This month I’m holding membership classes. One woman wants to become a member, and another man is interested in learning more about who the Wesleyans are.
Yesterday we talked about the pros and cons of being a member at a church. Membership isn’t nearly as big as it used to be. I’m not sure why. Perhaps we have a hard time saying, “I agree to all that stuff.” Maybe we think our membership “rules” are too strict.
I guess to me, being a part of a local body of believers is much more important than my own personal preferences, which may or may not be different from membership commitments. Unless the church was way off doctrinally from anything in orthodoxy, I would probably join. This implies that I’ve been attending the church for sometime and understand a bit of how the “atmosphere” goes, who the people are, etc. If I believed in what the church was doing, how it was spending its time and money, etc. I would join. And there’s lots of leeway with that. I personally would not be nit-picky…
Anyway, here are my thoughts on why people hesitate to declare membership at one church (and stick to their commitments):
1. Lack of trust. They may not trust the current pastor and/or leadership, and aren’t sure if they’ll even stay at the church for the long haul.
2. Burnt. They’ve been burnt or have friends who’ve been burnt, and regardless of the current situation at their church, membership just sounds like setting themselves up for a fall.
3. Easily dissatisfied. With the overwhelming amount of choices for churches to attend in any given area, people can leave whenever they want to. When a church decides to discipline a member, that person can leave and “start fresh” somewhere else. We’ve let the little things in life get under our skin, and unfortunately the Church hasn’t always been gracious enough to admit when its wrong.
4. Dislike of the rules. In a state known for its alcohol consumption, a church that bans alcohol isn’t all that popular. Not to mention the unpopular bans on gambling and secret societies.
5. Lack of commitment. Perhaps we’ve seen too many people break their commitments in other areas of life (marriage, group projects, jobs, etc.) that we are afraid we’ll break our commitment to the church. Or, maybe we’ve seen too much of that and the result is, “It’s okay to break my ties with something for any reason I choose.”
6. Individualism. Back in the day (Jesus’ day), community was everything. You were known by which group you were a part of. Today community isn’t nearly as critical to life (although it is seeing a resurgence in the postmodern movement). We’ve also gotten used to a “fake community” based on the Internet. Talking online, sending emails, etc., while exremely useful and something I can’t live without, provides a false sense of intimacy that is still satisfying. Why meet in person when I can talk online?
7. Doctrinal issues. We just don’t believe everything one denomination holds as its doctrine. This is probably a fairly good excuse, depending on which issues we make the major ones. If we’re not going to join a church based on whether or not it believes in baptism by immersion, we’ve allowed doctrine to get in the way of unity. We’re our own little protest-ants. Not good.
8. Anything else??? Let me know what you think.