Partner in Ministry (membership)
We are thrilled you are interested in learning more about following Jesus and connecting with Bridge of Hope. This is one of the most important decisions of your life. It is transforming to turn and follow Jesus, but to partner with other believers and follow Jesus out into the world is revolutionizing. You move from student to teacher, disciple to missionary, observer to participant. Are you no longer content to sit in the stands as a fan? Then get in the game. Become a Partner in Ministry and find out what God really made you for.
Why Do We Call Church Members, Partners?
There are two very important reasons for our use of the term partner over member. The first reason has to do with our cultures use of the word membership. It is true the Bible teaches that we are members of a body, but our culture tends to use the word member very differently. Look in your wallet for a moment. To how many organizations are you a member? I am a Staples Rewards Card Member, a IBC Bakery Outlet Frequent Shopper Member, and a Family Christian Stores Pastor Perks Member. My health insurer calls me a member, my car insurance company calls me a member, my credit card companies even call me a member. Get the picture. The word membership is so over used that the definition has become vague and confusing. Generally, it means we get something for less than we would if we were not members, but you better read the fine print first. Membership could mean many things today and thus is not very helpful in communicating anything to our culture. The second reason we prefer the word partner over member is because partner does clarify better what Scripture intends for believers regarding church involvement. The Bible actually describes two kinds of belonging or membership. Positional Membership: Scripture clearly teaches that when one chooses to follow Jesus Christ he/she becomes a member of the one body (1 Cor. 12:12-13; Eph. 2:13-22; 4:3-6; Col. 1:13-22). When this occurs, you become a "positional member" in the universal Church. Positional membership is eternal and unchanging. It comes by grace through faith. (We will discuss this more later.) Participating Membership or Partnership: The Bible also urges positional members to continue growing by becoming participating members or partners in a specific local church (Rom. 12:4-8; 1 Cor. 12:25-31; 14:12, 26; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Tim. 3:14-15). Obviously a person may be a member/partner of several different local bodies during the course of his or her lifetime while maintaining an invisible bond of positional membership.
Simply put, membership implies special privileges and rights, while partnership implies interdependence and teamwork. The later is clearly more God’s intent.
Why become a Partner in Ministry?
Many people assume that because they profess Christ, further identification or involvement with a local church is an optional tack on. It is kind of like the service plan you can get at the electronics stores. You can take it or leave it. It’s really up to you. Partnering with other believers is not an option. We believe there are two major reasons for church partnership.
1. We believe partnership in a local church is a biblical mandate for every believer. It is not optional. As a follower of Christ, we are instructed to serve alongside other believers. You may want to be a lone ranger, but God knows you need a Taunto. Consider the passages below which show examples of partnership, teachings on partnering, and commands to partner.
Biblical Examples of Partners:
Paul’s use of “partner/yokefellow,” “outsider,” and “join” show that the New Testament church did have partners who were committed to reaching outsiders, so that they may join the community of believers. Paul writes to the Philippians about his joy “because of your partnership in the gospel…” (Phil. 1:5) He considers Timothy his son and Epaphroditis his brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier. (Phil 2:22) In Philippians 4:3, he says “Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life.” There is no doubt that Paul had committed partners in his ministry. Paul also spoke of outsiders in 1 Corinthians 5 and Colossians 4:5. Paul’s desire was not to set up a wall, but to challenge his fellow believers to help destroy the wall that existed. He challenged them saying, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders…” (Col. 4:5) wanting them to persuade others to join them just as Paul and Silas had done (Acts 17:4).
Inclusion into the church was not always simple either. Paul/Saul had set himself up as an enemy of the church and so even after his conversion, joining the disciples in Jerusalem required that a trusted believer vouch for his faith.
26When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. (Acts 9:26-28)
Biblical Teachings on Partnering:
Paul was passionate about this commitment to one another. He taught, “in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:5) “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20) If you choose to follow Christ, you must also surrender to your fellow believers. “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph. 5:21)
Jesus also longed for this deep commitment to one another. The night before his crucifixion he taught “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34) And later Jesus prayed “…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23) Uniting together is foundational to New Testament teaching.
Biblical Commands to Partner:
In the Old Testament God instructed Moses to count and make a list of all the Israelite families. (see Num. 3:40) The New Testament does not contain any equivalent command, but Paul’s instructions clearly call us to work together as partners in sharing the Good News.
“Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.” (Phil. 3:17)
“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Cor. 1:10)
“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…” (Eph. 4:11-12)
2. We Believe partnership is beneficial and essential to your spiritual health. In a culture where commitment is no longer highly valued, recognizable partnership is an important step that moves each of us out of the vague clouds of our good intentions and into the clear light of committed participation. It presents a challenge to "step out of the stands" and publicly affirm a commitment to Christ and to a specific local body. In this sense, partnership can be a significant "defining moment" in one's lifelong discipleship journey. This step is essential to our spiritual health for two basic reasons.
First, we need support. We were not designed to walk alone. Paul instructed the believers to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2) There was one thing wrong with creation; Adam was alone. God gave him Eve. So to, we need others to support us in life.
Second, we need guidance. We read in the letter to Hebrews “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25) And later we read “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Heb. 3:13) In both of these verses the word “encourage” means to entreat, admonish, or instruct. We need people around us who urge us to live holy lives, who keep us accountable, and who guide us through life’s temptations.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thes. 5:11-14)
What is the Partner in Ministry Covenant?
A covenant is a joint commitment between two parties. In this case, it is a commitment between you and the other partners of Bridge of Hope. When a couple gets married they make a covenant with each other to work together. The intent is to bring stability and to clarify the level of commitment in the relationship. The same is true for the church. Without a covenant, relationships often fall into unhealthy ruts and never develop true intimacy. “Our Partner in Ministry Covenant” summarizes “Our Partner in Ministry Commitments.” These commitments can seem overwhelming, but they are helpful in articulating God’s best for us. They give us a target and help us to know what it means to live like Jesus. Perfection is obviously impossible here on earth, but perfection is our goal. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mat. 5:48) To shoot for less is inadequate.
You will fall short. You will mess up. But, Jesus did not come to condemn you. Just like the woman caught in adultery, he offers forgiveness to you and then says “go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)
We only ask that you be real with us, so that we might grow in humility and love together.
Our Partner in Ministry Covenant
These are significant life commitments, which we believe are essential to maturing in Christ. Perfection is not required for partners, but a commitment to pursue holiness is required.
Because God has revealed his love and grace to me, I commit with others at Bridge of Hope to follow Jesus in the following ways…
COMMITMENT TO TRUST: (faith) Because I was rescued by grace, I will trust Jesus as my Forgiver and Leader.
COMMITMENT TO CONNECT: (fellowship) Because I was formed for God's family, I will connect deeply with other believers.
COMMITMENT TO GROW: (discipleship) Because I was created to become like Christ, I will grow continually to be like Christ.
COMMITMENT TO SERVE: (ministry) Because I was shaped for serving God, I will serve selflessly according to my SHAPE.
COMMITMENT TO REACH: (evangelism) Because I was made for a mission, I will reach-out courageously to the world.
COMMITMENT TO SURRENDER: (worship) Because I was planned for God's pleasure, I will surrender completely to Him.
Just like the Israelites, “You've renewed your vows today that GOD is your God, that you'll live the way he shows you; do what he tells you in the rules, regulations, and commandments; and listen obediently to him.” (Deuteronomy 26:17 MSG) Undoubtedly, you will fail at some point. However, he is faithful to forgive and set us back on the right track. (1 John 1:9) So, confess your failure to God and keep doing your best for God.
You can download our covenant and commitments below.
Your Next Step...
If you made it through all that info, way to go! God must be working in you. I want to help you take the next step. You don't have to do these in this order, but they are good steps to help you follow Jesus.
1. Learn more about Bridge of Hope. Occasionally we offer a class/seminar, but I, Pastor Kevin, would be happy to meet with you and walk you through the material. Just give me a call or email me.
2. Link up with others. Just get involved! Offer to help in a ministry or attend a small group.
3. Listen for God's direction. Ask God "Do you want me to make this commitment?" Then listen for his whisper. He will speak, but in may take some time to hear.
4. Lay it on the line. Partner with other at Bridge of Hope to connect others with God. Sign the covenant and build the kingdom together.