What is the proper term to call those who decide to affiliate with a congregation, that is, a group of believers in a local community - Like Hope Church?
A lot of times we and others refer to ourselves as members. And in and of itself that is proper. For example, when we talk about our families in conversation we sometimes will say or ask - who are the members of your family?
But when it comes to the church, which has often been described as a family, there is a down side to using the term member. And yes, in another image, Paul describes the church like a body and just like a body has different members or parts, so does the Church.
The down side using the term member is that this term can also refer to those who have joined an organization or club. And as such they pay dues to belong. And in paying those dues, they expect a certain return or benefits to be extended to them as a result of their payment. This is often the trap that most church goers fall into. That's because they have joined the organization or club (their church) for the perceived benefits for themselves and not because they want to help the organization fulfill its mission.
Is there a better term we can use to describe those who have associated with a local congregation? What about believers? On the surface that is appropriate as well. However, I am also reminded of what James said in his letter to the Church at large about 50 AD or earlier. He said this: You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. (James 2:10)
So what sets us apart from the demons? It's called TRUST. We not only believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. We not only believe Jesus shed His blood, died and rose for the salvation for not just ourselves, but all people. We also TRUST in who Jesus is and what He has done.
And when we talk about TRUST, that takes us to a whole different level in our relationship with Jesus. TRUST is the next step in being a disciple. It has to be.
A disciple is someone who wants to say and do what their master is saying and doing. They want to replicate their master. It takes a high level of commitment based on TRUST in order to be a disciple.
Which brings me to these questions which I believe everyone associated with Hope Church, or any other local congregation needs to ask themselves:
1. How do you refer to yourself when talking about your association with a local church - member, believer in Jesus, or disciple of Jesus?
2. And if you want to classify yourself as a disciple of Jesus, how will your spiritual walk change? What will you do differently?
3. If you want to classify yourself as a disciple of Jesus, what will your focus be? On your own spiritual needs and wants or how to best use the blessings God has given you in order to advance the growth of His kingdom?