The “M” Word

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. For some reason I always get into a discussion about church “membership”… usually 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 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…

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8 thoughts on “The “M” Word

  1. Church membership is about “agreeing that you will be under the authority of those in leadership”. So if “they” judge/discern that you have done, said, thought, anything they believe is “unbiblical” they have the authority to “discipline” you.

    1. Jerri – Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Welcome.

      I will have to disagree with you. I believe the only leadership authority we are under is Christ. No one should judge us except Christ. I do agree that there are leaders within the Body of Christ, but they do not exercise authority over you, they help along side each other to show Christ to the world.

      1. What about I Corinthians 5:3 where Paul says, “For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this…” Was Paul wrong to have judged this man?

        Paul then goes on to instruct the church to kick the offender out of the church. So it seems clear that either the apostle, or the church, was exercising authority over this man. Were they wrong to do so?

      2. Andrew – Welcome. Thanks for commenting.

        First of all, I do not like to cherry pick verses, make it a rule, and enforce it as truth. I do not want to get into a theological debate on an issue that is certainly debatable. By here is my 2 cents.

        The reason I disagree with you and Jerri starts with how we see the structure of church in the first place (and that is another whole ball game and for another post).

        When we are part of a family that provides substantively for us in many different ways, both physically and emotionally, we come to rely on that love and care. We come to rely on what I see as Christ.. the Body of one anothers. When this Body is withheld, it wakes us up on many levels. (Sort of a tough love kinda thing).

        To me, this verse or letter that Paul wrote has little meaning to the western church today because the majority of church-goers practice an art of shunning all together. Apart from the passive “worship” service, and surface discussion small group gatherings, most “members” have no real relationship together. In other words, most people would not feel the difference if it was taken away. We are busy people, and do not have time to build true relationships. So, if a group shuns you, you do not feel the pain it should cause.

        Before we can even begin to speak of turning away those among us who begin to live sinful lifestyles (and habitually continue to do so, like in the verses you mention), we first need to re-engage one another in an intimate lifestyle. The church by design (family) presumes the members develop deep relationships and interactions together, spending substantive time together in everyday life. Well, from my experience over the past decade, this is non-existent within the institutional system. It would require actual sacrifice from each other, and from my experience, that is a crock of shit.

        If the church were relational, and that is a big IF, and if it was common to share life together way more often then is practiced now, THEN we would, of course with a heavy heart, turn away from our relationship with a person that is having incest, and does not want to stop.

  2. I love how God has drawn you out of the box thinking. When I thought many times of getting baptized only because church membership needed it, it held no meaning. Today after staying out of church but meeting people God put my way out of the “church building” I met God in a more deeper personal and powerful way. And now I desire to be baptized but not in any building. It represents “club med” so to speak. We narrow ourselves to our finite thinking, but not reflecting on the infiniteness of our God, when we think we will meet Him only in some building, and dont give ourselves freedom to ask and question: “Who are you God, Search my heart”..

    1. Smitha – Welcome!

      What you said makes complete sense. Many things we do inside the church walls are done because everyone else is doing it, and we do it just because it is on a checklist. You want to be saved, please check here, here, and here. What a joke.

      When we open our hearts together in community, the checklist goes away. For me the entire institutional church system, and man-made traditions went away too. When we shred all the excess, what is left is each other.. or Christ’s actual Body.

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Thanks for your thorough response to my question about church discipline. You obviously put considerable thought into the issue, and I appreciate you sharing your ideas with me.

    However, I did not say, or mean to imply, that I agreed with Jerri. My own response to Jerri would be that if those who would be leaders in the church, truly practiced serving as Jesus modeled for us, there would be little, if any, need to resort to “authority”.

    My main question concerned your statement that, “No one should judge us except Christ.” In the situation with the Corinthian church, Paul states that he had judged the offender, without even being there. So I’m still left with the first question in my comment, was Paul wrong to have judged this man?

    1. Andrew – Thanks for the follow up.

      I do not know the answers to questions like this. No one really does. But I can give you what I think and my best advice.. which by itself is rather worthless.

      If you are sleeping with your step-mom (like what is going on here). I guess I would judge (not thinking permanent banishment), but rather in a loving confrontation saying that your actions could be tearing us (Christ) apart. Out of heartache, I would likely distance myself from your behavior (but that does not mean to ignore you completely)

      When you really get down to it, I go by the thinking that when I am perfect and cannot sin whatsoever, I will then judge on the behavior of others. It is hard for me to judge someone else when I could easily fall into the same sin one day, and where would that get us… nowhere, but two shunned people having sex with their step-moms.

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