Why do we have church membership?

Paul’s blog today reminded me of a conversation I had with someone last week about church membership.

Ever since I was little I never really understood the whole church membership thing. When I asked about it, the typical response was, “People who are members are allowed to vote and it helps keep them committed to the church.”

If that’s all it is, then those seem like pretty lame reasons to me. First, what if someone doesn’t really care if they can place an annual vote on the church budget? Second, if membership is the best way a church maintains commitment, then I suggest the church has far greater issues to address.

I see lots of members who don’t regularly attend church and lots of non-members who are actively involved in the life of the body, so is the membership/commitment thing really working? Do people commit to a membership or to a relationship?

I dunno. Maybe I’m a heretic or I’m missing a key component to all this, but sometimes church membership seems kinda silly to me. I think Paul was right when he said, “My generation in particular seems to feel like church membership is a contrived way to get people to commit to something in a backwards way.” Absolutely. Membership probably carries different connotations for people in my generation than it does for previous ones. To be honest, when I think of membership I think of paying my monthly bill to 24-Hour Fitness for access to their club.

Maybe membership was helpful years ago, but does it have the same affect today? And even more importantly, does it have any counter-productive affects on the upcoming generation? It’s obviously not in scripture, so when do we say, “Ya know, this just isn’t really helpful anymore. Let’s get rid of it.”

Posted on October 13, 2006

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