There seems to be a lot of controversy these days about church membership. In fact, there is a lot of debate going on about whether or not we even need churches with all of the online resources available. So in response to a pastor who asks the question, “Why does no one seem to want to join the church? Aren’t people committed anymore, or is everyone looking just to be a church shopper or hopper?”
The idea of church membership as it relates to joining an institution is no longer attractive, if it ever was. The idea of membership was that you joined the institution called church, and you were owned by that church for the rest of your life. I am not sure that was ever truly the idea, but it’s the idea that gets communicated.
Membership classes and membership covenants all seem to give the impression that joining a church is all about obligations with few benefits.
I think the paradigm shift is better understood as joining the movement rather than joining the institution, the organization, or the denomination.
Christianity is a movement. Understand that. If you think it’s an institution or a religious force, you’ve gotten it backwards. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t religious institutions that are very powerful and very forceful. Denominations have served their place in the past. But unlike my parents’ generation, people are no longer loyal to the institution. They want to be a part of things that matter, that help, that move forward, that benefit not only them but also those who need help.
So today, think about the four aspects of belonging to a movement – any movement. I’ve applied this to The Gathering Nashville because it’s a spiritual community that I am a part of. But ask yourself, “If all four of these qualities aren’t present, are you really a part of anything that really matters?” What are the four things that are required to have a sense of belonging? Attending, serving, giving, and supporting. These are the four dynamics that allow movements to be vital, healthy, and resourced in order to do the mission that they’ve been given by God.