Meaning of Membership

May 31, 2018


A few years ago the Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (USA) went through major revisions. Overall the goal was to empower congregations to make local decisions about ministry and mission based on foundational principles articulated in the Constitution of the church. Like many ecclesiastical institutions, the denominational "rule book" had become bloated and more unwieldy each year.


One of the less obvious changes was the deletion of the "Inactive Roll." Congregations typically keep records of those baptized, those active (often based on very loose criteria), and those who are deemed inactive. Unfortunately, being identified as "inactive" more times than not  meant you hadn't contributed financially to the church.


By removing the inactive roll it was made clear that you're either an active Christian or you're not. If you're not an active participant in the work of Christ (not helping fulfill God's mission in the Church)... you're not much of a Christian. Belief doesn't cut it.

Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a joy and a privilege.

It is also a commitment to participate in Christ’s mission.

To help congregations determine what it means to be a member of a church, the Book of Order details certain ways in which one demonstrates faithfulness. Here is a quote from the Constitution:


"Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a joy and a privilege. It is also a commitment to participate in Christ’s mission. A faithful member bears witness to God’s love and grace and promises to be involved responsibly in the ministry of Christ’s Church. Such involvement includes:


  • proclaiming the good news in word and deed,

  • taking part in the common life and worship of a congregation

  • lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support,

  • studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life,

  • supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents,

  • demonstrating a new quality of life within and through the church,

  • responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others,

  • living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and so- cial relationships of life,

  • working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment,

  • caring for God’s creation,

  • participating in the governing responsibilities of the church, and

  • reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership, and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful."


That's quite a list. But think about: Is Christianity a moral or ethical "group" or an extension of the body of Christ? If it is the latter (Spoiler alert:: It is!), then we have a lot to do.

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Calvin Presbyterian Church

415 East Grandview Ave.
Zelienople PA 16063



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