Thursday, September 27, 2007

Re-Thinking Church Membership (Part 6)

Read entire series here.

Now I'd like to examine some of the arguments put forth by Pulpit Magazine in their two part series on church membership. In my experience, their arguments are fairly representative of those who hold to a doctrine of man-made formal membership. In part 1, their definition of church membership (taken from the Grace Community Church Elders' Distinctives on Church Membership) is the following:

The Definition of Church Membership - When an individual is saved, he becomes a member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). Because he is united to Christ and the other members of the body in this way, he is therefore qualified to become member of a local expression of that body.
What is immediately obvious about this statement is that there are two distinct levels of Christianity for the elders at Grace Church. The first level is salvation and membership in Christ's body, the second is qualification to become a member of Christ's local body based on the first. So not only are there two levels of Christianity, and two different memberships, but there are two distinct bodies of Christ. The body of Christ a person is saved into is different from the local body of Christ. It's truly amazing, but each time I've pointed this out in a discussion with a proponent of formal membership, they have denied that this idea creates two levels of Christianity! But it's right there in their definition!

What is more interesting is that the verse used, 1 Cor. 12:13, states that we have been baptized into one body, not two! Now for a question about their definition: where does the bible state that salvation qualifies a person to become a member of a local church? I'm not aware of any such passage.

Part 5 . . . . . . . . Part 7

1 comment:

  1. Steve,
    I have read your whole discourse on this topic and am in accord, mostly.

    My son who is a pastor in a very fundamentalist pentecostal church has this differentiation, for those who want to just attend and participate there is no membership benefit or duty.

    For those who are in leadership, direction, eldership, having to do with governance membership is essential.

    I have argued it but then when I see what goes on in Liberal denominiations; Gay in Clergy and all I guess I have to ask who's right.

    I am NOT a member of a local church boday. I am a minister and as such am a member of a denomination.

    I don't know where the balance is on all this. I wish I did.

    If I were full time pastoring a church in our area again and was going to figure out who was and was not a part of our church I would think there should be some differentiation.

    Membership? I don't know. On the other hand then you get to the question of who is making the decisions. If it's by a vote, who votes. OR, is it by the mandate of some single person who is a strong apostolic leader and who just runs it as a dictatorship. That model has been more "successful" in the Mega Churches of America.

    Tough question Steve. Keep asking it. I may not be bright enough to.