Why We No Longer Say “Members”

Several weeks ago we instituted a change at Abundant Life where we are no longer using the word member, or membership, and in its place we have decided to use the term covenant partner.  This change is not to be cool, hip or up to date (as if the phrase represents any of that), instead it reflects the heart of our church to be the kind of people God envisions.  As we think about this change in language, I want to give you three reasons as to why:

1.       A culture at war with consumerism.  We want to be a church that goes to war with consumerism.  Membership instigates a what’s-in-it-for-me mindset.  For example, I’m a member of the Delta Skymiles program, where I am afforded a lot of perks.  Every year I’m given a free pass to their Sky Club, offered complimentary upgrades to first class, and because of my membership in their program and the status I’ve accrued, my bags typically come out in the first wave.  Talk about membership having its privileges!  I didn’t become a member of their program to give to Delta, I joined to get.  If you’re a member of a country club, travel program or any other entity, you probably asked the question, “What’s in it for me?”.  Language is huge in creating culture, so we feel this tweak in language will instigate a spirit of contribution and service, not a one way street of receiving.

2.       Rootedness.  The word covenant conveys a sense of rootedness.  We often refer to marriages as covenants, not contracts.  Contracts are performance oriented and transactional.  Covenants are more permanent in nature.  When we are in covenant with someone, what we are saying is “I am in this for the long haul”.  We don’t want to attract a body of “sermon-tasters,” who come for a season, and then move on to the next hottest thing.  We want people who feel a sense of call and rootedness to our body.

3.       Ownership.  A covenant-partner is one who feels a sense of ownership in the church, and when you are that invested you care about what happens and are more prone to participate in the life of our body.  Of course we want to be a church that blesses and equips you.  My hope is whenever God calls you on you will leave our church thinking you became a much better follower of Jesus because of the things you received from us.  But this is a two way street, isn’t it?  Our hope is we can say we’re a better church because you used your gifts and passions in a way that blessed and edified our body and the Bay.  This is what covenant-partners do.