Why Participating Membership Matters
In the first 5 years of our life as a local church God clarified, for the leadership of Calvary Wolfeboro, our foundational commitments: the vision/mission, core values, doctrines, and leadership structure. It is these foundational commitments that define Calvary Wolfeboro as a local body of Christ. It is also these commitments that determine the expectations we should have for each other as “members” of this church. “Member,” in this case, meaning “participating member.” This is someone who is not only a Christian and therefore a member of the worldwide body of Christ but who is also living a lifestyle that is surrendered to Christ and committed to Calvary Wolfeboro. It is these participating members who have understood and affirmed the expectations from the Lord and the leadership of Calvary Wolfeboro(foundational commitments). Furthermore, it is participating members who have made a covenant with God and the church to live out these expectations in authentic Christian community.
While we believe that "participating membership" in a local church should be the norm for a Christian, we also understand that not everyone is ready to commit in this way. All are welcome to worship with us at Calvary Wolfeboro, whether participating members or not. However, it is only those who are participating members - who have understood and agreed to our foundational commitments - that are officially “members” of Calvary. It is for these members that the leadership has been established as shepherds. It is these members who will serve in the ministries of the church. It is these who we will gather into Lifegroups. In other words, it is these who will be considered “the flock” of Calvary Wolfeboro.
This distinction of "participating membership” is critical for at least 4 reasons :
1. OBEDIENCE TO WHICH LEADERS?
Hebrews 13:17 states that Christians are to “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” If there is no participating membership, who should Christians submit to? Do Christians have to submit to anyone with the title “elder” or “pastor" from any church? Participating membership provides the affirmation that local leadership is what Hebrews 13:17 is referring to.
2. LEADERSHIP OVER WHAT FLOCK?
Acts 20:28 says to church elders, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” If there is no participating membership, for whom will the elders give an account? Will the leaders of Calvary Wolfeboro be held accountable for all Christians in Wolfeboro, or for the members of churches that Calvary has theological differences with? Participating membership defines the scope of authority and accountability for local church leaders.
3. WHO IS OUTSIDE/INSIDE THE CHURCH?
1 Corinthians 5:12-13 states that Christians are not to judge the morality of those outside the church, but rather are to judge those inside the church, and remove unrepentant immoral “members" from fellowship if needed. How is being outside or inside the church definable if there is no such thing as participating membership? How can you remove someone if they aren’t “in” to begin with? Participating membership provides a proper context for making moral assessments and decisions about members’ conduct and character.
4. WHO IS THE CHURCH TO CARE FOR AND CORRECT?
Matthew 18:15-17 states that when a brother sins against you and does not listen or respond even after multiple witnesses address his fault, you are to involve the church. Without participating membership, who constitutes “the church,” and who decides when someone is to be treated as an outsider (“a Gentile and a tax collector,” v. 17) and lovingly called back to repentance? Participating membership provides a clear process and path for care, correction, and restoration when a member is caught in sin.
This is why C3 is so important. It is in C3 that the foundational commitments will be laid out and the opportunity to become a participating member through the Calvary Covenant will be initiated.
So, who is C3 for? It’s for all who know that Calvary Wolfeboro is your church or who believe that it might be; who accept that the life of a follower of Christ is one of disciplined grace; who don’t take lightly the responsibility that Jesus has given His church to be righteous and set apart for the purpose of making disciples; who realize that this high calling is not possible to live out alone - without transparent, deep, and accountable Christian relationships. If that’s you then sign up for the next C3 class and “let us run with endurance the race that is before us...” (Hebrews 12:1)