Monday, February 17, 2014

IS it BIBLICAL to be a Member of a Church?

I am a member of the human race.  How do I know?  I stood in front of a mirror and saw it was so.  Not elephant, not monkey, not dolphin,  Nope, human. variety male.

I am a member of the United States of America. Never signed in, just born here.  Have used that membership to vote, travel with a passport, accumulate social security and align myself with fellow Americans. 

I am a member of the Tea Party branch of the Republican Party.  I never took a test, signed a document, went to school for it, I just realized one day that the tribe I belong to politically looks like me .. and therefore without fanfare I was.  A member.  I will so remain until and unless the folks I consider members in like standing go off into something with which I cannot abide.  So, in that way my membership is not unconditional.  It is voluntary and active by my participation. 

I am a member of the global Body of Christ.  My membership came because I was born again.  My spirit which was dead came to life.  I are alive in Christ.  I didn't train for this.  I didn't take a class.  I came as the Spirit of God called and when He touched me I have never been the same since.  Am I a faithful member, a good member, a loyal member?  I do what I know to do and be what I am called to be.  I read the Book I know many other members read and believe what it says.  I talk to the author a lot.  He talks to me.  I am not exactly like every other member on the earth.. but I know as my spirit witnesses to their spirits that we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  I don't carry a card, wear a name tag or go thru ceremony.  I am simply accepted in the beloved because I am HIS beloved.  It's a wonderful place to be.  It's a kingdom and I am part.

All those memberships matter to me.  They identify me yet allow me to be who I am.  There are memberships I carry that are far less important.  I am a member of AAA, AARP (My wife signed me up), CVS discount card, used to be a Blockbuster member, believe it or not once was a member of a gym, Amazon prime and one restaurant that gives me a fee meal every tenth.  Member. 

I have a few affiliation memberships.  I am a member of Impact because the people part of that network have the same passion towards the Kingdom I do.  They share aligned beliefs.  It is without stricture.  Yet I am confident the leadership embraces things I know to be true.  What is more important to me is I am encouraged to ask very hard questions and even disagree and not be ostracized.  I was not required to sign in nor sign on to anything which restricted free inquiry.  I didn't need to hang my brain and the voice of God at the front door to have someone tell me what I should abide.  There was not a "What we believe" pledge.. just we do.  I shall remain unless or until somehow humanity invalidates this and I cannot abide.  It happens all the time.

This brings me to the paradox of membership in a church.  One that I have been.  One that is unlike and therefore to be questioned more than most.  I have in my life been a member of 5 churches.   Two Lutheran.  Two Assembly of God.  And ordained as a Member of a National Pentecostal Denomination.  Four of those five memberships carried with them certain "Requirements".  Not organic, imposed.  Typically,   Do you espouse all the teachings of our denomination, will you be faithful to keep a pew warm Sundays, will you make sure your tithe ends up in our coffers, will you put your picture in our directory, submit to our leadership and will you volunteer to do all the stuff that needs to be done?  Say yes and you are in like Flynn.  

Only one time was my church membership truly Organic and might I say HOLY.  Pastor Dan.  First Assembly.  No class.  No ceremony.  No questionnaire.  Just I said I would like to a member.  He didn't ask if I bought the whole program, if I would tithe, show up or work. I was already doing all that. I was actively a member without formality.  At an elder's meeting they brought my name up, no one had any serious doubts about me and boom;  I was accepted in the fellowship.  Sounds like the church in Jerusalem.  Someone was Barnabas for me.  And what I already was became formalized.  The only change was that from that day forward I could vote on financial things if they came up (which they seldom did).  In today's apostolic structures that is even less of an issue.

Long and short, I do not believe that church membership as it is routinely executed in most of the American Church has biblical or spiritual legitimacy. Membership should be akin to ordination.  IF you are already participating at a high level in the ministry of the fellowship in which you are involved, if you are already doing all the things "Members" are asked to pledged to do in these formalities then church leadership will recognize and confirm your membership.  Just as those who are ordained are.    God does the gifting, ordination is the recognition.  We have this really backwards in our churches and need to rethink this.  The biblical model, if we were going to really follow it, would be that there is only ONE church per city.  Now that will upset a few apple carts.  Not my idea... Watchman Nee.

But that's just Prophet Gene or is it?


The Daydreamer said...


Watchman Nee knew God like nobody I know. Favorite author.

Anonymous said...

Outstanding observation - a natural Body has stationary elements and mobile elements. You have a great point it was a joy to read. When people stop with unbiblical programs organization and just listen for the witness and direction of the Holy Spirit what we call church in the U.S. will be a much much better place :)