Ha.. it is not about masturbation, admit it, you thought that first, right?
Well, it is not about your member, it is about being a member. Yes, the “M” word is membership. I got into a discussion about church “membership” over the weekend. Nothing bad, just a little blood.
Here is my question, and I am sure others out there will have some good info or links to share, so why is it that a non-member that attends the same church you do, but is part of The Body of Christ, cannot lead anyone else within the community he or she attends?
Here is one of many real life examples I will share with you. Maybe this will help shed some light on what I am trying to convey.
First a liitle background: I attended a non-denominational mega-church for over 10 years where I was a “member”. 5 years into attending, I took a 2-year discipleship class there, and then taught the same class as a leader for another 2 years. I was asked to be the lead pastor of my ABF (adult bible fellowship) class when the leader of that class was moving into a different role (a class size of over 50 couples) – but I turned it down knowing my heart was not there. I also taught prison inmates with a group from the church I attended at a local prison for over 5 years on Thursday nights. You want to see Christ, go to prison (as a guest of course).
Here is my dilemma and why I struggle with church membership as a necessity, and why I think it is divisive.
As I was a member at my local mega-church, everyone there was fine with me teaching, loving, helping, and volunteering in many different roles (as long as I looked and acted exactly like them). After a year of personal prayer and a lot of scripture studying I decided to leave the church system I was a part of to start meeting outside the walls with other believers in Christ. In other words I went “post-institutional”… or mental to some people 🙂
I thought about the whole membership thing and decided that I did not need to hold a membership there anymore, so I called to drop my membership (which is another whacked out bunch of BS for another time). I guess I could have kept my membership at that church building and just not attend (which many people do, but doesn’t that mess up their number of “giving units” 🙂 ). I still had many friends and fellow believers I talked to and met with afterwards (since we are all in the same family of Christ). Even though I left gathering with them on a regular basis after 10 years, (I met with them in other places at other times outside the facility), by dropping the membership, it was like I was an immediate outsider. I was no longer one of “them”. Although I am the same person, and I still love Christ as my Lord and Savior, I could no longer go into the prison with the same group to teach the prisoners along side my fellow believers any more. I was thrown to the wilderness.
This is where I ask why? Am I not to represent Christ wherever I and/or we go regardless of where a “membership” lies? I feel we are all members of His actual Body … not set by any human rules or by-laws. This is where and why I feel a “membership” promotes divisiveness. All of the sudden I was looked at as a pagan or an outsider or an unbeliever and not able to serve with the same people I served with in prison for over 5 years.
Was it because I had a few doctrinal differences? (which should not matter). We can have doctrinal differences and still be in The Body. (i.e. old earth, young earth, mode of baptism, Calvin or Armenian, ect.). I do not think gathering as a group inside a church building is wrong, but I do think shunning another believer because he or she has a slight doctrinal difference is wrong. These types of doctrinal differences are second order realities, where we need to agree to disagree in love. The first order reality is that of Christ Himself, this is where we should all agree (birth, death, and resurrection) to where we are all members of His Incredible Church.
Thanks for letting me vent…