Church membership is a sticky thing in our overly-individualistic society. 'Sticky' might even be too soft a word. 'Hot' could be a better word. 'Controversial' is another one. Polarizing. Offensive. Idol-smashing. Abrasive to our pride. These are words that may describe attitudes toward membership in the local church; but these are not the feelings of every believer. In all my time as a pastor I've never seen a new believer freak out over membership. It's the opposite in fact.
The leadership at Redeeming Life Church is exploring a form of membership called covenant membership. Names are somewhat arbitrary here, but we want to enter into a covenant with one another as a local extension of the Church, to be the Church and to make Christ known.
We're a church plant just getting started and church plants initially have a tendency of attracting jaded Christians who have been hurt by other congregations. As a defense, pride runs high. I've found that membership--dare I say, even commitment to a local body of believers--can be a tremendous struggle for these Christians who come with a little more baggage than others. (Just mentioning the idea of a commitment in a sermon once earned me a barrage of emails about how membership is heretical and pastors who would even dare consider such a thing are abusing the flock.)
From the very early days of meeting as a study in my home, we've always known we'd have some form of covenant membership. We know it's important, jadedness, hurt, and baggage aside. Recently, I have been discussing how we might go about this with a group of our committed folks at Redeeming Life. I've been studying this topic from the Bible. I read a 9Marks book on the topic. And I've been praying. (Thankfully, our team of committed brothers and sisters have absolutely no issues with entering into a simple covenant to be committed to one another as a local church.)
In addition, I've run across a video featuring David Platt. Platt is speaking on local church membership and I've found it rather helpful. It's short and worth a look.