In the church, as in any organization, leaders exert power to achieve objectives. Power struggles seem to be one of the most common causes of dissension in the church. Such dissension almost always leads to ill-health and sometimes to decline. The way in which a leader uses his available power is one of the keys to organizational health.
There are two types of power available to the leaders of any organization: personal power and institutional power. Many church leaders have not learned the cost of depending on personal power nor the benefits of leaning on institutional power.
Membership has been a hot topic of discussion in the church over the past decade or so. Some more recently-established churches are dispensing with “membership” and developing the concept of a “partnership” that’s renewed each year. There’s some merit to this approach because the benefits of membership in the church can be quite unclear. We regularly encounter those in our congregation who are surprised to find they’re not actually members of the church, even though they’ve been attending, serving, and even giving their tithes and offerings for many years. By contrast, others play the member card even when they haven’t crossed the threshold in years.
So what does being a member really mean, and what’s the importance of “signing on the dotted line,” if you’re already “plugged in?” I believe there are at least three reasons church membership is still important.