Today’s post is written by long-time reader, Kathi (whom some may recognize as “kb,” moderator on the SSB Facebook page). Kathi, found the former BGBCSurvivor blog after hearing about my defamation lawsuit in the local news. It turns out, Kathi and I lived in the same town for years, but our paths never crossed. That has now changed. We met earlier this year and have plans to have some fun together, soon. Behind the scenes, we sometimes share church experiences. Kathi shared the following story and I asked if she’d be willing to share it on the blog. She agreed. ~Julie Anne
“Membership has its privileges.” American Express slogan
According to Nancy Kennedy, church membership does have its privileges. At her church, anyone is welcome and invited to attend. However, membership is more “exclusive.” Why is this? According to Kennedy, “Anybody can come to church, but only true believers can join.”
“True believers.” Sigh. I’m tired of those words.
I never questioned church membership. I was always under the impression that if you wanted to be a part of a church, you would join it. We have gone through the church membership process a few times. Looking back on it now, I honestly don’t see where being a member of a church had its “privileges.” I think we could have been regular attenders and participants and had the same results. Allow me to tell you how our church membership helped us in a time of need.
In 2005, we were members of a non-denominational Christian church for six years. We were faithful tithers (at least 10%) and very active. My husband worked with the youth group and I worked in children’s ministry organizing preschool classes for one service, helping in AWANA and co-leading our homeschool group.
One late afternoon I received a phone call that everyone dreads. It was from my husband’s boss. He was letting me know that my husband had been in a motorcycle accident. He was fine but was being life-flighted to the hospital. My head was spinning because the words “fine” and “life-flighted” do not really go together. I found a neighbor to watch my kids and made my way to the hospital. While I was making my way, I called the children’s director to ask for prayer. She was the one I worked closest with and the only church pastor that I had a phone number to call. I asked her if she would let the other pastors and elders know and to request prayer.
Fortunately my husband ended up being fine. His only injuries were a broken collar-bone and some bad road rash. He did end up spending another day and a half in the hospital. When I called the children’s director back the next day to let her know of my husband’s progress, I requested that someone please visit my husband in the hospital or at home while he was recovering.
Who came to visit? No one. Honestly, this was harder on me than my husband’s motorcycle accident. I knew my husband walked away from a serious accident and would be fine, but the non-response from church leadership that we had both so closely worked with hit me hard. When my husband was involved in his second (yes, second) motorcycle accident, I did not even bother calling anyone. I knew that it would not matter to them.
By this point in our church life, my husband had been discussing with me his desire to leave that church. There were issues happening that he was concerned about. I did not share the same concerns, so we stayed. However, the non-caring response from the leadership was the catalyst in opening my eyes to what was going on in my church.
We ended up staying two more years, growing increasingly frustrated with the church leadership and the decisions that were being made. We were fortunate that they were open about finances, and we had concerns about how money was being spent. We also had concerns about the lack of teaching and the fact that the elders seemed to be more “yes men” to the main pastor than actually leading the church. Our church wanted to become a mega-church, and for a while we had the numbers to fit that description.
When we finally made the decision to leave, my husband sat down with the main pastor and expressed his concerns. He made it very clear that we did not expect the church to change for us. We had known others who already left the church and had the same concerns, so we knew that we were not out of line with our thinking. The pastor’s response to my husband was, “Well, I guess you have a choice to make.” He did not even fight to keep us! This was my second heart breaking experience from the leadership. They did not care if we stayed or went. So, we went. The funny thing is that when my husband emailed in our final good-bye, I received a phone call from the main pastor because he was “confused” about our decision.
While we had some great friendships and good relationships with the pastors, they appeared to only be superficial. To this day, seven years later, we have no contact with anyone from that church. That is not due to our lack of trying to stay in contact with people. We have found that since we were no longer a part of the group, we were out of their lives. That is the third heart breaking experience from this church. I miss the friendships that I had because the people that we were closest to were like extended family to us.
As far as I am concerned, church membership does not have its privileges. We have not been back to church in almost five years. When the day comes where we are ready to try church again, I am sure that we will not seek membership. I will be happy to attend and help where needed but I refuse to sign any papers or “covenant” with a church body.