One of the biggest changes we’ve made at Welcome Church is our approach to church membership, or what we now call belonging. This week I will be blogging each day to explain what we are doing and why we are doing it. To understand it fully, please start at Part 1 rather than jumping in half way through. This blog is Part 7 … the final part!
In previous blogs we’ve looked at our new approach to belonging and the thinking behind it, but there is one final question:
What if I’ve been a member for many years and I feel like I’ve lost something?
The first thing I would say is this:
Thank you for your ongoing faithfulness over the years!
You have helped to make our church what it is today and it’s our privilege to have you with us. We are so pleased that you are part of Welcome Church.
I’ve been here for less than 18 months myself. We’ve changed a lot of things in that time, so thank you for coming on this journey with us so faithfully. Your patience is wonderful to see and Jo and I feel blessed and supported; we feel that we are genuinely among friends.
Welcome Church is an awesome and exciting church to belong to. I love the way people pray and serve. I am amazed at how people give their time and commitment day after day. I am impressed by the godliness and the depth of knowledge that people have. There are so many good things being done both in the church and the wider community. This actually speaks volumes for my predecessors and the job that they did.
I feel privileged to be part of this church family, and we don’t want anyone to feel like they belong LESS after this change; we are all still completely INCLUDED.
With this in mind, here are five key things to remember as we make this change:
1. You do not belong any less than you did before
If you were on the membership list as we used to run it, you still belong today!
You are included. YOU ARE WELCOME CHURCH. Nothing is being taken away.
If you disappear off somewhere we will still chase you up to check that you are okay. If in time you are called elsewhere don’t just wander off – please let us send you well.
We are not terminating anything through this change, we are simply going to start talking about Belonging instead of about ‘in/out’ membership … and we’re going to open this Belonging invitation up to anyone who wants to come on a spiritual journey with us. Our discipleship track will help people from the very start of their spiritual journey, whether or not they understand what discipleship even means at that point.
If you are someone who has never become a church member, please come and belong with us at Welcome Church; we want to help you grow in your faith.
2. This is all about the call to make disciples
Remember, we are all called to help make mature followers of Jesus, who know God and are equipped to live for him in this world. This is all about that.
Remember that Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations. Does your heart break for lost and broken people? We have a huge mission field in front of us.
Remember, “The nice Christians are already in the nice Christian churches” and the days of transfer growth are pretty much gone. God is sending us to reach precious lost people, even out of the messiest and darkest places. Let’s not allow a past church culture to prevent us from building a church today that will reach the lost people all around us. Let’s remove everything that hinders.
3. We all have a part to play
We all need help and encouragement to grow in spiritual maturity. If you are a more mature believer perhaps you could use the steps we’ve talked about as a framework to help you discern where someone is in terms of their spiritual growth. You could get alongside them and help them to grow … and you may find that they have some things to teach you as well.
For this to work best, we all need to play our part and take our responsibility to help one another. Our Life Group leaders have a particularly important role here, but we all have a part to play. Let’s be a disciple making, leader producing church!
4. If this doesn’t work properly we will adjust it
I think this speaks for itself. We are pioneering something here and we will learn some lessons along the way. Perhaps some others may follow us in time, but right now we are doing this as pioneers, so we will adjust as necessary as we go along.
Let’s not be scared to try something new that we believe will make us more effective to reach new people for Jesus. Similarly, let’s also not be too stubborn to make adjustments as we go!
5. Please pray for the church and for the leadership
Prayer is powerful! Your leaders need and value your prayers and your encouragement. Pray that we would all have wisdom and discernment. Pray that we would walk in grace.
Thank you for your love and care. You are Welcome Church. We are Welcome Church. Let’s go forward in prayerful unity and loving care.
I’ll finish with a verse from the Bible.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
4 thoughts on “Belonging – Part 7: Inclusion”
Steve, as someone who has been a “member” for 25+ years, along with my family, I am wholly behind the elders in this change and feel it is God’s best for us at this time in our church’s journey. Importantly, it will help those we want to reach to feel welcome and included, and hopefully enable them to start their own faith journey along with us. I’m sure other long standing members will agree.
Thanks Lisa. I really appreciate your comments and encouragement. Thanks for being part of the journey!
Wow… I’ve just read all 7 of the posts… Phenomenal.. I came to faith after being an avid atheist only 1 year and 2 months ago.. It has been a hard journey trying to, learn the bible and my belief from within that.. I’ve been going to bible study for just over a year, I went online and saw the local church did one so contacted them (I wanted to learn more).. I tried to belong to a Church in my local area, it was so very confusing, and makes you understand that a lot of churches really don’t remember that people who walk in off the street one day, may never have been in a church, never had any contact with faith, within their past, and stepping into a church for the first time is a ‘monumental. thing for them to do – Its also extremely confusing as you don’t know how things are done, you also don’t know the WORDS that a lot of people use (I never knew the word TESTIMONY was used in a faith setting, I thought it was something you did at Court..!)
I was told the first time I went into a church by a very helpful person, that I couldn’t go up for the ‘bread and wine’ as I hadn’t been baptised.. Which immediately made me feel excluded – Not that it was the persons fault, I know it wasn’t meant like that, but as a ‘joe-off-the-street’ it didn’t make me feel any easier…
I didn’t know the way a service was run, I just knew I wanted to be there.. Its not any congregations fault, but some may have become so used to being a separate body of people, that when strangers come in and want to find out more about faith, it can feel a bit awkward as you don’t always know what to do or where to go and sit etc, and that can stop a person from coming back
I am so lucky that I saw an Alpha course advertised and went to it, that led me to find in my own Town a small Community Church – Its brilliant – Everybody is so welcoming, happy and helpful to each other in so many ways, we also have a Pastor who makes scripture come alive in a very engaging way, everybody looks forward to going each week, plus they are always looking at ways to try and get others to come in as well – Each Sunday is started with a breakfast for everybody – I am really blessed to have become part of it – In fact tomorrow, 16th June 2019 I am getting baptised
Reading through your 7 Parts has been great – I think our small Community church sort of follows a similar pattern – I’ve started putting some of the stuff we do now online, our Pastor is very forward thinking, wanting the word out there – Your STEPS are brilliant for anybody coming into faith or wanting to come into faith to take and feel welcomed and not excluded – Great read….
Thanks for your encouraging message. I’m so glad this was helpful to you.
Great to hear you’ve found faith in Jesus and a good church too.
Keep on encouraging your pastor!