SESSION 3: MODELS OF (LOCAL) CHURCH AND MEMBERSHIP 

We’ve looked at a) Jesus and his disciple-community (following Jesus meant joining his community), and b) at belonging and ‘membership’ in the Early Church. What does this mean for our church?  In answer to the question we examine different models of “doing church” and what membership means 

1.     IN ASSOCIATION OF VINEYARD CHURCHES OF SA (AVC SA)

1.1.  As a Vineyard church, Following Jesus holds to the core vision and values (or ‘Philosophy of Ministry’) as articulated in Alexander Venter’s book Doing Church (VIP, 2000).

1.2. We embrace the Vineyard Statement of Faith (on our website http://followingjesus.org.za), distinctively based on, and articulated through, the biblical theology of the Kingdom of God.

1.3. We also explain how we ‘do church’ and membership via a ‘Sociological Framework’ (this session) and a ‘Ministry Framework’ (next session)

2.     CONTRASTING THREE SOCIOLOGICAL MODELS OF ‘DOING CHURCH’ AND MEMBERSHIP

  1. Fuzzy Set Model

Bounded Set Model

Summarizing the characteristics and values of the Bounded Set:

  • Centralized leadership – mostly a singular charismatic dominant leader
  • Reinforces strong boundaries by indoctrination and conformity, resulting in a “we – they”, “right – wrong”, and “in – out” mindset (the more this is present the more it’s a cult).
  • Membership is being “in” by conformity and performance – and obedience to the leader.
  • People are seen as a collective, not as unique individuals with a name and pain.
  • Relationships are top – down, parent – child (dependency… identity comes from recognition)
  • Creates a performance environment: attendance and hard work to achieve the pastor’s vision
  • Promotion and program driven… all about visibility and success
  • Thus the bottom-line in reality is about the numbers and the income
  • And ‘growing the church’ is more about proselytizing than about real evangelism

Centered Set Model

Summarizing the characteristics and values undergirding the Centered Set: 

  • Throw a stone into the center of a pond and the ripples move outwards: The center of (local) church is Jesus and the values of his Kingdom, that draw people to the center at varying levels of integration, relationship and commitment. Thus following Jesus is a journey of integration…
  • Into his local community led by a team who seek to embody and live Jesus’ core Kingdom values
  • Drawing people to the center with core values such as love, acceptance and forgiveness…
  • Creating a warm relational environment based on maturing adult to adult relationships
  • Where people are treated as unique individuals with dignity and respect, with personal histories
  • ‘Church growth’ and evangelism is then a natural outflow (or overflow) of health and life
  • Ministry and leadership is about nurture and equipping, teamwork and modeling
  • It’s all about being led by God’s presence, drawn by his values… and NOT being driven 

THEREFORE… Belonging and membership in the Centered Set model is…

  • Functional, relational and dynamic: Belonging and membership is a process of integration with increasing participation in relationships and ministry in the life of the church. Moving from the ‘outside’ dotted line toward the center at increasing levels of integration: from attendance at a meeting, to regular worship, to connecting with people, to joining a home group, to receiving ministry and healing, to participating in ministry, to training, to leading (and ‘sending’)
  • And… there is clear point of commitment: Belonging and membership is formally decided and committed to, under God and with the leadership, at some point in the process of integration (a key biblical motivation and justification for this is Hebrews 13:7,17)

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