Greetings to our fellow Sola-5 churches,
This month’s newsletter focuses on the issue of “membership.” As local churches we understand the importance of maintaining a vibrant, active, committed membership. We are diligent to establish specific criteria for entrance into membership, and seek to ensure that our membership continues to meet these criteria. For us, membership is more than having your name on a membership role, it is a commitment to the local church leading to involvement in that church.
Active, growing, committed membership is no less important to the Sola 5 association of churches. As an association, we must be equally diligent to guard our membership and ensure that it does not degenerate to a mere register of names. Paul regularly thanked God for the Philippian church, not because of their formal association with him, but because of their active “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (Phil 1:5).
The Sola 5 constitution establishes clear criteria for membership in the Association:
5.1 The primary membership of the Association shall consist of local churches who subscribe to the Confession of Faith, Core Values and Constitution of Sola 5.
It requires that new applications for membership be accompanied by the church’s statement of faith and constitution, and that such applications be accepted by existing members at the Annual Business Meeting. Furthermore,
5.1 e) Each member church must renew its commitment to the Association in writing at each ABM. In the absence of such renewal, membership will automatically lapse.
So the Sola 5 constitution establishes clear criteria for entrance into the association, along with a mechanism for ensuring that such membership remains vibrant and active through requiring annual renewal of memberships.
However, our practice has not been true to our intention. In practice, we don’t require member churches to affirm that they continue to hold to the Sola 5 Confession of Faith, Core Values and Constitution. This makes it entirely possible that a member church may drift doctrinally, or even radically alter its doctrine, and yet remain a member of the association. In practice, to “renew its commitment to the Association,” a member church needs only to fill in a renewal form without having to demonstrate such commitment in any tangible way. This makes it entirely possible for a member church to be completely inactive and yet remain a member of the association in name only. Certainly, such practices are a threat to a doctrinally-united and meaningful membership, and therefore to the health of the association itself.
As such, the steering committee has updated the forms for annual renewal of membership. We understand that forms do not establish commitment, but they should at least reflect commitment intended, a commitment to which we can hold one another accountable. As seen in the excerpt below, the updated membership renewal forms will require church leaders to expressly reaffirm their doctrinal and practical commitment to the association’s doctrine and core values.
As the recognized leaders of [Name of Church], we are seeking, on behalf of the church, to renew our membership in Sola 5 for the year [20XX].
In doing so:
We have read, and continue to affirm and uphold the Sola 5 Confession of Faith and Core Values (1 Tim 3:15).[Yes] | [No]
We will send at least one delegate to represent the church at the Annual Business Meeting (Acts 15:1-21).[Yes] | [No]
We will seek to be an active participant in the association through pray, communication, giving, encouragement, and co-operation with other member churches (Phil 1:3-6; 4:14-16).[Yes] | [No]
If you are unable to agree to any of the above, please indicate your reasons.
If you have any comments, questions or concerns about these changes to the application forms, please feel free to contact one of the members of the steering committee.
May God burden us with a genuine concern for all the churches (2 Cor 11:28).
on behalf of the Sola 5 steering committee