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Monday, December 05, 2005

nakedreligion: Why Church Membership Doesn't Matter

BJ B always writes thought provoking stuff. His recent post on Church Membership was great.

It is true. One can hardly make a Biblical case for church membership. There doesn't seem to be a Biblical inquirer's class, membership certificate, etc. But I think there can be a good case made for it.

Churches do need organizational structures for decision making. In democratically run churches membership is good and necessary and needs to be vigilantly watched over. Membership protects the church from being hijacked by one group's agenda. If just anyone who shows up on a Sunday (or not) could vote at a congregational meeting, then someone with an ax to grind could just go and recruit his/her neighbors to come to church and sway the vote.

Now I have seen that happen anyways. When someone wants to influence a particular vote at a church, all they do is go and recruit their friends who are inactive members to come to a meeting and vote en masse. Which leads to my next point ...

Why do we let people control church membership like they are entitled to it? I think the church should decide who is a member and if they get to keep their membership. I think it's really dumb to send out letters asking inactive members if they want to remain on the membership rolls or "What should would they like to do with their membership?" The church should be telling the member what it is going to do with the person's membership.
Inactive members on church rolls are the fault of the church and should be taken care of to protect the church. Failure to remove inactive members is irresponsible on the part of the church and is a failure to protect the church.

I know. I've heard the excuses too. "If we remove this person from the rolls, it will hurt that person's feelings and maybe they will leave too." Or "They still contribute to the church even though they live in Arizona and the church is in NY. If we remove their names from the rolls they will stop giving."

It should never be allowed that someone who has moved to another city gets to keep their membership, even if they were members for 40 years and retired to Florida. You move away, you lose your membership. Get over it. There's no good reason to be a member of a church you don't attend — even if you give money. You can still give money and not be a member.

Furthermore, if a member has begun attending another church, remove his/her membership. Membership isn't outreach. We don't keep people on the rolls in hopes they will come back. Membership is for the committed.

Now certainly this would lead to some standards being made for what one needs to do to keep their membership. How many weeks does one need to miss before they are considered inactive and what are reasonable excuses for being uninvolved in the life of the church? What about people who are in a coma? What if you are in jail, homebound, hospitilzed or institutionalized? What if you have a Conference Superintendent as a church member and s/he is never there?

I guess you would have to deal with people on a case by case basis. But if you are run congregationally and rely on the members of the church to vote, membership rolls need to be carefully maintained to protect the church.

Now it is interesting how some churches keep their dead on the rolls. Just because they are dead doesn't mean they are no longer part of the body of Christ or a member of the church. I guess voting is still difficult under those circumstances.

Comments on "nakedreligion: Why Church Membership Doesn't Matter"


Anonymous chad said ... (2:59 PM, December 05, 2005) : 

i could go on and on...
what is membership? the right to vote.
what should membership really be? when we are pushed to think theologically and biblically about membership, one thinks of Paul's body metaphors and the importance of each person as a "member" of the body of Christ. however, i think we've strayed from this so that we don't hurt people's feelings as you've alluded.
i love how some pastors and church types still refer to churches as "dying" when membership is decreasing; even if attendance is going up. attendance is becoming the new measure of church health and growth, not membership.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (4:08 PM, December 05, 2005) : 


You've been a blogging machine lately. What's up are you snowed in up there?
I think you are correct in observing that we mistakenly allow membership to be controlled by the members rather than the organization in which they are members. It's sick and twisted anyway you look at it. I should know!?! Why not make the criteria of membership something arbitrary like the color of your hair (assuming you have any). My hunch is the church would be healthier.



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