Blog Post by
Rev. Dr. Craig M. Howard
Transitional Leader of the
Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy
I often say that Jesus is the worst evangelist in the Bible! When people come up to Jesus to be one of his disciples, instead of telling them to just say a few words and declare, “Now you’re a Christian,” Jesus puts heavy requirements on people. To one he said to sell all you have and give it to the poor, then come and follow me. To others he said they would have to lose everything in this world. My point is that Jesus didn’t make membership easy.
Being a member of a Presbyterian church is not easy either!
As Presbyterians, we take membership seriously. At baptism, parents or guardians profess faith, and commit to raising the baptized child as a Christian. Years later during confirmation, this same child takes the faith as their own, and commits to living as a disciple of Jesus. The Book of Order lists eleven responsibilities of congregational membership (G-1.0304). These include:
- Lifting one another up in prayer, mutual concern, and active support.
- Studying Scripture and the issues of Christian faith and life.
- Responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others.
- Participating in the governing responsibilities of the church.
- Reviewing and evaluating regularly the integrity of one’s membership and considering ways in which one’s participation in the worship and service of the church may be increased and made more meaningful.
Taking membership seriously means that every member matters. Taking membership seriously means taking our commitment to God, discipleship of Jesus Christ, and leadership of the Holy Spirit seriously, personally, and connectionally.
I believe in cleaning the membership rolls. As a pastor, this was one of my most difficult responsibilities. If someone didn’t show up at church for the year, we would call, email, and inquire about them. I would even make drop in visits to see if everything was okay. Only when it was clear that the person or family did not want to be connected to the congregation, were they then removed from the rolls.
The Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy is a connection of congregations. Just like individual members, congregations can become distant and non-communicable. The distance is demonstrated by not participating in presbytery gatherings, not giving per capita or mission dollars, and not completing statistical reports for the denomination.
As pastor to the presbytery, I and the presbytery staff are committed to reaching out to each of our congregations, both near and far, including those drifting away and not feeling the connection to the presbytery. Every congregation matters. When we strengthen the lines that connect us, we are all made stronger, and we are able to be the body of Christ for one another and the world.
Rev. Craig M. Howard