I grew up in a wonderful church that functioned more like a very large family than a structured organization. Children stayed with their parents during the service, everyone was invited to participate in ministry, people regularly gave sacrificially to those in need (whether they “deserved” it or not), and young people were given opportunities to serve and lead. There was no foundations class, except when it was preached on a Sunday and no such thing as church membership. We believed that if you regularly attended, participated in service projects and events, and needed to be loved, you were part of our family. We would open our arms to you, give what was needed, be it hours of labor at your house, money for rent, or a meal. It hurt went somebody would leave because it was like a brother or sister moving out. And it was devastating when somebody would leave without a goodbye.
I’m not saying our church was perfect or had everything all figured out, far from it. We hit many bumps, lost many people because we weren’t “normal”, and it seemed a lot of our struggles were because we didn’t fit the normal pattern of a church and so there weren’t easy answers. But I felt like these difficult times drove us, as a body, to the Lord’s feet and as a result and in general, closer to one another.
Now we live in another city and state. We’ve been blessed to find a great church that has completely opened their arms to us. We are excited and blessed to be part of this body and I love the relationships that are developing. We’ve been attending for almost six months now and so recently we attending a foundations class. Guess what topic came up? Membership.
Now for me, due to my very little experience with this topic my mind instantly conjures up images of stuffy ceremonies in which I am asked to swear that my loyalty and money will now and forevermore be tied to this particular denomination. When our pastor patiently explained what membership meant to this particular body his description, fortunately, did not match my little vision. However I am still a little hesitant to become a member. I’ve always greatly valued loyalty and I can’t enter into (or refuse to enter into) this lightly. I don’t really understand the purpose of becoming a member. I have lots of questions:
- If membership is about commitment and I attend regularly, give regularly, submit to the authority of the leadership and participate in activities aren’t I demonstrating by my actions my commitment to the body?
- If Kris and I felt led to move again or participate in a church plant would we be violating the commitment we made in becoming members of a particular church?
- Does church membership help or hurt in promoting unity between churches, especially differing denominations?
- If a member decides to leave a church there is little that the leadership can or will do (in most cases) to stop them. That being the case, what is the point of becoming a member? Is membership just another formality that the church has created?
So, I’m hoping this post will serve more as a forum than a blog today. Are you a member of your body? Why or why not? I would love to hear your insight, experiences, and wisdom.