortable and serving little or doing nothing at all? Are new members being asked to prop up a declining church to keep tradition alive as many members have moved on with their lives having little, if nothing to do with God? St. Peter’s has a lot of members; some are very dedicated, some attend once a month, some twice a year, some at Christmas and Easter, some only come during a crises, a celebration, or if they need something. Some members don’t come at all and they’re other members that I as your pastor of 13 years have never met; we don’t have their addresses or know their location. St. Peter’s has a lot of members! My call document stated that St. Peter’s had 1040 members. So in some ways we painfully must explore that even if we greatly increase the number of “members,” how exactly that would be a blessing to our ministry or The Kingdom? Maybe that’s why Jesus didn’t preach and focus upon “Church members that much!” Jesus did focus on calling the lost and maturing His people! Jesus did say that He would grow His church! We’re called to scatter The Seed.
What our Lord did tell us to do was to “Go and make disciples.” Before we move on, I don’t and I’ll repeat it again I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t appreciate or want new members, that’s not true at all. What I do desire are members, current and new, who are growing in their faith and seek to serve God and mature. A blessing of God is that He will constantly send us ‘new members!’ The power of the Holy Spirit and the Word will attract God’s people and lead them to faith and maturity. (However, that might not be as plentiful as we desire!) Instead of the insistence on getting ‘new members,’ and only growing by ‘new members,’ it may be just as crucial is to mature all the sheep God brought to us, and that begins with you and me. Everything I do and everything you do needs to be about maturing current members and furthering making disciples. Disciples, like healthy sheep, tend to multiply. Unchurched folks, who may be interested in God, would be attracted to a church that matures sheep and disciples into real life change. Godly life change is a bright light in an ever darkening world. We as a church may even be pleasantly surprised with the fruit that grows from making disciples and maturing members more than a plea for new members to come and ‘rescue us.’ Change begins with us; that’s you and me. Are we maturing? Are we open to the Holy Spirit molding us and making us into a disciple? By Christ’s death and God’s grace let it be especially for a Church that declares “Sharing Christ and Growing Disciples!” Pastor Mews