To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Not In Church Membership.

One of the most unsettling times of my Christian life was from October 2000 to January 2001. It was in this period that we were found attending our present church, Feltham Evangelical Church, but were not members of the church. We had left our previous fellowship, but the proper processes of considering our membership meant that May Lin and myself had to wait until early 2001 before we could actually be accepted as members.

This period was unsettling because:-

  • I felt homeless. The fact that we were not formally within the embrace of a community of God’s people seemed somewhat anathema to how things should be. So many Christians seem to take church membership as an optional extra. I just cannot get my mind around that. How can you choose to be effectively homeless when the blessings of a church fellowship are available.
  • I felt abnormal. The normal Christian experience of living in fellowship with a group of believers to whom you are committed was not available to me. What a relief it was to have that period ended. How is it that so many Christians fail to accept the teaching of the New Testament that every true Christian should be in church membership? The work of 9Marks (see here) has been so valuable in establishing  the normality of church membership.
  • I felt failing in my responsibilities. It is my responsibility as a husband and a father to lead my family in the proper ways of the Lord. I contradict my convictions before my family when I am not committed to a fellowship of the Lord’s people. This goes beyond church membership in so many ways, but church membership nevertheless is an aspect of it. So many men seem unwilling to step up to lead their families in the true ways of the Lord; it grieves me much that this is the case.

Happily we were brought into church membership at Feltham in January 2001 and it has been our privilege to share with the group of believers there since that time.

Comments on: "Not In Church Membership." (6)

  1. Easy. I don’t really believe in membership. I see all churches as a part of the same family, so if they can’t accept me without a gold-plated membership card, then I don’t want membership just so they’ll accept me. Besides, even I jump through all of a church’s hoops to be a member, it doesn’t mean that the church will successfully jump through all of mine to prove itself worthy of being my church family.

    I never liked the idea of churches separating insiders and outsiders by treating them differently. Jesus was all about reaching out to the outsiders, the outcasts, the rebels, the sort of people who would never be insider material like the Pharisees saw themselves. When he taught on the Sermon on the Mount, he didn’t care who was listening in – which was why thousands would come to hear him – He would let anyone learn from him in a world where such a thing was abnormal.

    Are you sure you are responsible that way? Where does Jesus say, “Peter, you are the spiritual head of your family. Go and get your wife, have her follow you as you follow me.You are to love her as I love the Church. She is to submit to you as the Church submits to me.” Paul was married to his ministry, so I doubt he would have been big on that one either. I don’t see John teaching: “Disciples, make this vow: I promise to be a member in good standing of this church, to submit myself to the plurality of elders over me, to obey the pastor as he guides me, to tithe every Sunday, to attend small group meetings weekly, and to defend the church from sin and worldliness.”

    I guess the whole church was just lost and stumbling around in the dark before 9Marks arrived on the scene, showed us the light, crucified and resurrected itself and finally corrected millennia of getting it wrong. Without it, why, there would be no such thing as a real true church anywhere, right?

    • Dear Jamie
      Right from the beginning of the church being established in Acts 2 there appears to be this principle of the church gathering together as a group of people committed to each other. And so we read: Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer Acts 2:41-42. Thanks Philip

      • Do you think that on day one Peter would have said to all the new members: “Welcome to Christianity! We would love to consider your membership, but we have to put you on a waiting list. If after one year you’ve proven faithful, you may be formally recognized as members in good standing!”? I certainly don’t. Do you know how strange it is that your church would make you feel homeless, abnormal, and a failure for the one-year waiting time? I’ve never been a member and I’ve never felt as if I was without a home, I’ve never felt abnormal, and i don’t feel like a failure. What does that say about our respective churches – one that has rules that isolate you and one that just welcomes everyone no matter who we are or where we’re at. Which one is a truer expression of Christianity? I know that you’ll say that yours is – but you need to know that 9 Marks didn’t write the book on Christianity and they certainly haven’t perfected it if being a non-member is as being a persona-non-Grata. I don’t think that your church would be the church for me if they do that.

  2. I wonder where the churches started to have this idea about membership from. Are you saying I only care and love you only if you are one of the church members? What is love when everything has the membership comes in mind first? I am living as a Christ disciple but not belong to any churches, does it make me less christian and head of family. What should I boost? Christ in me? or Feltham church that I belong? However, I find interesting about how you felt when you were not a member to a church.

    • Dear Seeker
      Here are some further thoughts:
      1. In 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 we have Paul telling the church about a man who should be “put out of your fellowship” ((1 Cor. 5:2b). If you do not know who is in, then you cannot put out. Hence church membership.
      2. In Acts 20:28 the elders are told to “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28a). This begs the question “who is in the flock”? Church membership gives the answer because it clarifies who is in the flock which the Ephesian elders are to care for.
      3. I love my wife a special love; she is my wife. I also love others as well. To have a special commitment to love those I am committed to in a church does not exclude me from loving others.

  3. […] Here I related about one of the hard times in my life which came about through not being in church membership. Here I want to relate about a most difficult day in my life because we were not able to be in church worship. […]

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