This question is to my Christian readers... Do you think of yourself as more of a church member or as a disciple?
The workshop that Mike and I attended in Phoenix focused on discipleship. That is just not a word we use much anymore, is it? I don't know any other word that adequately replaces it, though. I went to Merriam-Webster and found this simple definition: "one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another". That seems simple enough. Read it again, though. I think that a "member" of a church maybe aligns with the first part of the definition, but perhaps not the rest. I myself have been guilty of making comments such as saying that I like a smaller church. I feel comfortable in a smaller congregation. But, it is not supposed to be about me, is it? We aren't supposed to be working to get a congregation just how we like it.
The workshop's main presenter, Michael Foss is author of two books I like, Power Surge and The Disciples Joy. I know he has written others as well. He spoke of how our society views the word, membership. He spoke of members of places like Sam's Club as having certain privileges but no particular responsibilities to the club. In a similar way of thinking, some feel being a member of a congregation means you have a place for weddings, funerals, etc. He hopes we can move beyond that way of thinking and start realizing what we are actually called to do, that is to be disciples.
Membership is not a bad thing, it just isn't ALL there is to this church deal. Joining a congregation, or becoming a member, is important. It is like a public commitment saying that you want to live together in faith as part of that Christian community. But we aren't to just stop with that and settle in to enjoy ourselves. Discipleship within a Christian context MUST contain the second half of the definition above. That is to say, discipleship constitutes "spreading the doctrines."
One thing I heard at this workshop was that we had no right to keep this to ourselves. If we are truly trying to follow in Christ's ways, we aren't just trying to get our own little lives set up all happy and forgiven, we are trying to help others attain that same joy. We serve the God who calls us to CHANGE THE WORLD!
He talked a lot about how to build people up and allow them to do their ministry without always being tied down by committees and such. He spoke of developing leadership skills and utilizing the talents of everyone, not just the same few. He gave ideas of mentoring people as well. One idea I got from that was perhaps I need to offer to mentor new Sunday School Teachers so that others may enjoy the fun of that as I have. He spoke of committee leaders as well. A good committee leader will look for other leaders, train them to take over, and then perhaps move on to lead in a new way.
Most of all, though, I think we were being encouraged to think outside the box, to find new and better ways of being a church. This may mean we have to let go of some of the control we hold onto. It occurred to me that the "box" may be the church building. We are called to think outside that box. Rather than putting all our focus on our congregation or building, we are called to go out to the world and share the gift we've been given.
When he spoke of inviting others, he said that may not be enough. Think about it, church is unfamiliar to many. It may seem downright scary! Maybe we need to offer to pick people up, sit by them, whisper explanations in their ear during the service if necessary.
Additionally, we MUST speak of our faith. Seriously. How are others to know if we are silent? I know, it is hard! I'm not talking about being weird or pushy. I am just talking about making a little statement such as, "I prayed for you this morning." That may be all it takes to open a door...just a few simple words.
Another thing Michael Foss said was that pastors are overly burdened. As a pastor's wife, I can tell you that is an absolute truth. Few realize the burdens my husband carries alone. Why is that? Why aren't more of us sharing that burden? A thought crossed my mind that when churches started hiring pastors, some took it as though they were outsourcing their own discipleship. Think about that. Do you think there is truth to that? It is easy to get in the mode of thinking "leave it to the professional."
I would just like to recommend that you purchase one of the books above (also available on Kindle). We are each called to discipleship. We maybe just need a little reminder now and then.