Posted by: sailingspirit | May 10, 2011

To Member Is To Dismember

Have you ever gone to a Blockbuster Video store, spent all the time choosing a video, then waited in line to check out only to have them tell you that you can’t rent THERE, because your account was opened at a different Blockbuster location?  But that they would be happy to open a new account for you at their store and give you another card for their store?  Is that not the most aggravating and ridiculous sounding logic?  If they’re all Blockbuster, and you have the card, what difference does it make?  Wal-Mart lets you shop at any store you want, why should it matter where your card is issued?  Right?  If you know it’s wrong at Blockbuster, why is it not wrong at a church?

I have experienced similar audacious things in churches in recent years, and have learned about other such occurrences in the Church’s history. I’m pondering the question of church membership, not to a specific church but in general.  A statement that in itself reveals the double-meaning problem of it all.

You’ve probably already felt some pressure to join a church.  You’ve probably already seen how easy they try to make it for you–“just fill out this little card, conveniently placed in front of you with the little pencil and everything.”  Just your name and address.  Like filling out a raffle drawing slip.  Easy as pie.  Not a single service goes by without someone saying that.  But how often do they tell you you’re welcome to take a Bible if you don’t already have one?  I felt like something was amiss, so I started asking questions, such as, “Why should I become a member?”  I’m already attending and in bible study classes, already in groups, and I didn’t have to be a member for that.  And I’ve already given money in the offering without being a member.  So what am I not currently allowed to participate in?  Will I be turned away from any of these things if I don’t become a member?  Why does the church office not count me unless I sign your paper?  So it’s really not sufficient to be baptised–I have to sign papers.  That’s what really makes me a member.  It’s got to be on human books of record, not Heaven’s Book of Life, hmmm?

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Image by Sam Breach via Flickr

Here’s one of the answers that stands out most to me:  “Well, for example you get priority in the counseling offices.”  Uh-huh….So does that mean all the non-members have to wait in agony until all the members have had a turn first?  Are non-members second-class people?  Jesus didn’t act like that.  Just last week I heard this one, “Yes, I’m the Missions Director, I’d be delighted to help you determine the placement that would be best for you.  Are you a Member here?  No?  Oh, well in that case I can’t help you much.”  Oh really?  My willingness to go overseas to share the Gospel of the Good News is hinging on whether or not I’m a member of your specific congregation?  Why?  Lemme guess–you won’t contribute to funding me unless I’m giving a minimum amount of my income to this church, is that it?  It’s really about the dollars, isn’t it, and not the Gospel?

Hmmm…so am I joining the Body of Christ or AAA?  Do I get bonus miles with that?  What is with discrimination inside the Body of Christ?!  What sensible body would cut off one of its own organs?  WHAT KIND OF COCKAMAMIE THINKING ARE THESE CHURCHES SELLING HERE???

Why is being a committed follower of Jesus and a son/daughter in the Kingdom not enough?  Why do I have to carry a little ID card and have a number in order to be trusted–why are they not convinced by my words and deeds that I’m a Christian?  Is my light not shining enough?  Why is it implied that I can only be a member of one local church, and must write letters asking for the transfer of membership from my former churches, thereby revoking my ties to them?  For the life of me, I don’t understand how so-called reborn people can freely discriminate like that!  And act in such divisive ways!

If you haven’t already read Jamal Jivanjee’s post on Church Planting v. Faction Planting, I encourage you to do so:

The combination of what I’ve seen and experienced over the years, plus what I’ve learned recently about church planting theory and mission work methods overseas, plus Jamal’s perfectly written clarion-call requiring our repentance for participating in factioning, has brought me to the conclusion that I am thrilled to be a member of the Body of Christ, but definitely do not want to be a “member” of any church with a physical address.  It is just far too limiting, and a force for division not unity.  Instead, I will continue to attend a smorgasbord of churches and serve the whole global Body as a member within the global Body, according to the ways in which God has called me to help establish his true Church.  And do it separately from my local church if that’s what is necessary to jump all the obstacles and get the Gospel taught to people everywhere.

Maybe the real Church will last longer than Blockbuster did.



  1. I definitely had that happen to me at Blockbuster before!! So annoying!

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