Pastor’s Ponderings

Recently, I read an interesting article in a newsletter called the “United Methodist Insight’ (July 8, 2015 edition). The article was written by Morgan Guyton and was called The Tragic Demise of the Word “Membership”. It talked about how being a ‘church member’ has come to mean little more than a name on a list, while a ‘disciple’ indicates someone who has an active personal relationship with God. As I read the article I pondered another question. Why is it that we can’t even get folks to become ‘members’, much less disciples!
According to Guyton, “Member and membrane are from the same Latin word membranous, which means a ‘limb’ or connected part of a greater whole. What it should mean to be a member of something is
that you’re embedded into the membrane of that community.”
In 1 Corinthians 12:12 Paul wrote, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, through many are one body, so it is with Christ. How does this scripture speak to us today? How are we being the body today? Especially when many of the folks sitting in our pews have not seen the importance of being a member of the church and those who are members, have not been lead to be anything more than a name on a list.
Guyton says, “Membership has become an entirely impersonal, transactional concept rather than the incarnational mystical reality that it was for the early church. I agree to pay a certain fee or follow certain rules and then I receive certain rights and benefits as a result.” Yikes! Maybe that is why we can’t get folks to join. They love to come to our service, they even participate in some of our committees, but they don’t want membership!
Guyton’s article asks, “Imagine if being a church member meant for us what it meant for Paul: being intimately interwoven into the lives of everyone else who breaks the same communion bread with us.” WOW! Think about that! Intimately interwoven into the lives of everyone else who breaks the same communion bread! That means that our church community is intimately connected! We would serve our community as we serve our families, we would pray for and love each other as we do our families …. What would that LOOK like?!
I think it would mean that if someone misses a couple of Sunday services, other people would notice and follow up. I think it would mean that we would visit our Shut-ins like we are visiting our grandparents …joyfully and often. I think that it would mean that when one of our own is struggling, we all look for a better way. I think it would mean that we would practice a little church ‘nepotism’ when it comes to how we spend our money and hire help. I think that it would mean that when the church needed something we would all pull together as family to get it done.
If we behaved this way, caring for each other as family, perhaps those who have chosen to come to our service but not join, would change their minds—perhaps those who are not much more than names on a list would dig in and become more active and excited! Perhaps this is how we go from being members to being disciples. If we are excited about our faith, our church and each other……then others will be led to join us! They’ll want what we have! Isn’t that what being a disciple is? Isn’t that what church should be? I’m willing to make some changes…anyone want to join me?

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