Communal is an odd word but it is a good label. Before I explain what this label means let me explain what it is not. Being communal signifies that the church is not an event or a series of events. The church is not a menu of programs. Therefore discipleship is not rated based on the degree of participation in said programs. The church is not a product and the people are not the consumers of that product. The church is not a professional business (being good stewards with finances does not mean a church should view itself as a business corporation). The problem with these concepts for the church is that they are not Biblical.
We think very highly of our creative and intellectual abilities so we come up with these concepts and say things like, “What’s really wrong with it if it brings in the people?” The church’s goal is not to “bring in the people”. The church is the people… the people of God. We are to “go make disciples”, meaning as we live amongst the people of the world we are to build relationships, share the gospel, and pray that the Spirit would cause them to be born again. The church is a community of people who are called together in covenant by a common faith in the Lord Jesus. We come together for worship and fellowship (worship=devotion to God’s Word). We go out and make disciples. There is no concept in the New Testament for the church as some separate event or entity that markets itself to unbelievers. We come together and we go out. It is simple. It is communal.
As a communal local church we want to be closely knitted together in covenant membership. We want to be clear what it means to be in covenant membership, who is part of that membership, who is not, and how one becomes part of that membership. Church membership is not like gym membership. Gym membership does not connect people beyond surface-level interactions. Everyone is on a membership list but only to withdraw a service. No one goes to the gym to help other members and be helped by other members. There is paid staff to take care of that.
Church membership is concerned with watching over each other’s lives. Holding each other accountable. Encouraging each other to grow in the Word. Speaking truth in love to one another. Teaching each other. Sharing with each other. Doing ministry together. Worshipping together. So my hope for Memorial is that we would stand out as not having a consumer-minded membership or be consumer-driven as it concerns our weekly gatherings, our finances, or our leadership. When people visit our church gatherings on Sunday or Wednesday or whenever we meet they should encounter a family, not a clientele. They should experience a home, not a hotel. They should find a community, not a business. They should see a church, not a gym. So that’s the communal label.