Pastoral Perspectives

Why are we harping so much on Membership?

This year, we have given some emphasis to the importance of church membership. As part of our mission to love God and make disciples, we want to build up the community of God’s people here in True Way along the 3Cs – biblical Convictions, Christ-like Character and Competency in doing kingdom’s work. For any community to thrive, for any community to be serious in wanting to build each other up, commitment is necessary and the first step in this direction is to become a member of the church where we make our vows before God and the community that we will be committed to Sunday worship, committed to serving the Lord using our abilities and material possessions and committed to showing love by building each other up. The grace that enables us to put our faith in Jesus is the same grace that will empower us to uphold our pledge of commitment.

I first brought up the subject of membership during the church camp in June where we had a very interactive dialogue session. Since not everyone went for the camp, I decided to preach a sermon on 5 August entitled ‘Is Church Membership really required?’ to reach out to the whole congregation. (If you were not present that Sunday, please tune in to> Resources-> Sermons.) This is followed by one more dialogue session last Sunday during community lunch. As you can see, I am wrapping up the whole education process with a perspective.

I want to assure you that I am not hard selling membership so that I can boast to the world how huge True Way Presbyterian Church – English Congregation is. You don’t see our membership size reflected anywhere in our bulletin. What the bulletin reflects is only the Sunday attendance. The only time we have to make known such information in a report is when the English Presbytery AGM comes around.

One of the hot topics that arose from the two dialogue sessions was the sharing of testimony in front of the congregation. Some have expressed that they are too afraid to engage in public speaking. This has caused them to withhold their baptism or transfer. Some asked whether other Presbyterian churches have this requirement. Some even questioned whether it is biblical for us to have such a requirement: “Does the Bible command us to give our testimony before we can be baptised?” I want to be upfront and inform everyone that this is not a requirement by the denomination and neither is it a commandment in the bible. However, why should we find fault in giving our testimonies when they serve to glorify God (remember we are trophies of God’s grace and our testimonies will point people to God) and they also serve to edify the congregation? We should be sharing our testimonies on the go but a good start is for us to share on the day we make our commitment or re-commitment to God and his people during our baptism or transfer respectively.

A sister at one of the dialogue sessions shared that she too had a lot of fear when it came to public speaking. But she thought to herself: “Since I have decided to join this community and submit to the leadership of the pastors here, I should obey what they are asking me to do as long as it doesn’t contradict God’s will and surely the sharing of testimony cannot be contrary to God’s will.” She came forward for her transfer and managed her fear in public speaking just by focusing her eyes on a specific place in the sanctuary when she shared her testimony. As I have mentioned in my sermon on membership, leadership recognises that we should not put unnecessary obstacles to discourage people from coming forward for their baptism/transfer so we are prepared to work something out with you so that your story is still told albeit in a way that is not so daunting for you.

I really appeal to the long term regular worshippers in our midst to transfer your membership to True Way. Some of you are already integrated into this community; it really doesn’t make sense for your name to still be parked in the nominal roll of your previous church when you are no longer part of the community there. Some of you are spouses of members of True Way. What does it mean to be one with your spouse? If you are apprehensive over the number of sessions the membership class entails, see this as another opportunity to learn God’s Word concerning the doctrine of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit, of the Bible and of the Church. The materials for the class are designed to help you say your vows with understanding. There is one lesson on Presbyterianism where you will get to learn the distinctives of being a Presbyterian. I am sure you will grow much in the knowledge of God and his purposes as you attend the class.

 As a church leadership, we really want to take our responsibilities seriously: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17) and “shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you…”(1 Peter 5:2)

As a member of the church, you will get to vote your leaders into office, and once they are voted in, they are your shepherds, pastors and elders who have to exercise oversight and give an account for you before the Lord as they keep watch over your soul. For the oversight to be effective, we are urging every member of the church to belong to a Discipleship Group (DG). We are not a big church; neither are we a small church. The DG will be a good platform for the shepherds to be accountable for you. Every DG is under the purview of a pastor/elder and if there are pastoral concerns that the DGLs cannot handle or would like the pastor/elder to come alongside, the shepherd can be called upon to follow up on that particular member. So do cooperate with us, obey us, submit to us, especially when we have explained to you the biblical and pastoral basis for what we are urging you to do.

It is my prayer that we will all join the church not as a consumer but as a builder. Let’s be committed to play our part in building the community within. This commitment to the body of Christ is an outworking of the commitment that we show to Christ himself whom we call our Saviour and Lord! In all these, we are not alone. By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives; it is a process where we grow in our discipleship, for his glory.

Rev Lee Kien Seng

September 2, 2018