Church Membership: The Precious Gift of Belonging

Church Membership: The Precious Gift of Belonging

Jan 24, 2013

Church Membership: The Precious Gift of Belonging

by Jeanne Yurke, Boise, Idaho

Member at Raritan Valley SDB Church

In Bridgewater, New Jersey


The late Don Sanford used to say that there is no such thing as “a lone Sabbath-keeper,” because Seventh Day Baptists are a covenant people. Every SDB is part of a covenant fellowship, a local church.

Moving many miles away from one’s church to a place where there is no SDB church might make a person feel isolated, but it need not cut off the person from the church.

In previous centuries such a physical move would have signaled the start of a new SDB church. Seventh Day Baptists tended to keep their membership papers in their back pockets and planted churches when they moved beyond the boundaries of existing churches.

The 21st century, however, has the technology and social media needed to keep long-distance memberships intact. A college student many states away from her home church can still worship with her family via live streaming. Facebook prayer pages bring together church members from all over the world, reminding them that no matter how far away they may live, work, or travel, they can be instantly connected. Even I remain an active part of my home church 2,400 miles away, thanks to high-tech communications.

Yurke closeup caller


The challenge we face is making sure that covenant relationships are nourished when members are no longer physically present and their circumstances do not allow them to make use of all the new-fangled gadgetry. What does a church do when a senior member moves to a nursing home out of state? How does a small church with no high-tech resources stay connected with its military members overseas? These are two common scenarios facing our churches, and covenant relationships require creative responses in order for them to be met in loving, helpful ways.

In some churches the deacons and deaconesses are assigned specific members to watch over, but many of our churches function without this kind of diaconate care system. Old-fashioned letter-writing and telephone calls may make the difference between relegating some members to an “inactive” list and engaging ALL members in the life of the church.

It would be great if every church looked over its membership list and took whatever actions might be necessary to maintain communication with each member. Unfortunately, it’s likely that some will still get dropped.

If individual churches cannot keep the lines of communication open with everyone in their covenant relationship, how can sister-churches, Associations, and even General Conference help to bridge the gaps? Do we need to establish some sort of remote Sabbath-keepers’ network in which pen pals and friendly callers might check on those who are considered inactive?

We have a denominational magazine that provides a common connection for many. How can The Sabbath Recorder do more to help bind together SDBs in Christian love?

Belonging is a precious gift. Our churches are uniquely set up to foster such belonging. May we be true to our covenant calling as we watch over one another for good.

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