Why Partnership Matters
Does it really matter if I’m a partner or not? Why do I have to take a class to even become a partner? Why do I have to sign anything? People often ask these questions about our partnership process, skeptical as to why there seem to be so many “hoops” to jump through.
It’s true. We take partnership seriously and with a lot of gravity. Committing yourself to a body of believers is weighty. But it’s also wonderful. When Covenant Partners join, they commit to a spiritual family that provides encouragement and support. They are called to a biblical degree of responsibility, service and sacrifice to their brothers and sisters. Our elders and leaders also pledge to assist our Covenant Partners with care, counsel, prayer, and teaching.
Even a casual reading of Scripture reveals that the commitment of believers to one another is anything but casual. In both descriptive and prescriptive language, the Bible attests to the formal and profound relationship that exists among those who have been reconciled to God and each other.
The Scriptures call us to love one another, outdo one another in showing honour, live in harmony with one another, instruct, greet, comfort, serve, bear the burdens of, forgive, encourage, always seek to do good to, exhort, stir up to love and good works, confess your sins to, pray for and show hospitality to one another.
But how can this be pursued without a deep and real commitment to the good of others?
Believers may pursue these obligations to each other through many avenues, but the primary way in which we are to fulfill them is within the fold of this messy and beautiful reality called the local church.
Ever since its inception, the Church universal has been arranged into smaller congregations called local churches. Though Christians are divided on the exact relationship that exists between these local churches and other intricate matters of ecclesiology, all have believed that they are essential communities instituted by God for His glory and our good.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul draws on the imagery of a body as a metaphor for the local church. Far from commending self-sufficiency and independence, the apostle upholds a radically countercultural vision of desperate interdependence marked by love, service, humility, sacrifice and sympathy.
And, as participants in the body are called “members,” so this participation in the local church body is called membership. At the Compass we like to use the word “Partnership” rather then member for a couple of reasons. Members have rights, partners have responsibility. In our day the word membership comes with a lot of baggage. Many people today view being a member like they would a member of a gym or club, that they will receive some kind of goods and service for their membership. Today's view of membership is often void of responsibility.
Jonathan Leeman writes: “Church membership is a formal relationship between a Church and a Christian characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church.”
Membership is not about privilege or prestige. It is not some elevated level of access with secret insider benefits. It is not a legal document or means of control. Membership recognizes and responds to the call of discipleship in the context of gospel-centered community. It is an affirmation and agreement to contribute to the good of the body rather than consume from it. It is a formalization of that which already implicitly exists. It is an obligation to sacrificially seek the good of others in the body of Christ by taking the general call toward service and incarnating it within a particular people.”