Recently the church began to rethink its lack of any clearly defined membership and BF gave this handout to people who came to the meeting where they explained some of these things. It is worth noting how membership has been defined until very recently. It is also worth noting how much space he spends defending that type of membership and discrediting what he defines as an “American model of church membership.” A model which often helps to prevent many of the abuses that have been practiced at Grace Church in Mt. Pleasant, MI. It is also interesting to observe how ambiguous his three points are which refer to the new way they are “valuing membership.” Hopefully they spelled that out in greater clarity elsewhere in the meeting. In light of the stories on this page, it is also very disturbing that he is so intentional about emphasizing the way this new membership will further enable the “forming and honoring of it’s leaders.”
Unfortunately, unless a clearly defined group of members possess the authority to hold the pastor and other leaders accountable by approving and removing them, everything listed here could easily be nothing more than an attempt on the part of leadership to further protect themselves (especially from legal liability) by getting their people to agree to their abusive tactics in writing. In return the members may get nothing more than one meeting each year where they can run the risk of direct or indirect repercussions by daring to question anything the leaders are doing. And without the proper checks and balances, even if they are so brave, and even if they’re right, it doesn’t mean the leaders have to take it seriously or that anything will change unless they approve it. While some of the ingredients may have been slightly altered, this is still a recipe for disaster. Our opinion on what should happen can be found here.
Thoughts from Pastor BF
Grace Church Inaugural Annual Meeting
Why is Grace Church doing Church Membership now? What is the impetus for what we’re doing? Actually, it was my idea NOT to have official membership in the way we’re proposing it now, when we planted the church… that is to say, not organizing a defined membership list of people who are officially Grace Church members. I want to be clear at the outset:, Young Church and now Grace Church have ALWAYS had membership! In the early days of birthing the church, I borrowed a phrase from a friend of mine and put it into our first constitution. You may not know, but this friend was the one who first introduced me to Christ and planted a Vineyard church in Syracuse that was about 7 years old at the time of our church’s birth. The phrase went like this: ‘In as much as you relate and participate, you’re a member. If you relate and participate a lot, you’re a lot a member, if you relate and participate a little, you’re a little bit a member.” In shorthand, I called it, ‘Relate and Participate Membership.’ It’s a pretty good little axiom if you think about it… it replaced the typical American democratic model of church membership where you go through a membership class and unless you’re really unfit to be a member, everybody is in and everybody has equal influence: it’s one man (or one woman) one vote… from the 18 year old to the 60 year old. If you’ve ever been in a church that even works well within the American democratic model, you get the sense of a business meeting when they gather for their annual meeting: sterility and man-driven bureaucracy, governed by Roberts Rules of Order. Further, those who are good at learning the ways of getting to a position of influence work well within this system. They are able to learn the ways of church membership they can influence the church in directions that grieve the Holy Spirit, and the Body can do nothing about it. In the American model of church membership, such people can do what they do with sanctioned authority… it is their church-constitution-based ‘right’! The church that operates in this way deserves what it gets. I, as the leader of the Young Church, felt led of the Spirit to do it differently. We determined that those most involved relationally and participation-wise, should have the most influence.
So, that all sounds like a well thought-out reason for doing what we did in the past. I think ultimately our reasons were a lot simpler for defining membership the way we did early on. ‘Relate and participate’ membership makes biblical sense, it’s easy to understand, AND it virtually eliminates paperwork (no digitized, computer work) and bureaucracy and the false sense of control that such brings. Even though I was a medical administrator before entering full-time ministry, I realized early on as the ‘Chief of Medical Information Systems,’ most paperwork seems official and important, but most of it really isn’t, and is mostly irrelevant, ignored, or simply used as a way to protect people from getting sued. Maintaining such a system is time-consuming… ask any doctor today how frustrating it is for them to have to limit their time with patients because of the massive amount of digital documentation work they must do.
From a maturing church perspective, the thing about the new way we’re valuing membership, is that it still highly values ‘Relate and Participate’ membership. BUT it also gives:
- an increased sense of clarity (written) for those who seriously desire to be a living and active part of the Body of Christ, according to the Scriptures;
- a clear sense of the Bible’s authority in defining the essential nature of Body-life to the Christ-follower’s spiritual growth;
- it recognizes how sacred and valuable Body-life is as we glorify God to the fullest extent possible.
Further, membership should be helpful in facilitating growth and unity in the Body while forming and honoring it’s leaders. It can also be very helpful in giving clear guidance in times of transition and crisis, whether that be dealing with someone who is being sexually immoral, someone who gossips or manipulates, or the death of a Pastor. It annually allows the church leadership, and people in the church, to deal with personal issues, concerns, and leadings of the Spirit that develop, or hinder, Body-life in order to keep the church unified, powerful in the Spirit, and effective at transforming souls and culture.
I am Blessed to be a fellow member and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ with you all.
– Pastor BF