"I love the feeling of community here in Karis. But why do you make such a big deal about membership?" In the past several years of church planting, I've consistently, tragically seen two ideas coinciding in the hearts of lonely young people, that clearly work against each other. People love community. They hate membership. We have been made for this. We want to be a part of a family. We long to be known and loved. But bring up the idea of commitment, and most of us are puzzled, and even offended. We're Americans, right? No one takes away our freedom. We want to keep our options open.
However, could it be that membership is actually the means of experiencing that rich community? I'd argue that it is. That's why we at Karis Church covenant with one another to love, encourage, and challenge each other. In that context of commitment, true fellowship flourishes. Without it, you can't have the real thing. You just have people performing, trying to maintain the acceptance of others. In true, gospel community, however, you can be yourself and relax, knowing that people love you and have committed themselves to you. On your worst days, you know people won't bail. By reducing our options, by limiting our freedom, we gain true love. It's worth it.
But perhaps we hold on to our freedom out of fear. We've seen moms walk out on families. We've seen husbands cheat on their wives. That community, that trust, is betrayed, and it results in so much pain. Maybe that's why we resist commitment altogether. There is, however, no reward without risk. And we believe in a gospel that really changes lives and helps people keep their promises. Family isn't easy. We'll let each other down. There will be pain. Yet we can experience true community together, and it won't come through "open" relationships. It will come through commitment. Don't roam from church to church, complaining about the lack of community you find in each, all the while resisting the means for truly experiencing that community. Free agents are lonely. Throw yourself in. Give up your life. You might just find it - as a part of a family.