Kroc Church Membership Class - Week 1
It is my great privilege to be able to teach new member classes at Kroc Church. Tonight I started the second set of the year. They run for six weeks and cover TSA history, doctrine and distinctives about Kroc Church. At the end of the class participants (hopefully) have learned a bunch about their church and have the opportunity to become members. It's a lot of fun. Over the next six weeks I've decided to post brief synopses of the classes for you who happen to view this blog.
Tonight, week 1, was Salvation Army history. We watched an hour long documentary called Our People:
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It's a really well done look at the founding of The Salvation Army. William and Catherine Booth are shown in a really fairly honest light (TSA often idolizes their "founder"). The Holy Spirit really moved in this couple to do a great work of God. They were often stubborn and autocratic, but God used them in powerful ways. Many people owe their salvation (humanly speaking) to the Booths and the movement they started. It's interesting because so few people know about the history of the Army. These are the same people that are surprised that I am a pastor at a Salvation Army church. "It's a church?" If I had a dollar for every time...
I believe that this is primarily because The Salvation Army is such a good social service organization (and it is). Our humanitarian work often overshadows our Gospel work. I think this is a shame and something we definitely need to work on nationally. However, the people who deal with The Salvation Army know that we are a church and our motivation is the love of Christ. I guess that's what counts the most.
The other thing that we talked about tonight was the idea of membership. Membership is hard for a lot of people in the church. The Salvation Army requires members to sign a membership covenant. Full members, called Soldiers, have to swear off drinking, smoking and gambling too. It's a big deal and many people aren't excited about it. In the church I grew up in, "come once you're a visitor, come twice you're a member." This worked well until the congregation was required, according to the church's bylaws, to vote on something. Then membership was based on tithing records.
I don't think it matters how a church decides to keep track of members as long as the leadership acts according to their convictions. I do think the idea of belonging is really important, and the New Testament is full of passages showing an inside vs. outside distinction. We are called to obey our leaders (Hebrews 13:17), judge those inside the church in regards to sin (1 Corinthians 5:12), and support those in the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). We can't do that if we don't know who is part of the church and who isn't. The way I like to say it is that The Salvation Army chooses to identify those that are part of the local expression of the body of Christ here through a formal membership process and member's covenant. Other churches are free to use other methods to handle the question, but a more "traditional" membership is how our church does it. The onus is on us to make sure our methods don't focus our effort on numbers and membership rolls just for numbers sake. If you are a member here, we are gonna make sure you have a job to do and we are going to do our best to help you grow in Christ. It's the leadership's responsibility to do that, not just count people (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Overall it was a good class. There were 22 in attendance. I'm hoping that many last until the end. We start discussing doctrine next week. That's when it really gets fun.