Friday, May 04, 2012

How Can I Love You If You Are Not A Member Of My Local Church?

Speaking of competing local churches....ooh look, a hornets nest! Let's poke it!

Right on cue, the Gospel Coalition puts up yet another silly and shallow post on "church membership": Submit to Jesus, Submit to His Bride. It starts off with the ironic statement: "Church membership can feel boring, secondary, extrabiblical, and unimportant." Here is my comment:

"Church membership can feel boring, secondary, extrabiblical, and unimportant."

Maybe it feels that way because it is? Church membership is not only extrabiblical, it fosters a completely unbiblical, dare I say anti-Biblical, division in the church and a sense of competition between local churches for "members". Trying to force our traditional system of competing local churches into the Biblical references to the Bride of Christ is silly and damaging. 1 John 4:20 is referring in some way to formal church membership? Come on, that is just ridiculous. If you think you need to be a "member" of a local church so you know who your brother is in order to love him, I would say you don't really understand what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ in the first place.

That is why we find ourselves in a culture where Christian neighbors can be "members" of competing local churches instead of united in a meaningful sense in Christ and working together in a meaningful sense on His mission. Everyone is so worried about attracting and retaining "members" that we miss the mission of the church to take the Gospel to the world.

Even the title of the post is ridiculous: Submit to Jesus, Submit to His Bride since the definition of submitting to Jesus is becoming a "member" of a "local church" and thereby submitting to the pastor of that church? If submitting to Jesus and loving our brother has anything to do with "church membership", wouldn't it seem to make sense to have "church membership" mentioned or at least implied?

Every time I read a apologetic for our system of "church membership" it sounds more and more self-serving on behalf of those with a vested interest in retaining "members". If you are worried about losing contributors, at least have the honesty to say so. Just don't outright twist Scripture and claim to speak for Christ where He is silent.


Don G said...

I agree that most churches do hte membership thing badly. However, there has to be a place for accountability too.

I used to laugh when I would see the directory "our" churches put out indicating who was the ministers, contact info and number of members. Seeing churches that I know ran under 200 with memberships of 600+ told me there was a problem.

I am not sure membership is the issue, as much as it is our being enamoured with numbers.

Aussie John said...


".ooh look, a hornets nest! Let's poke it!" Hilarious!

Those words are very much in tune with the naïveté of the title "Submit to Jesus, Submit to His Bride".

The article itself reads more like a sales pitch by the Pharisees for joining their social organization with its establishment traditions.

Maybe I'm missing something and the article really is a sales pitch, albeit religious!

Eric said...


I read through some of the comments on the TGC site. The difficulty seems to be that people are talking about two different things: church and institution. The institution needs local membership while the church does not. Because the topics are different, the conversation won't really end up going anywhere.

David Bartosik said...

Saw your comments to the church membership article on gospel coalition and had to search you out! Love your thoughts and was feeling the same way by the article and really appreciated the way you articulated your point, contrary to the point of the article!

Arthur Sido said...


I know that the discussion is not going to influence the entrenched authorities who have a vested interest in sustaining the system. My hope, perhaps in vain, is to provide a counter-point for the majority of vistors who read the posts but don't comment.

Arthur Sido said...

Hi David

Thanks for the comment, I think it is important to point out the flaws in those sorts of arguments that are so dominant in our church culture.

Arthur Sido said...


I think what is on display is a desperate attempt to retain control over the system. Those who make a living from the religious system above all else seem to desire to keep that system going. That explains those sorts of ridiculous arguments.

Anonymous said...


You made excellent points in the combox. I am so tired of the innane arguments repeated ad infinitum by the pastor-dominated church member cattle herders. The subtitle of that book is an indirect slap in the face, "How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus". Really, now?

Thanks for your input.

R. Delaney