I recently came across these lines in a post at Bob Harrington’s blog…
“Christianity began as a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When it went to Athens, it became a philosophy.
When it went to Rome, it became an organization.
When it went to Europe, it became a culture.
When it came to America, it became a business.”
The amount of truth in these phrases resonates with alot of questions in my mind, and I think in our society’s mind about the issue of church membership. This week at The Bridge we are beginning what we call “Crossing the Bridge.” It is our version of a new member’s class. We have doubled our previous largest class with this one. God has been good.
I always feel a bit odd about the church membership issue. The Bible is very clear that we are members of the universal church upon salvation, and that the membership is contigent on our belief in, and following of Christ, not a covenant or role. Little is said however about local church membership. I have seen churches who go so far as to have their “members” sign a covenant. I have seen churches whose members are triple the number that actually attend and make up their community. And I have seen churches who have no membership at all. None of the above has ever felt accurate to me, never felt biblically defensible to me. The problem stems from the need to protect the community from what the Bible calls “wolves” who will attemt to come in, and at the same time avoiding the corporate, numeric, unbiblical application of membership.
At The Bridge we are emphatic that being a “member” or “partner” of our community is an “actionable commitment.” It has little to do with a list that bears your name, and everything to do with who you are, and how you serve within our community. Being a member is being a servant…using who you are for the growth and betterment of the “body”. Being a servant is not an idea, it is an action.
Secondly, as it applies to the issue of church purity…the Bible does not call on us to confront sin because someone is the member of our local church. It tells us to deal with sin for the sake of Christ’s name. I do not need you to sign on a dotted line before I can ask of you a life that glorifies God. I think the issue many times is that we lack the relationships to address sin in our community, so rather than addressing the larger issue, we ask people to give us permission to confront them in the name of church membership.
Do you have any thoughts?
How have you seen it done?
What ways are biblical in your mind?
What ways are organic in your mind?