Members Only (and other scars from the 80’s)

[This first appeared at]

May 13, 2016

If you were fortunate or unfortunate enough (depending on how you look at it) to be alive during the 1980’s, there’s a good possibility you were the proud owner of a “Members Only” jacket, or at least you knew someone that cool!  I happened to have a ‘sweet’ blue one myself!  So, this week I decided to Google “Members Only” jackets, and like many fashion-trends from the 80’s, found myself ashamed and baffled at how something like this was actually ever considered ‘cool.’  All this to say, if you didn’t have the joy of owning one, perhaps you should consider yourself lucky.

The term, member, is often associated with churches (i.e: Church Member), but is also used in a host of other contexts to refer to someone who has joined something by either paying a fee or completing some type of training or initiation, and therefore, has been granted the rights and privileges of thatwhich they new belong.  We’re members of all sorts of clubs, professional associations, AAA, service organizations, athletic boosters, and so on… And the idea behind each of these is a certain exclusivity we enjoy that allows us to belong and sets us apart.  Members Only.

For years I’ve had trouble with associating the word member to church in much the same way I’ve had trouble associating the word volunteer to those who serve in the context of the church.  The associations carried over into the church from how these terms are understood in our culture often create problems with defining not only what membership should look like in the church, but also hurts our understanding of why church membership is even necessary.  Volunteering is often associated with things that you do in your spare time, and yet, when that becomes the way we understand serving in the church, it must mean that serving (or volunteering) is then optional.  However, Scripture doesn’t allow for our optional participation when it comes to serving.  And the same is true when it comes to membership.

When you choose Christ, you also choose His church.  And as much as we might not like that or may try to disagree, it simply doesn’t work any other way.

Another problem the word Member presents for the church is this idea of exclusivity.  However, the church should be anything but exclusive, because the Gospel is anything but exclusive.  We are an inclusive gathering with a mission to announce to the world the inclusiveness of the Kingdom of God made available through Jesus Christ.

And so, all of this begs the question: Why do we continue to use the word, membership?  My answer to that question, short of not having a better word for it, is because instead of submitting to the definitions our culture places on such words, we simply choose to redefine them.  In fact, that’s the heart behind so much of what we do as a church and as the people of God.  We are re-definers.

This Sunday, we will set-out to re-define what we mean by Members, why it’s important, why you should consider it, and how to become a member of Life Church, exclusively joining with others to advance the mission of this inclusive Gospel that announces, God is for us, God is on our side! 

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