To join or not to join…the debate rages on….

For the past six or eight weeks, Sam and I have been attending a local non-denominational Christian church in our area; Northwest Christian Church (www.nwcc.net). We really like it, and as fate would have it, we know several of the folks who are affiliated with the church from the “old days.” As we’ve been attending for a while now, we’re beginning to feel the screws of membership tighten around us.

One of the things I do not like about most churches it the emphasis that is placed on “membership.” Call me old fashioned, but no where in the Bible do I see the Lord command people to be “members” of a local church. What I do see are sermons and parables that focus on the unity of believers everywhere. I just don’t understand why mere words take the place of actions and service?

It’s not that I’m against joining a church, however, I find that words are just that – they imply a sense of loyalty but they do not always follow it through with action. In my ministry experience, it’s the members who create rifts in the congregation; it’s the members who sit back and expect others to do the “work” of growing the church; and it’s the members who complain when things don’t go their way.

My idea of membership is so much stronger than just words. I believe the Bible teaches that we are to be known by our fruit. Meaning, I can say one thing, but ultimately people will know who I am and where my heart is by my actions. If I’m faithfully tithing, working, praying and serving the church, why should I have to pick a side and align myself with just one group? Don’t my actions speak louder than my words?

Unfortunately, church service is so closely tied with the act of becoming a member that so many believers are stifled and driven away from the church because they feel that the church places too much emphasis on “membership” and not service. Do you honestly believe that the first church took role? That the apostles, disciples, and elders discouraged believers against teaching and proclaiming the gospel message because they didn’t align themselves with one particular fellowship of believers? I think not….that would be completely ridiculous and goes against everything the the Lord taught.

Sam says that I have a jaded opinion of membership because of my upbringing in the Nazarene church, where membership is an oath to that denomination and any deviation outside of the denomination is severely frowned upon and highly discouraged. And perhaps he’s correct, however, becoming a “member” of any specific church just reinforces the notion of disunity within and among the church as a whole. The Nazarene’s look down on the Baptists, the Methodists frown on the Lutherans, and everyone despises the Catholics, Episcopalians and Pentecostals. When the truth of the matter is, we’ve all lost our focus. Churches today are too driven by numbers alone.

So, will we end up “joining” the church? I honestly don’t know. While I have my own opinion, and I’ve obviously voiced it to Sam, I am still his wife; and if it is his desire to join this church as full on members, I will comply with his wishes.

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