Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Churches Expect from Members

After listing four expectations their church has of their members, Steve Stroope, the lead pastor at Lake Pointe Baptist Church in Rockwell, Texas, states, “Every church you would ever join expects these things of you. The difference is that they just won’t tell you. We let you know up front what is expected. The only difference is communication, not expectation.”

As I think about it, before I was baptized, I stood before the small church I was joining and we read through the Church Covenant. I was eight years old at the time, just old enough to grasp most of the concepts. Before I was permitted to join the church, I was asked to agree to that covenant. The next church I joined didn’t have a copy of the Church Covenant hanging on the wall. Some of the church members had never seen it and it even surprised one of the men the church ordained as a deacon, shortly after I became a member. But whether a church has the Church Covenant on display or not, every church has expectations of their members.

Church Attendance at Worship Services

If you don’t think churches expect their members to attend worship services, you haven’t noticed the attendance boards that are in nearly every church. Some churches place these board at the front of the auditorium, for everyone to see. Sometimes these boards are placed in a back hallway or near the church office. Or they may be virtual and take the form of a number that appears in the bulletin, but churches want to know how many people show up each week. And when the count is lower than normal, they start looking around and asking, “Who didn’t show up this week?”

Spiritual Growth

It isn’t enough for members to just show up in the services. Churches want their members to grow spiritually. One of the things churches do is provide formal means by which their members can experience spiritual growth. They do this through sermons and classes of various kinds. But they also expect their members to take the initiative to study the Bible on their own.

Financial Support

Churches expect their members to give money to support the work of the church. Generally, churches ask their members to give ten percent (a tithe) or more of their income. Their membership may not always be aware of what they are expected to give because many pastors hate to preach about giving, but the expectation is there, nonetheless.

Working in Church Ministry

Many people look for a church based on what the church can provide them, without thought of becoming involved in the ministry of the church. That is the wrong view to have of church. Church is a body of believers coming together serve the Lord. While the members do benefit from that service, they are not meeting the expectations of the church if they are not also doing something in the way of service.

Moral Behavior as Defined by God’s Word

A church expects its members to live by a high moral standard. This means things like not having sex outside of marriage. It means things like seeking to resolve arguments. It means putting in an honest day’s work with one’s employer. It means abstaining from the use of alcohol and drugs, and not becoming an enabler for people who might be taken in by them.

Sharing the Gospel

One of the great responsibilities of the church is to share the gospel with the world. That isn’t going to happen if the members of a church don’t share the gospel with the people they meet.

I can’t help but wonder how many people join churches without giving any thought to the expectations the church has of them. I met one woman who selected yes on a form that asked, “Do you want to become a member?” even though it was the first time she had visited the church. She thought that church membership meant that she would be placed on a mailing list.

One woman had been attending a church for several weeks and was a little peeved. Each week, someone would announce that such and such person was now a member of the church. Some of these people had been attending the church less time than she had and she couldn’t understand why the church hadn’t asked her to be a member. She posted a question about church membership on a website for mothers. And though some of the answers told her to ask the pastor of the church how to become a member, most of the women who responded seemed as clueless as she did when it came to understanding the concept of church membership.

So, it would seem that Steve Stroope is right. Many churches are not letting people know up front what is expected of them. That is a communication problem.