Many of us would have had our covenant service by now. The covenant service is often celebrated on the first Sunday of the year, although some churches for various reasons celebrate it weeks later. This service is at the heart of Methodists' devotion and discipleship, and their dedication in working for social justice. As part of the covenant service "Membership Tickets" are given to all members. Membership ticket is a piece of paper with your name, Minister, and your pastoral/class leader's name written in front and your responsibility of being a member written at the back of the paper. Many people would proudly show several years of membership tickets whiles some might have misplaced the very current one they received few weeks ago.
I know there's a debate going on about whether there's the need for membership tickets in this day of age but that's not my point for writing this article. My crucial point is do people turn to the back page to read the responsibilities of being a member of the church, and if yes do they really live by those responsibilities?
As a member of The Methodist Church I am called to:
"Worship within the local church, including regular sharing in Holy Communion, and through personal prayer. Learning and Caring, through Bible study and meeting for fellowship, so that I may grow in faith and support others in their relationship. Service, by being a good neighbour in the community, challenging injustice and using my resources to support the Church in its mission in the world. Evangelism, through working out my faith in daily life and sharing Christ with others"
If the above quote is what qualifies one to be a member of the Methodist Church then I think many people on membership roll aren't qualified to be members. Recently while updating our membership roll, I realised that many people have left the congregation and are presently attending another denomination or another Methodist church else where.
It's interesting why some members have left and I will give few of them.
1. Mobility- Gone are the days when one is born, raised, attend school, get married, start a career and retire all in the same locality. People will now move to where they think the right jobs are and when they move they turn to find a church nearby. Where there's no Methodist they will look for any other denomination.
2. Better Schools- Not only do families move around for better jobs they also move to areas they can get good schools for their kids even if that will mean changing their denominations.
3. Better Spirituality- This is the recent one I heard. Apparently some people also move church for the simple reason that they want better spirituality for themselves or their kids. And in some cases some people have moved from one local Methodist church to another preferably from the smaller to the bigger ones.
I will not fault any one for wanting to leave one particular local church. My concern however, is why won't they communicate with the one that they have left so that their names are taken off the list and in some cases seek for transfer. As I recently found out many have been approached previously to ascertain their situation but have created the impression that nothing has changed.
How can you claim to be a member of a local church when you have failed in your primary responsibility i.e worship with the local church, or fellowship let alone your service to the church and the local neighbourhood or evangelism. In some instances some members who have left the church for a long period have tiptoed back. I believe such people should go through another process of becoming members. There should be a cut-off point when one seizes to be a member. There should be nothing like once a member always a member.