Are There Any Good Reasons For Not Having Church Membership?

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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
One of Calvary Chapel's distinctives is they do not have church membership. I am aware that there are certain major drawbacks to that but CC seems to be doing pretty well in spite of that distinctive.

Given the growing uncertainty of the church's relationship with the US government, lawsuit-happy lawyers, the IRS, etc, are there any good reasons to not have church membership? Could you foresee situations where it would be better to not have membership?
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
CC does not hold to church membership!

No wonder they act like if they have no mother
(The Church) and father (The Lord).:)
 

Sonoftheday

Puritan Board Sophomore
To most of the churches I have attended church membership is pointless anyways. They dont practice church discipline, they dont withhold the Lord's Supper from anyone, they do not evangelize an anyway but rather have worldly things in the church to draw the world in. There is no accountability or authority present in the church, and while the churches i have attended practice church membership there is absolutely no difference between a member and a non member who attends other than partcipating in business meetings.

That said, I believe there is absolutely no reason why a biblical church should not practice church membership. This sets the flock under the care of the elders seperate from visitors to the church. The elders are then able to practice thier leadership and guidance over those members who place them over them. I love the idea of church membership whenever it is practiced in the proper way and would not give it up under any percievable circumstance.
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
It is a manner of speaking throughout church history giving reference to understanding the role of the Church and her sons.

Thus, I am following along that understanding equating church membership as being a son of the Church by having the Church as a Mother and God as our Father.

"The early Church quickly caught on to the implication that if the Church is the Bride of Christ, then she is the Mother of the faithful. Cyprian said it so well in the third century: "You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the church for your Mother." John Calvin declared that "there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, [and] nourish us at her breast....[A]way from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation." God is our Father, the Church is our Mother. There is a whole realm of possibility for beautiful imagery and poetry in this, as we recover the faithful teaching of the Word of God."

Also:

"I believe in the Holy Catholic Church"
(The Apostles' Creed)

"No man can have God for his father who has not the Church for his mother."

"No salvation outside the church"
(St. Cyprian)

"There is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, [and] nourish us at her breast....[A]way from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation."
John Calvin, Institutes 4.1.4

From Scripture:
Isaiah 66:7-13
Gal. 4:21-31
26But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Bryan brings up a good point. Why be a member of a church that is severely dysfunctional? In this day in age where you can wet your finger, put it in the air and allow the wind to blow you to the nearest church, we have become spoiled. Our selection of churches is like the food court at a mall. But it hasn't always been that way and it still isn't in certain areas. If your choices of churches is limited then joining a church that preaches the gospel, yet is deficient in praxis, is not about validating the church or its leadership. It's about being part of the body of Christ. Membership denotes commitment. Christians should be wholly committed to their local fellowship, even if they are opposed to the way it is run.
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
Could you foresee situations where it would be better to not have membership?

What do you mean by membership?

When is it "better" to fear the Govt., especially lawyers and the IRS, rather than God, now and in the future?
 
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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Could you foresee situations where it would be better to not have membership?

What do you mean by membership?

When is it "better" to fear the Govt., especially lawyers and the IRS, rather than God, now and in the future?
This is an extreme case, but, if you were a pastor and your government threatened to torture and kill all members of churches, would you still insist on keeping a membership roll?
 

BertMulder

Puritan Board Junior
Christ said something about confessing His Name...

Also, outside the Church there is NO salvation...
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
Pastor Klein,

I have never herd of John Weaver but I notice in another board that he is one of your favorite preachers. I notice from sermonaudio.com that he has a sermon title:

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
» 11/27/2005 (SUN) » Proverbs 8:32-36

Maybe this will help!
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Christ said something about confessing His Name...

Also, outside the Church there is NO salvation...
Does this really have to do with whether your name is on a membership roll? Just because Calvary Chapel does not have a membership roll does not mean that everyone who attends CC misses out on salvation. Having been a part of a CC church I can tell you that they do enforce discipline to a certain extent. They do have a high view of preaching the Word. They do a great deal of evangelism. They certainly do a lot of baptizing in the name of Christ. In addition, there are many brave CCers who would go to the stake and proudly claim Christ. They can be a very zealous bunch.

Perhaps I should be more specific. Is there ever a reason for not having a membership roll complete with the signing of covenants etc.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Pastor Klein,

I have never herd of John Weaver but I notice in another board that he is one of your favorite preachers. I notice from sermonaudio.com that he has a sermon title:

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
» 11/27/2005 (SUN) » Proverbs 8:32-36

Maybe this will help!
I am quite aware of what Pastor Weaver's answer would be. :)
 

Blue Tick

Puritan Board Graduate
One of Calvary Chapel's distinctives is they do not have church membership. I am aware that there are certain major drawbacks to that but CC seems to be doing pretty well in spite of that distinctive.
The appearance of doing well is not the same as doing what scripture commands and teaches. What CC appeals to is emotion, individualism, self-centered idol worship, and
anti-establishment attitudes. The concept of having an formal membership within in CC is an anthema and those churches that do are equally archaric and dead. My experience with CC is that the "pastors" are not pastors but CEOs who run the "Church" as a papacy. The top down and that's it. Do not question. The sad thing is that they believe their running it biblically.


Given the growing uncertainty of the church's relationship with the US government, lawsuit-happy lawyers, the IRS, etc, are there any good reasons to not have church membership? Could you foresee situations where it would be better to not have membership?
No. There isn't a good reason why one shouldn't formally profess faith in Christ and become a member in a church. However, each person, and each case is different. People have baggage. They've been mistreated, abused, misinformed, and taught poorly. It's up to the session and other mature believers to lovingly, gently, and patiently instruct people to the importance of church membership.

Being in church membership is a lot like marriage. There's this euphoric stage where everything's great and nothing could ever go wrong. However, when reality sets in and people begin to live in community with one another and see each others faults the temptation is to criticize. It's easy to put on a mask in a large church. But that mask can't be worn in a marriage and that mask can't be worn in a small communal church. Nor should it be. We’re called to love one another, to be tender hearted to one another, and to carry each other's burdens. As I like to remind my wife lovingly I’m her means of sanctification as she is mine. The same goes for people that we’re in community with.
 

Galatians220

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I believe that there's no good reason not to attend a Christ-exalting, Gospel-preaching church every week in which one is able to do so. I agree with you, John J.

That said, I also believe that actual membership is a different story. If one has once, twice or more suffered abuse, mistreatment, informal "excommunication" on unBiblical grounds, etc., etc., as a "perquisite" of membership in different churches, then one is understandably very wary of becoming a member of any congregation thereafter. How many times should a person subject himself to ostracism, scapegoating, becoming the object of lies, gossip, ridicule, shunning or whatever else anyone feels like dumping on their "brother" or "sister?" Seventy times seven? Of course, we have to forgive that many times, and infinitely more, when someone does those things to us, but should a Christian seek or continue membership in a congregation in which that kind of behavior appears to be countenanced or even encouraged? Such congregations are out there - and they're neither few nor far between.

There is "the visible church" and "the invisible church." But that's a whole other topic.

Whatever happened to Galatians 6:10? There's way too much in churches these days.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
Scriptual evidence for church membership

Membership is convenient for all but Biblically speaking Christians were evident in the Bible and early church history. If I were Sola Scriptura I could not enforce membership now. It's extra-biblical. I am a member now but my brothers are obvious: We attend, we are involved, we help each other, we tell others of Christ. Then there are those that show up and leave each Lord's Day.

I went through the ritual, stood before the congregation, had the pastor speak for me (not a great idea in my opinion) and shook hands with people (I had already been baptised). The members are evident. The players are, too.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
One of Calvary Chapel's distinctives is they do not have church membership. I am aware that there are certain major drawbacks to that but CC seems to be doing pretty well in spite of that distinctive.
The appearance of doing well is not the same as doing what scripture commands and teaches. What CC appeals to is emotion, individualism, self-centered idol worship, and
anti-establishment attitudes. The concept of having an formal membership within in CC is an anthema and those churches that do are equally archaric and dead. My experience with CC is that the "pastors" are not pastors but CEOs who run the "Church" as a papacy. The top down and that's it. Do not question. The sad thing is that they believe their running it biblically.
They may be in error, but they do base their polity on the Bible. They use the theocratic model under Moses whereby the pastor is basically Moses and the elders are appointed because the burden of being the 'Moses' of the church is too great. (Exo 18) I disagree with their form of polity but it is actually based on the Bible.

Being in church membership is a lot like marriage.
This I agree with. Many (not all!) do not want to commit to a church body for the same reasons that many do not commit to marraige.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I believe that there's no good reason not to attend a Christ-exalting, Gospel-preaching church every week in which one is able to do so. I agree with you, John J.

That said, I also believe that actual membership is a different story. If one has once, twice or more suffered abuse, mistreatment, informal "excommunication" on unBiblical grounds, etc., etc., as a "perquisite" of membership in different churches, then one is understandably very wary of becoming a member of any congregation thereafter. How many times should a person subject himself to ostracism, scapegoating, becoming the object of lies, gossip, ridicule, shunning or whatever else anyone feels like dumping on their "brother" or "sister?" Seventy times seven? Of course, we have to forgive that many times, and infinitely more, when someone does those things to us, but should a Christian seek or continue membership in a congregation in which that kind of behavior appears to be countenanced or even encouraged? Such congregations are out there - and they're neither few nor far between.

There is "the visible church" and "the invisible church." But that's a whole other topic.

Whatever happened to Galatians 6:10? There's way too much in churches these days.
Believe you me, I understand where you are coming from with spiritual abuse! For those of us who have been abused, it should definitely make us cautious about which church to hitch ourselves to, but is that really a good reason not to get back in the saddle again?
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Membership is convenient for all but Biblically speaking Christians were evident in the Bible and early church history. If I were Sola Scriptura I could not enforce membership now. It's extra-biblical. I am a member now but my brothers are obvious: We attend, we are involved, we help each other, we tell others of Christ. Then there are those that show up and leave each Lord's Day.

I went through the ritual, stood before the congregation, had the pastor speak for me (not a great idea in my opinion) and shook hands with people (I had already been baptised). The members are evident. The players are, too.
Probably because I am an old fogie, I am having a hard time understanding you. I am not sure what 'players' are. But I think what you are saying is that the fact that membership in a local church is never mentioned in the Bible is a good reason not to have membership. Is that correct?
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
You would not believe the long term damage that CC views have inflicted upon the spiritual maturity and understanding of those who call themselves Christians here in SW Oregon. The idea of holding a committed membership in a particular congregation is nearly as bad in their eyes as being forced to sit under a gay Roman priest leading a Mormon temple service. It has played upon Chuck Smith's generation's pre-existing anti-establishment sentiments, as well as passed them on to the following generations of youth who have been caught up in CC. There is total individualism, resentment toward any doctrinal authority, toward church discipline, and anything else that would take away the illusion of total autonomy in matters of the Church.

There is sexual and financial sin that is routinely ignored, and whenever they become dissatisfied with one another, the split off into the various house churches in the area which are constantly leeching away members from other bodies who are either about to be disciplined, or who are probably not regenerate to begin with. I have run into a number who have had a "great experience with Jesus" but they haven't the foggiest idea of what the Gospel is all about!

I have been very unimpressed with a movement which attempts to speak with such authority regarding spiritual matters (if you've ever been around them for any amount of time, you'll know what I mean), but yet who have so little understanding of so many things in the Christian life and theology.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming....
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
You would not believe the long term damage that CC views have inflicted upon the spiritual maturity and understanding of those who call themselves Christians here in SW Oregon. The idea of holding a committed membership in a particular congregation is nearly as bad in their eyes as being forced to sit under a gay Roman priest leading a Mormon temple service. It has played upon Chuck Smith's generation's pre-existing anti-establishment sentiments, as well as passed them on to the following generations of youth who have been caught up in CC. There is total individualism, resentment toward any doctrinal authority, toward church discipline, and anything else that would take away the illusion of total autonomy in matters of the Church.
I agree. And 'Papa Chuck's' influence is so widespread here in SoCal that you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has not spent some time in a CC. (Myself included)

That is not to imply that there aren't many wonderful things about Chuck Smith. His view on church polity is a problem, however.
 

Blue Tick

Puritan Board Graduate
Membership is convenient for all but Biblically speaking Christians were evident in the Bible and early church history. If I were Sola Scriptura I could not enforce membership now. It's extra-biblical. I am a member now but my brothers are obvious: We attend, we are involved, we help each other, we tell others of Christ. Then there are those that show up and leave each Lord's Day.

I went through the ritual, stood before the congregation, had the pastor speak for me (not a great idea in my opinion) and shook hands with people (I had already been baptised). The members are evident. The players are, too.
Can you defend your position that church membership is "extra biblical"?
 

Blue Tick

Puritan Board Graduate
I agree. And 'Papa Chuck's' influence is so widespread here in SoCal that you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has not spent some time in a CC. (Myself included)
Likewise, myself included. My wife and I met at CCBC in Murrieta. She was a student/employee, I was a full-time staff employee.

I praise God that he opened our eyes and took us out of that madness.
 

Hippo

Puritan Board Junior
My view is that church membership is only important in so far as it is necessary in order to enforce biblical church discipline, if there is no discupline then membership is merely an extra biblical form of bureaucracy that only encourages sectarianism.

It is the discipline that is important not membership.

Membership is important as it is the mechanism by which an individual becomes accountable to a group of elders (I suppose it is correct to say a church of elders) or whichever form of church government that is in place.

The important issue in my mind is that membership does not divide the church by allowing Christians under discipline to find sanctuary in a new body but that there is respect between real churches where new members have to be released (subject to no abuse being present) by their old congregations.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
Probably because I am an old fogie, I am having a hard time understanding you. I am not sure what 'players' are. But I think what you are saying is that the fact that membership in a local church is never mentioned in the Bible is a good reason not to have membership. Is that correct?
I meant "players" as in false professors. Forgive me for being too loose in my vocabulary.

And, yes, since it's not mentioned in the NT in the way we have church membership today it's arguably good not to have it.

I believe, based on experience, that members automatically come to church to worship because they desire it. There are exceptions and discipline is needed. That is NT membership for the most part.

Can you defend your position that church membership is "extra biblical"?
A person was recognized as a member of the body of Christ if these qualifications were met: Confession of Jesus and baptism. That defined membership. They then ate communion, were taught, gathered regularly, etc. Anything beyond that to define membership to the church would be extra-biblical. For me, it was agreeing with the 1689. I have many brothers who do not agree with the 1689. I hope that suffices as an example of "extra-biblicalness" of modern day church membership.

Regarding the authenticity of a person belonging to Christ church discipline at the local church level is meant to correct the problem unless an apostle acted as Paul did with the church of Corinth.

I hope I explained myself a little more clearly. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

My view is that church membership is only important in so far as it is necessary in order to enforce biblical church discipline, if there is no discipline then membership is merely an extra biblical form of bureaucracy that only encourages sectarianism.
That says it well. Frankly it's easier to put names on a role in order to do church discipline, exhortation, and accountability (not just to elders but to one another) if all agree. But in our church not all of us think that the Pope is absolutley the anti-Christ (as an example) yet we raised our hands (so to speak) and made a vow to adhere to the 1689's interpretation of Scripture. Am I making my opinion muddier or clearer with this example?
 

JonathanHunt

Puritan Board Senior
My view is that church membership is only important in so far as it is necessary in order to enforce biblical church discipline, if there is no discupline then membership is merely an extra biblical form of bureaucracy that only encourages sectarianism.

It is the discipline that is important not membership.

Membership is important as it is the mechanism by which an individual becomes accountable to a group of elders (I suppose it is correct to say a church of elders) or whichever form of church government that is in place.

The important issue in my mind is that membership does not divide the church by allowing Christians under discipline to find sanctuary in a new body but that there is respect between real churches where new members have to be released (subject to no abuse being present) by their old congregations.

I think you're absolutely spot-on, Mike. Also from the issue of church discipline flows proper church government. Without discipline, even the leadership seems pointless and ineffective. Membership is a formal acknowlegement that you place yourself under the elders - submitting to those in authority over you.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Would those of you who are elders discipline a person (admonish, rebuke, fence and/or shun) someone who was not on the membership roll but who had been attending for some time, if unrepented sin was discovered in that person's life?
 

Reformed Covenanter

Puritanboard Commissioner
The reason people do not want to be church members (generally speaking), is due to an individualism that does not wish to submit to other members, and especially to those in authority over them.

If there is no membership, then how can you have leaders to rule over the elders since there is no one in membership to rule over?
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Would those of you who are elders discipline a person (admonish, rebuke, fence and/or shun) someone who was not on the membership roll but who had been attending for some time, if unrepented sin was discovered in that person's life?
Discipline (discipling) takes on many forms, but yes, since we do not yet have membership, all of the disciplining I do is done without membership. It is possible, but it sure would be easier if we did have membership.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Having been a part of a CC church I can tell you that they do enforce discipline to a certain extent.
We live in a lawsuit wacky world. In his Peacemakers material, Ken Sande stressed the importance of having a well-defined covenant of understanding for church members setting out mutual expectations especially in the area of church discipline.

I would think that any church that attempts discipline without a clear understanding on the part of the congregation is asking for trouble.

I think a defined membership serves to protect both the leaders and the members. It also serves as a concrete expression of mutual love.
 
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KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Having been a part of a CC church I can tell you that they do enforce discipline to a certain extent.
We live in a lawsuit wacky world. In his Peacemakers material, Ken Sande stressed the importance of having a well-defined covenant of understanding for church members setting out mutual expectations especially in the area of church disciple.

I would think that any church that attempts disciple without a clear understanding on the part of the congregation is asking for trouble.

I think a defined membership serves to protect both the leaders and the members. It also serves as a concrete expression of mutual love.
These "Peacemaking" resources look very interesting. Do they have your endorsement?
 
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