Church Membership


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Peter L. Berger in his book, The Noise of Solemn Assemblies writes,

     “There is a continuum of values between the churches and the general community. What distinguishes the handling of these values in the churches is mainly the heavier dosage of religious vocabulary involved… Another way of putting this is to say that the churches operate with secular values while the secular institutions are permeated with religious terminology… An objective observer is hard put to tell the difference (at least in terms of values affirmed) between the church members and those who maintain an ‘unchurched’ status.
     Usually the most that can be said is that the church members hold the same values as everybody else, but with more emphatic solemnity. Thus, church membership in no way means adherence to a set of values at variance with those of the general society; rather, it means a stronger and more explicitly religious affirmation of the same values held by the community at large.”

Berger’s quote reaffirmed a thought that I have always held. If something works in the secular world, there is usually a biblical principle behind it. But to think that the church would affirm or “operate with secular values” is something to consider.

In many ways, we have seen various secular values enter into the church over the years. One in particular is the “consumer mindset.” We see this often in the churches today. Recently, I have been describing it as the “shopping mall Christianity.” In Asia, it is all about the shopping mall. People spend most of their time in these grand shopping malls. It is a place where you can eat great food, go see a movie, get your hair done, go shopping for things, and etc. The more options, the better the mall.

This is the approach to church by many people today. It has been reinforced even in our college years. On a college campus, we have so many choices of Christian ministries that we can be a part of throughout the week. Then on Sunday we have so many choices of churches that we can attend. Therefore, we pick and choose what is good for us. For most people, it is all about keeping our options open, just in case a better church or fellowship comes along. Of course, we never want to be stuck in just one place, do we?

Even single adults, when they move into a city and try to find a church, it is advised to always keep the options open, right? Why commit to just one local Body? What if that one church does not have many single people? Then the probability of getting married decreases. But it doesn’t end there. When we get married and even have kids we begin to operate with the same values. We begin to ask, “How good is their children’s ministry?”

When did church become so much about “us” rather than about God and His mission?

I am wondering if this is one of the reasons why the Church of Jesus has been weakened and lacking in power.

If the secular world demands more commitment and sacrifice from people, then we are in trouble.

Here at HMCC of Jakarta, we started a new 2-part series called, “Built to Last.” This past Sunday, we looked into two biblical metaphors that the Apostle Paul used to describe the church – the household and the body. Then next week, I am going to cover the important topic of serving within the Body of Christ. In essence, we are going over what we called back in HMCC of Ann Arbor – Experiencing Membership and Experiencing Ministry.

It is going to be a one-two punch. As I challenge people in our congregation to become officially recognized members, we are hoping to open more opportunities for service. In this way, as people are committing to the mission and vision of the church, they will be able to make the sacrifice and take ownership of the church.

This is one thing that we have to do a better job in than the secular world or we will lose our saltiness and our light will be dim.

Spiritual ENTREPRENEUR, Church EQUIPPER, Leadership EDUCATOR, Ideas EXPERIMENTER & Global EXPLORER who is trying to transform lives and transform the world.
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