Church Membership as Adoption

Our church has recently changed our language concerning church membership. We are now using adoption language to describe the process of becoming a member. This change was born out of a nagging question: How do we convince people that church membership is worth it?

One of our new members this past Sunday was a foster child who aged out of the system. She was never adopted… until now! We promised to receive her in love and faithfulness as an adopted member of our fellowship.

My own family is on the verge of adopting two foster children. Our journey as a family is teaching us the meaning and value of our adoption into the household of faith by a Father who loved us unconditionally. That love is practically displayed, in part, through the adoptive love of a church family.

In many ways, the church was my extended family before I even professed Christ. Suffering from feelings of rejection and abandonment, the church welcomed me and loved me into the kingdom. They taught me about character and commitment in the context of forgiveness and patience. God’s redeeming love was lived out in my presence repeatedly.

I am convinced that adoption is a healthy way to think about church membership, especially in our context. Most families I know experience a level of brokenness. Everyone carries with them an invisible suitcase, baggage from the past. Technology has made it easier to engage other people in artificial ways. Even churches have begun to cater to the visitors who prefer anonymity. We are a culture slipping into loneliness and isolation.

That context makes it extremely important that we find a compelling and God-centered way to communicate the point of church and church membership. Thankfully, Scripture is full of adoptive and familial themes.

When God called Abram on his adventure, the call was grounded in a covenant promise. With a blood contract and a name change, God promised to lead and bless Abraham and his offspring. That sounds an awful lot like adoption!

God used the adoption of Moses by Pharaoh’s daughter to preserve the covenant family of Abraham. Moses would later write that God had chosen his people out of all the peoples who were on the face of the earth (Deut. 14:2). The prophets are full of father/son language describing the nation of Israel, God’s Old Testament Church.

Even Jesus was cared for by a man who was not his biological father. The Gospel is many things. It carries many themes. But in a culture of broken families, we need to harness the Gospel theme of adoption. “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” (Gal. 3:26)

Churches are not clubs where we pay dues for a service. Churches are local expressions of the family of God. We are brothers and sisters sharing one eternal Father of mercies. If you are interested in attending our next “Adoption Class”, let me know. We are family, but we are always adopting!

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