What is partnership?
Partnership, which is often referred to as church membership, is a formal relationship between a local church and a Christian. Partnership is really just a reflection of the organic relationships and community that already exists in the local body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:27-28 says, "Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the church." In the New Testament, Christians are always recognized as belonging to a specific church community where their discipleship growth is both affirmed and strengthened in the care of that church and its leaders.
Some people are quick to dismiss church membership because they think it means making people jump through hoops or being part of a club. Or they think it means erecting standards of behavior for the sake of entry. All of these things sound like the opposite of God’s grace, which is free. So why, in our modern day and age, would we encourage church partnership? Here are three reasons why we believe that becoming a Partner at Elm City Church is a great thing.
1. It's Biblical
Even though there is no verse that explicitly says, “You must become a member of a church,” it is implied all throughout the New Testament. In fact, there are 59 “one another” commands in the New Testament! Just a few of the “one anothers” that followers of Jesus are called to are: “accept one another (Rom. 15:7),” “care for one another” (Gal. 6:2), “commit to one another” (1 Jn. 3:16), and “be accountable to one another” (Eph. 5:21). These commands only make sense in the context of an identified group of “one anothers,” which is a specific local church.
2. It's Practical
Christian leaders have been called to lovingly care for and serve specific people. The writer of Hebrews says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account..." (Hebrews 13:17). There's a lot of mutual weight and responsibility in that idea, but it naturally raises the question, "are church leaders responsible for everyone in their midst?" Elsewhere, Peter told leaders, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care" (1 Peter 5:2). Like a shepherd cares for their specific sheep, so should a leader care for their specific people. Partnership, then, becomes one of the most practical ways that these specific people are identified and cared for in ways that go beyond general Christian charity.
3. it's beneficial
Individualist Christianity is a myth. Lone-Range Christianity is a dangerous pursuit. As followers of Jesus, not only have we been saved into a new life, but we've been placed into a larger family. And this larger family brings with it benefits that going at it alone never could. For instance, being part of a specific church family ensures that you have a group of people who are publicly committed to loving you, serving you, and watching over you. You will grow in your relationship with Jesus because you have a community committed to encouraging you, building you up, strengthening you, praying for you, and holding you accountable (Heb. 10:24). In other words, you now have a tangible, spiritual family that has your back and is committed to seeing you "Practice the Way of Jesus Together.”