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20 & 21 April 2024 (Pastoral Page) ARE YOU ‘IN’ OR ‘OUT’?

By Elder Tan Chin Tiong

Scripture does not mandate nor does it preclude a formalised membership process in a local church. However, there are many examples and teachings in the New Testament that point to the necessity and existence of some form of organised processes, including church membership, that the early churches adopted for the mutual benefit of the church and the members. If you want to know more of this subject, I encourage you to read the article by John Piper “How Important is Church Membership?”.


In a way, church membership is no different from your decision to belong to a particular academic institution, workplace, social club or other organised groups. Your commitment to any organisation and its ethos is often by way of a membership agreement before you start your relationship with them. In many cases, there is a price to pay, including annual renewal. However, more than just a formality, membership is a necessity and a costly sacrifice for both parties.


Our church also has a membership process, which includes regular membership affirmation exercises. Is it necessary to have members to affirm their membership periodically?


Well, firstly, such an exercise is not unique to our church. It is practised in many churches. The format, regularity and process may differ but the reasons for conducting membership affirmation exercises are the same. What are some reasons?


To the members:

- It serves as a reminder of their commitment made when they first joined the local church. Have they been participating in the body life of the church as promised?

- It gives them an opportunity to review if they wish to continue with this particular local church. We recognise that there are many valid reasons for change. Common examples include changes to the needs in different seasons in life, re-location of place of residence, moving on to a new country and alignment of the core values, practices and teachings of the church.

- It gives them an opportunity to transfer their membership if they have already been attending another church and would like to continue in that new community.


For the church:

- We want to ensure that members who have moved on to another church are meaningfully settled there. We bless them and pray that they are well adjusted and pastorally taken care of. It is important we let the new church know them personally for better pastoral care and follow-up.

- For members who are unsure, it is an opportunity for the church to understand their concerns and minister to them.

- Logistically, the church needs regular updating of the membership list for the purposes of communication of church information.

- Legally we need to have an updated membership list to conduct the Annual General Meeting as part of the government’s requirement.

- Pastorally, based on the updated demography of the members, we can review and plan our ministry programs to meet their needs.


For your information, during the recent membership affirmation exercise, out of the 114 members who did not respond to the exercise, we are aware that 30 have settled in another church. The remaining 84 consists of those who have left the church for a long time; are unable to attend church due to old age; are overseas and those who did not respond when contacted by the staff and deacons.


In summary, the leadership takes this exercise seriously as we are shepherds of the flock under our charge. During this exercise, we have combed through our membership list meticulously and make special effort to extend pastoral care to those who do not respond, but we can only connect with those who are willing to receive our care.


On this note, I trust that your answer to the question “Are You ‘IN’ or ‘OUT’? is “Count me in”. Amen.

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