Our fellowship spent a good bit of time studying, praying, and discussing the idea of church membership. In the end, we settled on maintaining an annual church covenant instead of the tradition idea of membership. Here is how I recently described it to our body:
It is not a traditional membership list. One does not "join the church" and remain on the list until they join another church. The covenant is simply an expression of what we believe we already are as a local church. We believe that being a part of the body of Christ provides encouragement and accountability through on-going relationships. Being part of such a body is important for our fellowship with God and the completion of our task to make disciples. We consider ourselves part of the larger body of Christ in our communities and in the world. The covenant is an opportunity to affirm our purpose as God's people and our commitment to this local fellowship of the Church. God may lead us to different locations, ministries, and local churches over time, so we renew our covenant each year as God continues to lead us to remain in this fellowship together. It may be that there are some who are unable to affirm this covenant at this time. They are welcome to continue in fellowship and ministry with us, understanding that the purposes, goals, and core doctrines have been clearly articulated.