We have some folks planning to join our church this Sunday, so I've spent a lot of my visiting time this week checking in with them, to see if there are any questions, or in some cases, to learn more about the family or person. Receiving new members is always an encouraging time for a congregation. If someone wants to join with you in a purpose, it obviously includes an affirmation to you of who you are and what you are about. We tend to like the folks who make choices similar to our own, don't we?
I probably shouldn't confess this, but I am amazed that anyone actually "joins" the church anymore. We have an open door policy where you can come and fully participate in the life and worship of the church without ever joining. At Trinity you can be on a committee or task group without being a church member. The only thing forbidden is leadership as a chairperson of a ministry area, or serving on an administrative committee.
With everyone so consumer-minded today, I'm surprised a lot more people don't say, "Why join, I don't get any more benefits for joining than I do for not joining?" Add to this the factors of a) individualism over community, b) suspicion of institutions, c) minimal loyalty to groups and "brands," and d) simply the frantic, often chaotic pace of life! Still, through the gauntlet come those desiring to say, "Yes, I will serve Christ in this local church with my prayers, my presence, my gifts, and my service."
Maybe the act of people joining isn't an affirmation of the congregation after all - but an affirmation of the deep longing placed in each of us to be a part of God's family. Those who join may not even think of it in these terms, but perhaps they are responding to the divine call to live out what they believe, to "come, follow Jesus," to make their faith real in daily life with, through, and sometimes in spite of, the local congregation. May their commitments open us all to hear that call anew.