Monday, February 20, 2012

Membership is no substitute for fellowship

I normally appreciate what Desiring God postss but this morning not so much. The post from Desiring God this morning is written by Tony Reincke and is titled “He Knows My Name!” A Defense of Church Member Directories. Here is what he starts with:
Compiling church member names and contact information into a directory is useful for a number of reasons: it helps members connect, it reminds pastors of the souls they are accountable for, and as Mark Dever stresses, it encourages pastors and members to pray for one another.
I have run into a lot of apologetics for church membership hitting the web lately. Perhaps there is an increasing backlash toward these manmade notions of "fellowship" as people yearn for real fellowship with one another and recognize these attempts at artificial relationships for what they are. Perhaps it is the death throes of American style Christendom trying to hang on to our system that is dying all around us. Tony then links back to a John Piper article from 1983. Piper wrote this to the "members" of Bethlehem Baptist encouraging them to have their picture taken for the church directory:
If this makes sense to you, then please make every effort to get your picture in the new church directory that Olan Mills is doing for us. There are over 850 members at Bethlehem and we simply can’t call each other by name unless we have some pictures to help us. (This directory costs the church nothing and only costs you if you buy some prints).

If you believe the use of names transforms a society into a family, you will want to help us make the new directory as complete as possible. I promise to learn every name pictured in the book.
We simply can't call each other by name unless we have pictures? Yikes. Perhaps trying to have a "church" with almost 1000 people who see each other a couple of hours a week in events that are largely designed to aid in remaining anonymous is the underlying problem? To make matters worse, John tries to somehow compare employees of a local church using a photo directory to memorize the names of people they barely know otherwise to Jesus calling His sheep by name in John 10:3.

I posted this on Facebook:

What a tragedy that we need directories to know who to pray for, that we have reduced the fellowship of the saints to the equivalent of name tags that read "Hi, my name is John" because we don't know each other and we especially barely know those we are to imitate because we have turned them into employees instead of brothers.
How can we imitate the lives of those more mature than we are if we need an appointment to talk to them and if they know us only because they memorized our name from a picture in a church directory? If the gathering of the church you are involved in is so large and impersonal that your leaders don't know you other than by a picture in a directory, if you don't know the other people you gather with not only by name but by their lives, you are missing out on the richness of church life. The gathering of the church is supposed to be about so much more than a well written and delivered sermon and "worship music" with a great song leader and high production value. I would rather gather together in a setting where no one can hold a tune and the talks are clumsy every week than gathering with people I don't know for an hour before going home.


Tom said...

"The gathering of the church is supposed to be about so much more than a well written and delivered sermon and "worship music" with a great song leader and high production value." -- I agree completely. Thanks Arthur for articulating it so well.

Bean said...

I like and hate church directories, yes they do make it easy to put a name with a face, but surely if I wanted to know someone I should simply introduce myself and see where things go.
The part I have always hated about church directories is that it is a sales pitch from the photo studio. After the picture is taken you are generally subjected to a high pressure sales pitch to get you to order multiples of your family portrait in ginormous dimensions with hideous frames, no glare glass, fake oil painting finish, and whatever else they feel like throwing in for the outrageous fee they choose to charge. Not only is the pressure on at the photo sitting to buy, buy, buy, the pressure is put on by the church to make an appointment. Perhaps if the energy exerted to reach out to every parishioner to coerce them into scheduling a sitting was spent in actually getting to know each parishioner the need for the directory would be eliminated, but that would be too easy :)


Arthur Sido said...

Bean, just think if we did what made sense rather than what we are told we are supposed to be doing, how much better would the gathering of the church be?!

Bean said...