As a youth I remember a frightening moment I experienced in Sunday school. When the teacher went through and took roll she showed me the roll. Beside my name was this word, “non-member”. It confused me and scared me a little but I acidly realized I wasn’t a member of the church that I regularly attended, was born in, and saved in. Why not? Was my question. What else do I need to do to become a member? I thought.
I came to this three part conclusion:
- Membership is not gained by birth
- Membership is not attained by attendance
- Membership is not earned, it is given
Now, as a 25-year old Pastoral intern, one of my tasks is to call everyone on our membership roll to get a clear picture of their intentions of membership. You see, many of these people have moved away or just stopped going for no apparent reason to the staff, so we want to ask if they still desire to be members.
Many of them have understood membership to entail the above three misconceptions of membership: that it is gained by e family they were born into, if their family attends the church then they are members. This, however, is not the case.
They also believe the misconception that membership is gained through attendance. Though membership should birth attendance, membership is not a result of attendance. This was the misconception that I had. I had been at every church service since I was born (almost). I thought that was all that was required. But we’ll see later that membership is an outflow from a regenerated heart changed by the Gospel.
The last misconception is connected with the one prior. Membership is not earned, it is given. This connects the misconceptions with the powerful reality of the Gospel. Paul in Ephesians 2:8-10 talks about salvation being a free gift of God, not of ourselves, so that no one may boast. Membership is given when the reality of what God has done for you, personally, has been realized in your life and we’ve received a new heart- we did not create the new heart, God did. We did not convert ourselves, God did. We did not earn our salvation (or membership), God did.
Membership is important. It matters. But it does not matter if one is not truly converted to Christ by faith. A member with an uncircumcised heart is a false representative of the Gospel and to the kingdom of God. Mark Dever, in his book The Church: The Gospel Made visible he talks about this representation in a in-depth way, capturing the gravity of it. I would encourage you, to search your heart, to figure out your commitment to God’s church through membership and devotion to it, and identify if you believe any of these misconceptions and that you would again cling to Jesus, only Jesus.