Some churches do membership, but we long to find partners. The reason why we use the term partner is that we believe the church is a partnership of Spirit-led disciples who follow Jesus. The church is not a social club bound by exclusive membership; it’s a community on mission bound together by the gospel. We believe that the Scripture teaches that everyone who is part of the body of Christ is a minister of the gospel. The role of elders/pastors/teachers, and other leaders is to help partners become prepared to be all God intends them to be. Because of this, we call our members “partners” to emphasize the fact that we hope and expect they’ll be more than spectators. The modern idea of being a “church attender” is completely foreign to the New Testament. The church is the body of Christ sent to be Jesus’ people in the world. Our partners use their unique gifts and talents to help fulfill our vision at Grace Fellowship. Together, we are becoming a New Testament Church existing for the supremacy of the name and purpose of Jesus Christ.
All of our partnerships dissolve at the end of that calendar year. We want all of our partners to make sure that God has called them to connect and be on mission as a part of Grace Fellowship. Thus at the beginning of each new year, we refocus the vision we have as a church and ask if you are still with us.
Jesus died to form a new community of followers through whom He would advance His mission of calling out a people for Himself. The church is His body – His Spirit-filled physical manifestation on the earth this day that people would experience Jesus in a visible expression.
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 honor, 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. 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.
Partnership is not about privilege or prestige. It is not a legal document or means of control.
Partnership recognizes and responds to Jesus’ 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.
God calls His people into covenant, not only to Himself but also to each other. He calls us to a life of sacrifice, generosity, service and radical commitment to the good of the body. And this happy obligation is most readily pursued within the context of a particular body—a local church.
So, why wouldn’t you formally commit to a local church? What is holding you back from covenanting with a particular people to live out the gospel together?