The issue of church membership is an interesting one. To say the trend is in decline is to say it nicely – it’s fading faster than Blockbuster Video (note that may be my first ever pop culture joke… I wouldn’t do well among fans of Jon Acuff). Membership seems mostly reserved for denominations these days, as not many other churches seem to care anymore (note: I nearly made a crack about churches using membership as a ploy to get more money, but it was impulsive, unfair, sensational and totally unbased, and in light of yesterday’s post about not resorting to shock value and manipulation I decided against it.)
I must admit I haven’t thought much about the issue till today when I heard about a married couple being rejected by a church for membership. I don’t want to analyze that particular rejection because I couldn’t know less about the situation and it’s circumstances, and as always there are two sides to a story.
I’m not going to say churches shouldn’t do membership – but I think instead of entering someone into membership into our little club that has a name, location and website we should enter them into the larger body of Christ.
Do you see the difference? Because rejecting them as a member of your little church does not mean they should be rejected from the fellowship of the Church, and that is a big distinction to make.
Now it makes sense to reject someone from your little club if they don’t it into your mold, I get that. But we don’t get to be God’s gatekeeper. The natural problem that arises with rejecting someone as a member of your little club is that they can easily interpret as a rejection from God and/or his people. (And the person doing the rejecting may also see the rejectee not being worthy of Jesus’ kingdom too). After all, we are God’s representatives here on earth, which has perks and some drawbacks as well.
So maybe there is a larger issue to address here. I think we need to stop focusing on each little church gathering in a town as a church. I’m sure you’ve heard it so many times that the point is not simply moot but annoying – but church happens outside of 4 walls and apart from formal meetings and programs. When I saw my friends tonight for dinner – church happened. So therefore, who gets to be considered apart of that church and who, by default, doesn’t isn’t up to us. And we can hold a membership class to teach what “we’re” all about, but let’s be honest – it isn’t really about us.
What do you think about the decline in membership? What are the pros and cons?