5 Reasons Membership Makes Sense for "Short-Timers"
Many people who live in Gainesville are only here for a short time, or at least what seems like a short time. For those who are planning to be "short-timers" in Gainesville, being part of a local church can feel like a low priority. As the argument goes, why invest in church relationships and start serving when I'm leaving in two years? One year? Six months? And even if I do want to be minimally invested while I'm around, why does it really matter if I join a church?
It turns out that church membership is an important step for Christians no matter how long they intend to live in a particular place, and here are five reasons why this is the case.
1. We should always desire spiritual accountability and oversight, no matter how long we're living in a particular area.
Christians need spiritual accountability and oversight in order to mature as followers of Jesus. We need to commit to theological beliefs, ethical conduct, and church engagement - and we need to make these commitments publically so those who are in Christian community with us (including church elders) can hold us accountable and help us grow. This kind of accountability is too important to take a break from - even for a "short" time.
2. It is possible to make a profound impact on the life of a church (and for a church to make an impact on us) even if we're only around for a short season.
As I write these comments, I can think of several people who have been part of City Church (or other churches I've been a part of) who have had a massive impact on the life of the church in only 2-3 months. I've seen people come into town for a 10 week internship plug into a Community Group and build lasting relationships (seriously!). Indeed, there are those who are around for several months or less who invest more in the life of the church than those who are around for several years.
3. Despite how firm our plans may feel, they can (and often do) change.
"I'm only here for a two-year graduate degree." "I'm here on a temporary work assignment for six months." These plans feel especially firm, but plans can and do change. Perhaps that graduate program leads to a doctoral program that we didn't originally anticipate. Perhaps our work assignment becomes a one-year assignment, or worse, maybe we lose our job. Perhaps an unexpected tragedy happens in your family that changes ALL of your plans. Life takes unexpected turns, and there's no better place to be when that happens than plugged into the life of a local church. It's far better to invest heavily in a church even for a brief season than to not invest, have our plans change, and be caught in an awkward position wishing we had already plugged into a local church.
4. The membership process is a helpful time of learning and processing no matter how long we stick around at a church.
Regardless of how long we will stay at a particular church, each church has a unique membership process that allows us to learn about different church cultures, review important doctrinal beliefs, and reevaluate the things you've previously thought about church polity, small group structures, and much more. This helps us solidify our beliefs about how a church should operate, which is helpful for deciding which church to join when we end up in a more permanent location.
5. At the end of the day, everyone is a "sojourner."
Christians are not ultimately citizens of this earth, but of a heavenly kingdom. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 3 that "our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself." So none of us is truly a citizen of Gainesville in the most ultimate sense - instead we're all passing through. We're all sojourners longing for our true home, not knowing how much time we have until that time. So let's invest in a church community and make the most of that time!