Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Membership

What are the benefits of becoming a member of a church, what do members receive that non members do not, or what can members give that non members cannot?

27 comments:

Meg said...

Obviously, sometimes it depends upon the denomination as to voting rights, etc., doesn't it? Some denominations have closed communions in which only members may receive, which I don't think is scriptural.

Why be a member? At this point, I honestly don't know. I'm still carried on the rolls of a particular congregation that I won't drive within three miles of at present for literal fear of seeing some of the people. They're way too scary.

I'm very interested in reading some compelling opinions here. Why "join?" What say everyone here???

Thank you and may the Lord bless you all.

Meg

Shieldsy said...

I'm with Rick Warren on this one ... church (small 'c') membership is probably the most important thing there is.

It's in your membership criteria that you get to express your expectations and values, to sort out the casuals from the committed.

For most churches that I've experienced becoming a 'member' simply involves signing a bit of paper or simply attending for x months. No wonder it means so little to them.

Dave said...

Sorry, not with Rick on this one, maybe if you want to get people to adhere to your programs then it is vital.

Why can you not express your expectations and values without becoming a member? Though not too sure exactly what is meant by this anyway.

Not too sure either what we have to vote on that requires membership, if it is appointing elders etc then surely God has gifted those who will lead, we only agree with the Spirit, I wonder how many times God has been out voted in His own church!

Meg said...

God has been "voted out" many times, Dave. The "scary church" I spoke of was pastored by a man who could preach for 50 minutes without ever mentioning the name of Jesus Christ. Some church; some preacher.

In the Roman Catholicism that I left, all that was required for "membership" in a parish was a long-ago Catholic baptism and giving the church secretary your name, address and phone number. In other congregations, I've had to give my "testimony" before the church/kirk session in order to "join." Whatever, dudes.

Regular attendance at a good, Gospel-preaching assembly of believers, sure, and certainly, one must give of the talents and the economic blessings with which God has showered us in order that we may give -- but "join?" No, thanks. I've experienced too many of the "benefits" of church membership. I'm like a fighter who's taken one too many punches.

Meg

Dave said...

Here's a funny one...I read on a site that you need to be baptised to be a member, and yet under their baptism section they say...

Baptism doesn´t make you a believer - it shows that you already believe.

If that is the case then they could become members prior to being baptised surely?

Gillian said...

Surely as Christians we should all be considered as members of any church? Are we not brothers and sisters in Christ?

How does the church benefit from having members?

Perhaps they distribute a direct debit mandate with copies of their constitution. Sorry, that was harsh.

What makes us want to 'belong' to one church anyway? Why is it so important to us to show everyone else our commitment to an individual church? Do you think it makes any difference or has any bearing on our relationship with God?

Dave said...

Maybe we get some feeling of security from being a 'member'...maybe its just me, but I cannot see a benefit to membership, especially when most people sign up as members agreeing to the statement of faith and yet do not even understand what it says.
How many people sign up yet cannot even begin to explain 'the inerrancy of scripture' that they agree to.

Ann said...

How can you say that 'most' people sign up to a statement of faith that they do not really understand?This is patronising in the extreme. Many of your comments on individuals and churches are in a similar vein, whilst at the same time your own thinking often seems to be confused and lacking conviction and direction.

Ann

PeterinScotland said...

In some circles membership and admittance to the Lord's Supper are one and the same thing. Then if you commit an open sin you will be suspended from membership. I would have thought that the Epistles (Corinthians) implied something similar. If you don't have any kind of church membership how else can the church dissociate itself from open sin?

Dave said...

sorry ann, 'most' people who I have asked or known at least really struggle with the issue of inerrancy and things like gifts of the Spirit. Also 'some' people within the same church membership do not agree with each other in regards their own statement of faith.
Your use of extreme was extreme, but in an attempt to save you making the same sweeping comments I do, maybe you would like to point out the Many of your comments on individuals and churches are in a similar vein, and I will retract them if unfounded. Also you may like to show me how my own thinking often seems to be confused and lacking conviction and direction.

Dave said...

In some circles membership and admittance to the Lord's Supper are one and the same thing. Then if you commit an open sin you will be suspended from membership. I would have thought that the Epistles (Corinthians) implied something similar.

Interesting point, but is inclusion at the table based upon our being right with God and sin free, if it does then it cannot be a menas of grace, and who decides what is open sin. I know ministers who are openely rude and arrogant and yet they preside over the table!!

Also I do not see how membership and the Lords Supper can be one and the same, is membership a means of grace?

If you don't have any kind of church membership how else can the church dissociate itself from open sin?

Matt 18 and 1 Cor 5 give us the answer, I fear there is an importance placed om membership that is not biblical, it seems it is all based on tradition and church practice.

Meg said...

Amen, Dave. In my case, I did nothing, and neither Matthew 18 nor 1 Corinthians 5 was invoked. I was just pitched. Whatever: it worked for them.

(By the way, I couldn't help but notice by your picture that you've "had a little work done," as we delicately say here, right? ;>) Is the plastic surgeon willing to come forward?! Wow. You looked a bit like Hugh Grant before - I mean that in the very most complimentary of senses! - but I don't know about that really avian look. Might "fly" on Lewis, though. [Tongue firmly in cheek.])

Meg

dinsy said...

Can someone please explain what the "/* that is appearing on here so much in so many different people's posts lately is supposed to mean?

And please stop doing whatever is causing it, it makes it very difficult to understand exactly what is being said, as it seems to be replacing text in some of the posts.

Dave said...

Dinsy, can you give me an exact post or comment to check, I am not seeing what you are seeing.

Shieldsy said...

Think some people get all super-spiritual about church membership. The Church (capital 'C') is a divine institution and ultimately only God knows who's a member and who's not. The church (small 'c') on the other hand is the human outworking of that, and like any human organisation it needs some form of government and administration. That's why Paul writes a lot about the practicalities of church goverment.

So to answer your question Dave ("Why can you not express your expectations and values without becoming a member?"). You can express these things but by becoming a member you make a response to 'sign-up' to those things. Becoming a member of something takes you beyond being an 'attender' at something ... it should bestow certain responsibilites, make you accountable (to your membership 'promises' or whatever), give you some sort of ownership.

Found the Rick Warren article on it, and if you can overcome some of the Americanisms in it, I'd concur with what he says 100%, especially "In my opinion, the membership class is the most important class in your church and should be taught by the senior pastor if possible."

Forgotten how to do hyperlinks so hope this works! (Maybe you can get it to work Dave!)

Click Here

PS - Dinsy, I don't suffer from "/* either!!

grace said...

Personally, I think that membership symbolizes and magnifies all that is wrong with our boundaried gatherings.

Rather than acknowledging our common membership in the corporate church, we try to distinguish clearly who belongs where.

Membership creates a "club" mentality determining which club owns which members and what the perks of membership are to those who belong to the club.

What if we risked caring for and committing to one another in the gatherings we find ourselves in without "signing on the dotted line?"

Maybe we could learn to see the bigger picture of the church and begin embracing other members of the church besides those who go to our local gathering.

Meg said...

Re: Rick Warren. Until recently, having limited myself to only very conservative, evangelical churches, I knew nothing about him and "Purpose-Driven..." anything. However, a friend just gave me a book, "Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church," by Warren Smith. He also gave me a booklet, "What You Need to Know About the Purpose-Driven Church," by Dr. Larry Spargimino. The Smith book outlines the connections between Rick Warren and Marianne Williamson, Gerald Jampolsky, Robert Schuller and Bernie Siegel, among others. I'm about a third of the way through the Smith book; haven't read Spargimino's yet. Smith appears to have done a passable, scholarly job. His book is copyright 2004, Mountain Stream Press; the ISBN on it is 0976349205. Spargimino's 35-pp. booklet is published in Bethany, Oklahoma by Southwest Radio Church Ministries (website: www.swrc.com). I'm reserving judgment until I finish the books.

As to membership bestowing a means of grace, that's an interesting question. It makes precluding oneself from church membership a prickly issue. After all, in living as Christians, we are to care to make ourselves known and available to members and non-members alike should they need assistance with anything the Lord would have us provide, a definite means of grace to both parties. If you're not a member of a particular congregation, can you still participate in the life of the Body of Christ as lived out practically in that congregation? I would hope so, and that's one pretty strong argument for membership.

Yo, Shieldsy: "overcome Americanisms..." I agree; we sort of dominate, don't we?! Not pleasantly, either, sometimes and unfortunately. (I'm just grateful that none of you can hear my accent!)

May the Lord of Glory bless everyone here with His abundant grace...

Meg

Shieldsy said...

Grace, I agree with you. But like I said in my previous post I think we're inclined to confuse 'C'hurch with 'c'hurch.

Any member of the Church (big 'C') should be free to do all the things you talk about. If you need to sign a form before you'll start "caring for and committing to one another ... embracing other members of the church besides those who go to our local gathering" then there is something seriously wrong with your Christianity.

However, local churches (small 'c') might have their own unique mission and calling, their own expectations and emphasis, etc. Membership to the 'c'hurch is a way of commmiting to those things, to bring yourself under the authority of the church leaders.

The old 'as long as we all submit to Jesus everything will be ok' argument sounds great and very spiritual but is basically a way of everyone saying "I'll do things my way"

Rather than membership meaning the 'club' owns the members, it's more the members taking ownership of the club ... saying 'this is mine, I'm commiting to it, to what it's trying to achieve'. Can't see why people would have a problem with that.

Shieldsy said...

Meg, can I recommend you reserve judgement on the ministry of Rick Warren til after you've heard what Rick Warren says rather than what the countless number of critics (that succesful ministries always seem to attract) have to say.

Reading 'Purpose Driven Life' is a good starter. Or read any of the articles on the pastors.com website.

Dave said...

Just to emphasise...membership is not a means of grace!

Did not want to get into a Rick Warren debate on here, I have read Purpose Driven and listened to his sermons and got his complete counselling course.
After all of it I can see its appeal, but this is just some bloke in the USA, its all too close to positive thinking etc for me.

By the way Rick has a blog now, you cant post comments, but it is more up to date.

dinsy said...

hecked another browser, the "/* seems to appear when you switch to italics - the Mel thread is full of them. My default browser, opera does not seem to be rendering italics correctly, anyone else using opera? Do you have the same problem?

Thanks for the feedback guys, guess I'll have to switch to firefox till opera is sorted.

Meg said...

Shieldsy, yes, I will reserve judgment on Rick Warren. He wasn't even on my radar screen until my friend gave me those books.

Of course, I would and do perform charitable acts for and with other Christians without being a member of a church. We have population, geographical and logistics issues and problems here, though, and unless a pastor or board of elders can get to know a person, usually by means of membership, they're not likely to know how willing that person is to pitch in when someone in the congregation needs help or who is trustworthy and who is not. There's another problem with the Messianic congregation of which I'm a regular attendee. I live in a metropolitan area that has the largest number of Muslims outside of the Middle East. It's common knowledge that Hezbollah has "cells" around here. I've tried to get to know those Messianic pastors and the members well enough so that they know I can be trusted and that I want to be of service to them in whatever way I can. Understandably, there is no such thing as a membership or "contacts" roster for them in print. We keep in touch by phone and e-mail outside of services and Bible study. "Face time" is very important there. We also keep our eyes and ears open when we attend anything at that congregation.

I've had such a series of horrible experiences in churches in the last six years that I'm not willing to submit to "membership" anywhere.

No, you don't need to be a member of a church to be of service to other Christians. Things are very different here, though, and I should probably concede much ground to you all, as the cultural differences between us are great.

May God bless you and keep you!

Meg

dorsey said...

When I was in church, in making the pitch for membership, the ONLY concrete benefit the pastor (my father-in-law) was able to offer was that (I'm not making this up), in the military, the chaplaincy is distributed according to membership numbers. In other words the reason to join your local Assembly of God is so that more A/G guys will get to be chaplains in the armed forces.

I'm not kidding.

dinsy said...

I think most of the benefits of membership of a local church accrue to the church and not the members. (The numbers game - my church is bigger than your church; a pool of workers to keep the church activities going; a pool of people you can keep asking for more money for church finances; etc.)

The only benefit to the individual that I can see is to "belong", humans like to belong, we play us and them games due to belonging to things. Sadly, once we belong to something we tend to switch off our brains because anything "we" do (unless it becomes obviously outrageous) is OK. So a negative benefit is to accept membership and then stop questioning your local church doctrine.

Another negative "benefit" is that members can end up offering stronger allegiance to the local body than to the body of all believers (eg. supporting the leadership even when they are being unjust within the church), or even to God Himself (supporting the leaders when they are being clearly unbiblical).

I have known people in churches whose local members vote on church policy to disagree with a policy put forward by the leadership but then vote to accept it because they don't want to be considered a trouble maker.

Brian Robertson said...

The membership meeting is the highest form of worship.

Dave said...

Interesting Brian, please feel free to explain, I am not sure what the membership meeting is. I do not want to enter into a 'what is the highest form of worship' debate, but if it is as you say the 'membership meeting' then how does that fit into the whole theology of worship, from Cain and Abel to Jesus Christ.
How does the 'membership meeting' slot into Jesus discourse to the woman at the well.

Look forward to hearing more

dinsy said...

Just found this on another blog on a thread that was not primarily about church membership, but I think it is worth adding to this thread:

"As a Quaker, I think the best way to avoid this dichotomy is to realize that the true Church is invisible: you can't know who's really a member of the Body from any external cue, whether parish, congregation, creed, doctrine, or bumper sticker. Therefore, in all humility, we dare not choose who else will be a part of our fellowship, for we cannot know when we will entertain angels unaware."

It is by a chap called Dave Trowbridge - http://www.davetrowbridge.com/MT/index.php

How is a church congregation going to feel when they find they have denied membership to an angel that they were unaware of.

 

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