Many are disputing the value of church “membership” today. Some think if we are “in Christ” we are members — whether we are on a list or not. Others wonder what’s the “value added” benefit to being a “member.” Some today are advocating instead for church “covenant” commitments.
It seems to me that “membership” matters. To be an Israelite there was an official “entry rite” (circumcision) and to be “in Christ” there is an official entry rite (faith, baptism). To be a “member” of a nation one has to have an official status. To be a student, one has to be enrolled. To work for a company, one has to be hired. One is either in or one is not. So membership makes sense to me at the basic level.
But what does it take to be a “member” of a church today?
That’s where it gets tricky today, and I suppose it’s tricky because no one really wants to enforce anything. So, we don’t — and that means church membership means very little. One goes to church, sits in a pew, sings a bit and worships a bit and listens a bit and then goes home. Or one participates in a small group or in a service project, but very few churches require anyone to do anything.Here’s the biggest problem with church membership for many today: being a member is so far out of line from what Jesus “requires” for a disciple that church membership seems more like country club membership than it does official participation in the kingdom of God.
So, let’s think about this today: What would happen to church membership requirements if Jesus’ call to discipleship, which I sketch in One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow, became our requirements? What are the top three things Jesus would require of “church membership” if he were writing out the requirements?
A pastor told me recently he and his leaders were thinking of using One.Life for a church membership class. The themes of Jesus’ vision would revolutionize what we mean by church membership — revolutionize in a way that would turn off some people who need to be offended and excite some people are waiting for the church to take its calling more seriously.