Should churches require anything for membership?

David Rogers at SBC Impact has written an intriguing article this morning about church membership. It is entitled “Church Membership: A Social Convention?” You can view the article here. In this article David addresses the “decline” of the Christian church in America. This has been a topic of discussion of late; particularly since President Obama declared that America was no longer a Christian nation (you can watch video of his comment here). President Obama’s comment is not the only reason there has been a lot of buzz about this topic; the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) released a study a few weeks ago that has created much of the buzz about the decline of Christianity in America.

However, David’s focus in his article is not so much on the decline itself. He attempts to address a possible reason for the decline—church membership. If I read his article correctly, his point is that “church membership” is not valued nor correctly understood by neither the church nor the people joining the church. As his title put it, church membership has become a social convention. I don’t think he meant that it was invented by our society, but to put it more bluntly, it is a fad. Church membership in America was something “you did” in the 1940’s. Now it is not necessarily something you do and so our numbers are declining. However, David brings out a point to which I would like to add. He wrote, “Personally, I am not so sure that the church overall was any healthier in the 40s than it is now. Not that we’re doing all that great now, but it seems to me, from what I can gather (and Latourette’s quote seems to validate this theory), that the church then was “a mile wide and an inch deep.”” That is still the problem today; churches don’t spend time deepening their members’ relationship with Christ.

The problem with church membership today is not that it is not “cool” to be a member of a church, but I believe it is a conglomeration of factors:

(1) People today don’t understand church membership. Churches have failed to explain that church membership is more than going to a church on Sunday mornings; it is uniting oneself with Christ in saving salvation and following through by publicly declaring that commitment in believer’s baptism. Church membership is first and foremost determined by whether a person has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

(2) Churches today don’t understand church membership. If a church will allow a first-time guest to come down the aisle and join the church, then I don’t think that church understand what membership is. We don’t create hoops for people to jump through, but we are to examine people to determine if they have truly accepted Jesus Christ. After all, we are told to judge a tree by its fruit (Matthew 7:16, Luke 6:43-45). In my opinion, churches are doing a disservice to people by not asking about their salvation; we give people the false understanding that they are saved and going to heaven and we never even stop to ask them if they understand salvation.

(3) Churches today don’t require anything for membership. In America we have become afraid to ask our members to do anything. There is this stigma that “if you ask them, they will leave.” Jesus asked his disciples a lot! And a lot of them left! Jesus doesn’t call us to a lazy faith; he calls us to an active faith. There is nothing we do to earn our salvation; however, we are required to do something with our salvation. One of the greatest commands Jesus gave us concerning our faith is found in Matthew 28:18-20—All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. We have trouble asking our congregations to even share their faith with other people in their neighborhoods, workplaces, and families. When we don’t even push our people to be obedient to what is commanded from Scripture, should we really be surprised when we see people leaving the church in droves.

David was speaking to the churches of the ‘40’s, but I think many (too many) of our churches today are still a mile wide and an inch deep. We are not teaching them to be obedient to the Scriptures and to live out their faith on a daily basis. I think this is why so many students “leave” the church when they graduate high school and move on to college. We didn’t spend time deepening their faith in Christ. We didn’t help them build on a foundation of rock—we never moved them off the foundation of sand. So when the storm came, their “house” didn’t hold up. The same thing happens to the adults—when they lose their job, they go through a divorce, have a terrible death in the family, etc. We are setting up entire churches that are spiritually bankrupt, and then we wonder why the church as a whole is in decline.

Do you think churches should require more for membership? Does your church already, if so what do they require?
What'd you think? 

2 Response to "Should churches require anything for membership?"

  • Jacob Says:

    Mr. Hyde...Obama didn't say the United States is "no longer a Christian nation." He said straight out it was not such. It never has been, even though a majority of its people confess Christianity.

  • Mr. Hyde Says:

    You are correct that his exact statement was not that America was "no longer a Christian nation." His exact quote was, "We have a very large Christian population...uh...we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation...uh...we consider ourselves...uh...a nation of citizens, who are...uh...bound by ideals and a set of values."

    However, what perception was he trying to correct? He was trying to change the perception of other nations, which view the United States as a Christian nation. The implication then being, we are no longer a Christian nation. But I should have been more clear in my post that he did not exactly state it in those words. Thanks for the comment!