The purpose of this article is to answer a question I’ve been asked many times since Good News Church began: How do you all handle membership? The short answer is “informally.”
If someone were to ask me, “does Good News Church have members?” I have to try to define what we mean by "member" first. In a formal/legal sense, no. There are no people called “members” in the official by-laws of the non-profit organization Good News Church Of Ocala, Inc. However, it seems incorrect to say, “we have no members.” Of course we have members! There is a congregation that gathers every week that loves and serves one another, and considers me to be one of their pastors/teachers/leaders. We couldn’t accomplish all the great stuff we do if we didn’t have any members. But our membership is informal. There is no official list kept anywhere.
You might say, how can this be? And I would respond, “Does your Community Group have members? Does the Youth Bible Study have members? Does the Woman’s Bible Study that you attend on Thursday mornings have members?”
To which you would say, “Well, yes and no. I guess it’s ‘no’ in the sense that we don’t keep an official roster and we don’t make people take a special class and/or take some sort of oath in order to join our group. But yes, in the sense that the members of the group are Kathy, Tina, Emma, Tamika, Susan, Jasmine, and Katelyn… and Sylvia is like half-in.”
Yep. That’s how we do it at Good News, too. And I would imagine that is how the earliest churches (the church in Corinth, the church in Ephesus, etc.) did it, too. There is nothing that I know of in the New Testament that implies people had to take “new members classes” before they “officially joined” the church and got their name put on an official list. But people certainly belonged to churches back then.
Let me be clear: Not having official members is not a hill that I’m willing to die on, nor is it a core value of Good News Church. Perhaps we will start up the process one day. But I will say this - early on in the history of Good News we actually made a decision about this. One of our earliest elders said something along these lines: “How about we start up an official membership process only on the day that we feel we really need it.” And we have been following that advice ever since. It’s been eight years, and we haven’t felt that we have needed it yet.