Church Governance or Policy Issues, Personal Stories

The Privilege of Church Membership

Church Membership


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



Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale on the Oregon Coast.                   Photo credit: Brian Bonham


“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.

70 thoughts on “The Privilege of Church Membership”

  1. Kathi,

    Thank you for a post that is not too different from my experience. We had numerous and very heartbreaking experiences with church leadership at a church I attended for a decade and a half, and my wife a decade. After telling the whole story to the “lead” pastor (he only gave me an hour of his time, which were filled with a few nods and a bunch of blank stares, maybe some shoulder shrugging, too), his only words were, “Thank you for letting us know that you’re leaving.” That’s what over two decades of combined faithful service got us.


  2. Clarification to comment above: The pastor’s comment, “Thank you for letting us know that you’re leaving” was a contrast to simply leaving without letting them know.


  3. Thanks Kathi. I have only one reason that keeps me in the “in favor of” church membership camp. And that is, voting. Unless the church congregation is willing to give all power to the pastor and elders and do away with voting entirely (which would be a really bad mistake) then there has to be some means for the congregation, for instance, to make decisions regarding things like calling a pastor, ordaining an elder, expending major funds, approving a budget – all things that require high accountability. And in my thinking then as long as there is voting, then we have to have some means of determining who is going to vote.

    We all try, to the best of our ability, to seek after a regenerate church, ie, a church consisting of genuinely regenerate people so that, though imperfectly, we can do our best to discern the will of God in these things. And if there is going to be unity, then the church body needs to be in agreement around some form of gospel statement (doctrine). All that being said, there was something far more than disregard of church membership in the church where you had these horrid experiences. It sounds to me like the leadership of the church “cast a vision” (a far too common phrase nowadays that I detest) and the “vision” became the driving force for which they were willing to sacrifice faithful, long-term Christians who were members of the church body. Sure, we all have experienced situations in which immature or false Christians opposed something that was obviously biblically dictated, such as putting an unrepentant, scandalously sinning professing Christian out of the church under church discipline. But so often the “vision” simply means a corporate mentality of bigger is better and we are going to have this huge building and fabulous programs and God says we are to do it and if you don’t like then you can just get off the bus. You know the drill, I’m sure. And THAT is a situation where church membership should have its privileges. The privilege of voting leadership out if the church body is convinced that it is not Christ who is leading the church, but mere men. Sadly, these mere men soooo often dupe most of the church members anyway, and then those walking with Christ have to go “outside the camp” to find Jesus.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am sorry for your painful experience. We had a similar one after being long-term members and servants. However, I do not see how being or not being a member has much bearing on the pain we have experienced. If you as a non-member worshiped, gave, served, and made friends, then were ignored and shunned, this would be just as painful.


  5. Ya know, I just thought of something. Well, I’ve actually been thinking about this for quite some time.

    There are many church’s out there that attempt to get back to the apostolic way’s of doing things.

    Back in those days, people were “believers”. Not true believers. There was no name on any church. There was no “Please sign here” if you want to join our church, vs. the church down the street. There was no “regenerate” church. There was no “True Church”. There was no church competition, there was no church denominations, there were no “universal” aka “catholic” (with a small “c”).

    Just believers and church, no church membership.

    If I am not mistaken, there was a (singular) “local church”, and everyone that got baptized was automatically a member.

    How many local church’s are there in a community these days? People talk about “church planting” as if there isn’t a church in town. There are tons of church’s in town, and many of those church’s believe the same as the other church down the street.

    In my opinion, there would be more compassion if there wasn’t so many freaking church buildings in town.

    In my town alone, we have at least 4 church buildings, pretty good size, too, that have closed down due to the mortgage not being kept up.

    That would mean, to me at least, that someone at one time thought that they needed to “church plant”.

    Church is supposed to be a community of believers, and ALL of the believers are members of the church, whether they are visiting from out of town, or a new believer, or an immature believer, etc.

    In all of the years that I have been a Christian, there are so many new terms that I am learning about that just infuriates me. Three of which are
    1. True Believer. To me, it’s just believer.
    2. True Church. To me, it’s just church.
    3. Regenerate Church (I ain’t never heard that one before)
    4. Regenerate Believer (What the hell is that?)

    A new believer is a believer. An immature believer is a believer. And community means that everyone has compassion, that everyone comes together for believers in need.

    Ephesians 4:13
    Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:


    Liked by 2 people

  6. I agree with Pastor Jeff. The church leaders do need to have accountability and the members of the church are allowed to vote and keep them in check. You can’t have people off the street coming in to a business meeting and voting on anything.

    Church members are allowed to teach where regular attenders are not. The church I attend now doesn’t automatically make a baptized believer a member, which I do not understand at all. They were baptized in our church, if you didn’t think they were believers, why in the world would you baptize them? Those under 18 are not allowed to vote whether a member or not.

    I think there may be a bigger is better thought in leadership, but I am withholding judgment or now. I do know that when I was down with foot elevated for 3 months after surgery, I got a few cards and didn’t hear from another soul until I went back to church. When I did go back, a woman that is in missions avoided me in the ladies room when I slipped on water that was on the floor while on crutches. She sat there like she had not seen a thing. I hold no grudge against her although bewildered at the time, but she now finds herself in a similar situation after breaking her ankle. I am pretty sure she will not get the same response, even from me. I will not return evil for evil.

    Leadership or not, someone should be visiting those who are homebound or hurting. Taking meals to those who are bedridden. Giving a call to those who had chemo and asking if they need anything. What is a church good for if we don’t care for one another first. An unsaved person walks through the doors and will not turn to Christ, because the church shows less love than the person who spends Sunday morning on the golf course.

    There is no perfect church. Although, we do have a Statement of Beliefs, there are some who disagree on certain issues including one of the pastors. This alarms me to a point. When you find yourself in need and get no response, it may be time to find another church.


  7. The “church” Kathi describes is what I would name The First Babel Church of (Name of City). They are attempting to build what is the moral equivalent of a city (large numbers of members and attenders), and a tower with its top in the heavens (fancy church buildings), and a name for themselves (fame). In other words they, and especially the leadership, are pursuing glory for themselves.

    Jesus is left unattended in the gutters, hospital beds, foster homes, women’s shelters and welfare benefit lines. Only those with something to contribute to the agenda (e.g. money, influence) need apply for membership, or even just plain fellowship.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The only reason I can see for church membership is for voting and I can’t even really see it for that. Nobody had to prove they were a member in any way when it came to voting. It was on the honour system. If someone considers the church they have been attending to be their home church, why can’t that be good enough for voting?

    When I became a member of my former church, I was welcomed into the church, which I thought was really odd. I had been going there all my life to that point, 20-some years…

    I don’t think my membership meant much to the church board or minister. When I wrote a letter to the board to be taken off the membership list, the reply from the minister was basically “Bye”. No “can we discuss this” or anything.

    I can’t see myself ever joining a church again and if I do find another church to regularly attend, I hope it’s a church that’s not going to exclude people because they’re not official members.


  9. I’ve been following this blog for a long time and have never commented until now.

    I do not believe “church membership” is biblical. According to Christ, there exists only ONE church. And that is all of us, all believers, in one body of Christ. It’s not my church here, and your church there, there is only one church and it belongs to Christ. How can someone only be a member of a particular group and not be allowed to be a member of a different Christian group?

    Paul chastised believers who were identifying themselves as members of a particular “church group” saying :

    “What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas ”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12, 13 NIV)

    He made it pretty clear that there was only one group, called a church.
    That’s why our family will always be church attenders, but not members.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Kathi,

    We have forgot how to minister to the sick and needy.

    Unfortunately, Church life in America is changing. We are easily distracted with ESPN, HBO, Discovery Channel, Casinos, Kids, Jobs. Night School.

    We are losing our connection with others. We work through day, swing and graveyard shifts. People are getting burned out with traffic. Both husband and wives are working more than ever because it is difficult to raise a family on a single paycheck.

    Gov’t is diluting our currency hurting small churches ability to keep the doors open and mega churches with million dollar utility bills and million dollar sound systems can’t keep the doors open without being a least half full..

    I can see why a church can benefit with having a membership mainly for the church to be accountable with certain ministries including a church Pulpit committee and a voting membership that require professed Christians to debate who they want to Pastor their church.


  11. Kathi,

    I’m sorry that you went through all of this. I’m glad that you and your husband felt the same way about leaving. There are so many parallels for me here! It’s terrible that this is such a common thing. You’d probably get better attention from a country club.


  12. I can think of one instance where membership as a condition of voting actually backfired. Somebody who had angrily walked away several years earlier appeared at a church business meeting to oppose a proposed ministry outreach. It may be that there is no perfect principle that addresses every unanticipateable situation, but it seems to me that if somebody has been in active fellowship for a significant period of time, their voices should be heard. I’m not so sure what this should look like. Probably a plurality of those who come closest to meeting the biblical standards for overseers and elders should have the ability to disregard the views, even the votes, of long-inactive members who show up acting badly. You could write protections into organizational documents, an endeavor in which I have participated, but my experience is that the circumstance you do not think to address is the very thing that will need to be dealt with.

    Ideally, in my opinion, church fellowship would be founded on love and love alone. When we begin to turn to written rules, we have begun to rely upon authority and power, which is opposed to love. Actually, maybe love is the principle that addresses every unanticipatable situation. I’ve never participated in an organized-church setting where it was fully tried.


  13. There *can* be voting done by regular (possibly long-term?) church attenders.
    Requiring a covenant, sign-on-the-dotted-line membership should not be a requirement for people to be allowed to vote on important issues. I wish this was more of an option. Sadly, I don’t see this option used much. I see either rigid membership requirements with elders and deacons and voting, or the sloppy opposite where there is no membership, the congregants get zero say in what’s done, and there is little to no accountability for the two or three people in “leadership.” Frankly, I’m tired of both.


  14. ChelleBelle,

    Thanks for commenting. The verses you shared are excellent at making the point about church groups. It seems that some of our modern-day churches are going further and further away from the kind of church we see in the Bible. I’d say many churches function more like businesses.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. My church was not as large, maybe 300-500 members. Maybe. But you told my story. The pastor did seem to care, and we talked about problems we saw in the church. He honestly did try to change things in a spiritual way (preaching, I mean), and they ran him out too.


  16. Glad to read this article and discussion today. Church membership is something we’re wrangling about right now. Some of us see it simply as a statement of commitment, others a potential trap and precursor to more power plays and ensuing misery.

    Ed, I can think of another term to add to your list: “reformed church” and maybe added to that “reformed believer”. Our ex-church was very proud of being reformed.

    We had some good things come out of membership, in contrast to this post. There’s a well-organized effort to make sure that people are visited in the hospital, and that families struggling with health issues get homemade meals delivered to their home by other church families.

    Where “membership” gives me a bad taste in my memory, is the way it was used as a club and control device.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. (I might add, even our family, which was never a part of the in-crowd, no matter how long we went to that church (more than a decade), got visited in the hospital, and got meals delivered, and we were a part of the visiting and meal-making, though not as active as some.)


  18. In the article:
    “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.”

    That’s because you made the wrong choice, at least in the pastor’s estimation. He probably couldn’t imagine you making any other choice, but staying with the church.


  19. Shannon, consider yourself lucky. I’ve heard from others who left our ex-church, that they’ve had the devil’s own time trying to get released from their membership. Apparently our ex-church prefers to transfer membership to a like-minded church, over simply releasing members to go to just any church, willy-nilly, where they might not be held accountable to walk worthy of the faith.


  20. A thought about voting…I have been a member of a number of churches due to frequent moves in my past. Never, once, in any of those churches did my vote matter. Not only that, but I never once saw a congregation vote down anything proposed by the pastor/elders. I have come to the conclusion that voting has little meaning in many churches.


  21. Thanks for all of the comments everyone! Sorry, but I’ve been at the DMV for the past 2 hours waiting for my daughter to pass her driver’s test.

    At the age in which we attended that church, we did what everyone else did. We really didn’t become “members” until we had been there a few years. If I remember correctly, there was a “family meeting” where 200-300 attended and we were asked to sign membership pledges. This was the tipping point at which the leadership of the church was trying to become a mega. By the time we left there were about 2,000 people attending. After we left, numbers dropped dramatically.

    Now that we are older (and maybe a bit more seasoned – or wiser), we know that we would probably never become a member of a church again. When/if we decide to go back to church, we will be content to be attenders and help where needed.

    May I also add that I had the guilty thought (thanks to being raised Catholic) of thinking about how much money we ended up giving that church. Now that we have one thinking about college, I think about the thousands of dollars that we could have used to save for college for our kids.


  22. Kathi speaks of “thinking about how much money we ended up giving that church.” This is an area where I have to fight a bit of bitterness. To tell the truth, when I think about how much money my wife and I gave to organized religion over many decades, when I consider how the money was used, and when I consider how it is that the sheep will be separated from the goats, I feel swindled. If the only thing I were to get credit for is what was done with all the money I gave to “churches,” I fear that my lot would be amongst the goats.


  23. Like

  24. Gary W,
    Some things just need to have a rule to them. If a member hasn’t been at my church for 6 months, they are considered inactive and cannot vote until they have been reactivated. Not sure how that works, but it just makes sense. If you haven’t been there for a while, you have no idea what’s going on.


  25. This is a good discussion. I honestly don’t have any answers. I think a church is able to function without requiring membership. There are ways for decisions to be made while listening to the opinions of those who attend. If leadership is tuned in to the ones that they serve, then decisions should be easy to make.

    I have also heard stories from people that are unable to receive help from a church because they are not officially members of the church. I understand the need to set boundaries when it comes to helping people, but to turn someone away simply because they are not a member is sad.

    My husband and I got engaged during our last year in college. Neither one of us were official members of a church, but we both attended separate churches regularly. We had a difficult time finding a church where we could get married becasue we were not members. We were so thankful to find one (after hearing many tell us “no”) that allowed us to get married, for a small fee, with our own officiant.


  26. Julie Anne – I am still amazed that we never ran into each other around town. I’m sure that as fellow homeschoolers we frequented some of the same places. At least the library?


  27. @Kathi My sister had a very similar experience when she was married this year. It was really discouraging for all of us, her especially. She and her husband are both sweet Christians and have been for a long time. Why are churches so protective of their stuff? Isn’t it supposed to be God’s?


  28. I understand the need to set boundaries when it comes to helping people, but to turn someone away simply because they are not a member is sad.

    The church I belong to has helped people who have only been there a time or two and those people went on to become members and are now helping with giving to others. It grieves me to hear so many stories that have turned Christians off to church. It has become even more important to me as I get older.

    I would never sign any kind of pledge. I did give my testimony in writing when I joined my current home church, but nothing else. The X tried to join, but the elders could see by what he wrote and his behavior that he was not truly a Christian. There are a lot of long time attenders that are faithful in every way to the body, but choose not to become members for whatever reasons. Their restrictions are they can’t vote or teach. I don’t consider them any less a part of the body than any member.


  29. Kathi – I hated Beaverton traffic. When I came to Beaverton, I had 2 little ones, and then I had 2 more little ones within the next few years. I was a home body. I never went to any of the homeschool conventions in OR. I think if I got up in the morning and got dressed out of my loungewear, I was doing good.

    (still in my loungewear taking a break from my online final.) Some things never change!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. On the topic of giving to the church:

    When we left our last church (our story is a lot like the article) we still believed in giving. It wasn’t our money, it was God’s and we still believed that as stewards, we were called to be givers.

    But instead of giving to a church, we decided to give directly to missions. We still do this. There are missionaries all over the world, in war torn countries, or where Christians are in exile, or tortured or in prisons, and there are countless ministries trying desperately to come up with funds to aid these people. “Voice of the Martyrs” is such a group that helps hide and relocate Christians who are under actual attack. Might I suggest doing your giving that way?

    Also, since the early church in Paul’s day used funds to actually AID other believers, we have done this too. Instead of writing a check to church to find their lighting bill, we’ve paid someone’s mortgage for a month after a job loss. Or paid for car repairs, or given money to a single mom for an apartment.

    There are lots of ways to honor God with our money without giving money to a church, especially if you believe (as we did) that it wasn’t being used to further the gospel.


    Liked by 1 person

  31. @Dee:

    Never, once, in any of those churches did my vote matter. Not only that, but I never once saw a congregation vote down anything proposed by the pastor/elders. I have come to the conclusion that voting has little meaning in many churches.

    More accurately, voting has exactly the same meaning as in North Korea, Saddam’s Iraq, or any one of a number of Third World hellholes.


  32. @Refugee:

    Ed, I can think of another term to add to your list: “reformed church” and maybe added to that “reformed believer”. Our ex-church was very proud of being reformed.

    That’s capital-R Reformed.
    No need for Christ when you have CALVIN!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Regarding membership covenants(TM), here’s a line from the Sixties movie Billy Jack:
    “White man wants everything in writing, and that’s so he can use it against you in court.”


  34. ChelleBelle,
    “Voice of the Martyrs”

    I might suggest that before giving to any charities that you are thinking of giving to that you research the way they spend their money or find out if the charity is rated for the way they handle their finances. In 2012, VofM brought in $40million. Only 59% of that went for actual program expenses and is not outlined as to how it was actually spent. The remainder went for administrative, marketing and miscellaneous expenses. Some charities are even worse than that. This one is not rated well in the way they handle finances. I would much rather give to charity where the administrators are not making huge salaries and actually serving the people. There are some charities out there that use 100% of the money they bring in for the people they serve and the administrators are all volunteers.


  35. Brenda R,
    Certainly. Doing research is the very best thing to do before giving anywhere. Also we must consider that not every penny of monies given go directly to the people in need. There are expenses like fuel, (planes, trucks, etc) that haul goods; drivers for such transportations, administrative costs, travel costs, costs for crossing boarders into various countries, etc.
    VOM was just an example. There are many more ministries that are not as well known, that might be good to give to. But yes, people have to be hired with some of those donated monies to do jobs related to (whichever) ministry.


  36. We had similar experiences at our former church. We were attenders and then members for more than 15 years, in 2013 we logged over 400 volunteer hours (just to give you an idea), and ‘more than’ tithed, but when my husband caught his hand in a table saw, no one came. With a church of over 2500 and a staff of over 30, not one person came.

    Then I discovered (why I didn’t know this is an indication of how naive I was) that ours was an “organizational” church rather than a “relational” church. In other words, the pastor and people in high leadership minister only to each other – the rest of the congregation is on their own. Since that “inner circle” of 30 or so staff really doesn’t minister outside of themselves (except for those they are grooming), no one else can really expect to be ministered to in an emergency or during a crisis. Silly me.

    Lots of talk on here about voting and membership, but it really isn’t about any of that. It’s about being Jesus to those who are in need. Kathi did not experience Jesus from anyone who should have been the first to represent Him. Unfortunately, some churches/Christians are not like Jesus. Thankfully, He is not like them, either.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. ChelleBelle,
    Other than the administrative costs, the expenses you reference would have been included in the 59%. Transportation and drivers would have been directly related to helping the people who needed it. 14% administrative costs, 26% marketing. Those are not good numbers. At one point I was employed at a non-profit organization. The goal was to keep administrative costs below 7%.


  38. I guess my point was, if you don’t feel like your church is handling money well, (and *we didn’t, because we didn’t believe our church needed to buy more bouncy houses for it’s children’s programs, or rent more live animals for an outdoor nativity show, or buy more sno-cone machines, etc) then use those tithes and offerings to actually help people. Go on a missions trip. Donate to an overseas orphanage, or help a family fund an adoption. But please don’t stop giving just because it doesn’t feel safe to give to a church. There are plenty of local women’s and children’s shelters you can donate to in person. Or even crisis pregnancy centers, or teen rehabs. Lots of ideas of how to spread love and the gospel using God’s money.


  39. Brenda R,
    I can understand some of the marketing costs for VOM. They do put out books they give away for free. “Tortured for Christ” is one of them. Plus they put out a monthly newsletter/ magazine sharing stories of persecuted people. They also have DVDs. I’m not sure if this accounts for some of the marketing costs or not. 26% may be excessive, or it may not be. If you think 7% is a good number, I’ll take your word for it.
    Everyone should go plenty of research before giving anywhere. Sadly, I think this includes churches too.


  40. I understand ChelleBell, Just conversation, not trying to downgrade your point. If my home church was spending money on some of the things you listed, I’d have trouble with that too. The playground equipment was paid for through a pop can drive. Giving is good. A young couple just adopted a baby that would have been aborted. The Lord provided through His people the $20k that was needed. Much of the money collected goes to foreign missionaries, the local rescue mission, Youth for Christ and whatever else comes up through the year. No church is perfect, but I am proud to be apart of a giving church. It’s all God’s money anyhow.


  41. ChelleBelle,
    I have the books that they mailed out. That is how I came to find out more about them. There is a whole lot more about that particular organization that is not up and above board. You are correct many churches are not good stewards with money. If my home church changes from the good they do, I will move on to one that does or at least not give them any money. I know people who divide their offerings between church and charities. I see nothing wrong with that. It is between you and God. His will be done.


  42. Brenda R,
    I didn’t feel attacked in any way. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. 🙂

    Those things your church does sound amazing! 🙂 I too am thankful to now be a part of a healthy church that does good things with the money, with a major focus on missionaries the church supports directly. This past Sunday the focus was on the Christian Persecutions in Iraq right now and using the money to aid certain missionaries there.

    I like that FAR better than paying $2500 a day in bank interest from massive building loans our previous “mega” church paid. It’s so wonderful to be a part of a healthy church! Sounds like yours is great too. Thank God! 🙂
    ~Blessings to you


  43. Ellen,
    That is a terrible state of affairs. I wouldn’t want to be those 30 people on judgment day. I think you nailed it: “organizational” rather than “relational” churches and the people who make up the church. It is very sad that out of that many people no one came to assist you and your husband. In a relational church that would not have happened.


  44. Ellen – I will second Brenda R’s “you nailed it” with organizational rather than relational.

    I will say that we did have some experiences with small groups that were wonderful. But, then again, we have not remained friends with any of those people, so I find myself not even able to consider them friends but acquaintances.


  45. Refugee said: “Shannon, consider yourself lucky. I’ve heard from others who left our ex-church, that they’ve had the devil’s own time trying to get released from their membership. Apparently our ex-church prefers to transfer membership to a like-minded church, over simply releasing members to go to just any church, willy-nilly, where they might not be held accountable to walk worthy of the faith.”

    I think my former church was pretty loose about memberships back then. That church now has written membership covenants and I don’t know what they do if someone wants to “break the covenant” and leave. Yes, I think I was very lucky compared to what some have gone through in churches.


  46. My husband and I were members of Forest Hill church for 18 years. The church was PCUSA, then switched to PCA, then to Evangelical. All this time the pastor was consolidating his power. My husband was very involved in the music ministry and I led Bible studies and got very involved with the children’s ministry as well as hurting members. Membership meant nothing in terms of having a voice. Wiith the last denominational change and consolidation of pastor power we were very concerned. The church was growing larger, but the message was watered down. During our pastor’s sabbatical, he had Pat McCrory do the sermon. (He was the mayor of Charlotte at the time) None of the ordained pastors had an opportunity to preach. Right before the denominational change our pastor spoke to the members and said that if we didn’t agree with the change, we were free to leave! After 18 years, we were nothing. He claims the switch occurred because he no longer believed in infant baptism. It was obvious that it was a power grab. Many of us left, but there were always new people to take our place.
    We have been away from Charlotte for five years. Now with Elevation Church conquering the city, I wonder how my former church is doing? Who knows?


  47. Kathi – Thank you so much for doing this post. It’s such an important topic that many do not fully consider. There are sometimes legal ramifications for membership agreements. I am aware that some attorneys have written them up, or helped to look them over for churches. That should tell you something. Oh, and thanks for freeing me up so I can work on my finals this week. I’ve been working on one all day, taking intermittent breaks!


  48. Some great questions here! Last time I checked, Christ established an ἐκκλησία, a far more amorphous concept than the “cirice” or “kirche” that many insist we sign contracts with.


  49. Julie Anne – You’re welcome. Good luck on finals! See you later this week!

    Ann – I have never attended a church that has gone through a denominational change. I would venture to guess that that was not fun at all.

    I must say that I have found interactions online like this to represent “church” better than physical interactions. The internet has opened up a wider community and ability to meet people. Meeting people online has resulted in some of the best relationships that we have right now. I am very thankful for that.


  50. I never really joined a church for several reasons, first none of the ones really wanted me as a member and that was made clear in spades. I also lacked the spiritual integrity to be willing to sign a confessional that I did not agree with, granted that is stupid as most of the ones who were members paid little attention to such nonsense. I will say this, when I did leave the churches I attended there was a collected sign of relief given I would not sin in such a way to get booted, and was to stupid to get the hint to just go away. One just becomes part of the invisible people. It was not intentional on these faith communities part and what I wrote should be filtered through the fact that what I am saying is raw emotion not actuality. The reality of the events falls somewhere in the middle of the road.


  51. “Never, once, in any of those churches did my vote matter. Not only that, but I never once saw a congregation vote down anything proposed by the pastor/elders. I have come to the conclusion that voting has little meaning in many churches.”

    That is because another time honored spiritual tool would be used, retaliation.


  52. ” we logged over 400 volunteer hours (just to give you an idea)” I volunteered for an organization in a faith community and logged over 1000 hours plus. I actually put in more time than my paid jobs a few years. When I was on the phone with the HR person when I was shown the door he taught me one spiritual gift I will never forget. When I said, what about all I did, he told me that is irrelevant amen to that and twice on Sunday it was totally irrelevant. It always has been. I get that.


  53. Sensible,
    I tried to relate a church contract with a marriage license. It appears that it is easier to get a divorce from a spouse than from a church. That makes no sense to me, although very greatful that I could divorce the abusive spouse, I feel that I should be able to worship where the Lord leads and not where man or a group tells me where I can go. They do not own me. I belong to God not them.


  54. I and my husband were refused membership in a brethren assembly because we were unable to produce a letter of reference from our former church/assembly. We left that church close to 2 years ago, so there was no point asking for such letter after all that time. We wouldn’t get it anyway. So since that time we are worshipping The Lord at home.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Agree, you say, “I and my husband were refused membership in a brethren assembly because we were unable to produce a letter of reference from our former church/assembly.”

    This tells me the church leadership had a mentality to own and control you. They were requiring a letter of transfer of, essentially, ownership, just like you wouldn’t buy a car from somebody unless they signed over the title. Maybe they would claim that a letter of reference isn’t quite the same as a letter of transfer. However, that tells me they weren’t content with a simple transfer of ownership from the previous church. They wanted you to come complete with warranties of merchantability and fitness for their particular purposes.

    Don’t get me wrong. If you hadn’t participated in the brethren assembly long enough for them to get to know you, I wouldn’t see any problem with calling the leadership of your previous church; on condition, however, that they inform you they are doing so. However, it should be up to the leadership of the new church to make inquiries. To put the burden on you to provide a good references tells me that the new church is only willing to receive you on the basis of your worthiness, not on the basis of agape love.

    Now, if you were applying to serve in a place of responsibility and trust, such as teaching children, that’s a whole ‘nother matter. . .


  56. When I joined my current church I took a membership class, which covered the basic aspects of the Christian faith as well as some features unique to the denomination. Then one Sunday morning I joined with the rest of the class in publicly proclaiming my faith in Jesus Christ, following which the diocesan bishop laid hands on each of us and prayed for us. That was it – no membership covenant or anything of the sort.

    Adult members of my church have the privilege of voting for members of our congregational governing body, one-third of which stands for election each year. Members of the governing body who completed a full term cannot succeed themselves, which is a good thing in my opinion. (They can seek election again after sitting out a certain period of time.) Besides the governing body, the only other item I ever recall voting on was when we considered changing our denominational affiliation eight years ago. The vast majority of the congregation voted to do so.


  57. I made this comment on the Facebook page, and I’ll add it here for a little more understanding of my background:

    I have a ministry degree and learned during the late 80’s/early 90’s, which was the during the “church growth” era. We were taught many different ways to learn about the surrounding community of a church and how to effectively draw people in to church. One of my classes included helping a “dying” church to revival. Membership was talked about, but it centered more around numbers than relationship.

    Based upon that, in my experience that I talked about, I went along with the status quo because I knew that was the right thing to do. If I could tell my 20 year ago self what I know now…


  58. Now, if you were applying to serve in a place of responsibility and trust, such as teaching children, that’s a whole ‘nother matter. . .

    Anyone teaching or working with children or teenagers at my church has to undergo a background check and attend child protection/abuse prevention classes. It’s a sad but necessary requirement in this day and age. I live about 35 miles from Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, where Nate Morales abused a number of boys while serving as a youth worker. Last week he received a 40-year sentence for his crimes.


  59. Gary, I am promised in Revelation to overcome by His blood and the word of the testimony. Imagine… It’s enough for the Crestor of the universe, but not enough for a sinful man. How did we get to such a pitiful condition? Mind boggling, indeed.


  60. Wow, this stirred up a lot of input. I can certainly see the merits of Jeff Crippen’s issued with regard to important decision-making. But, generally, it seems as though church membership is simply a means of getting people to impose a higher standard to conform to the particular church culture, serve broadly and often and obviously, to make a financial commitment. I soured on the concept when I sought to transfer my membership after being a believer for 20 years, and then to be essentially “grilled” by the church leadership about my salvation and faith history before they would accept me.


  61. Only “true believers” are members! Haven’t they read the Bible about the wheat and the tares. Elders do not have Xray vision into people’s hearts. Usually I’ve found that the best “talkers” are the worst “walkers” but they manage to come off sounding like believers. Ugh.


  62. Godith,

    I don’t believe in “True Believers”. I only believe in “believers”. Now, there are unbelievers in church, yes. Pretty soon there might be IRS agents in church’s monitoring what the “believers” say.

    Is there such a thing as a TRUE unbeliever? Or is it just “unbeliever”?

    If I say that I am a false unbeliever, is that the same as a true believer?

    I’m not getting why we must preface the word believer.


  63. Agree,
    Bring ’em on. We believe the way we do because it says so in God’s Word. We should have been fighting back when they took prayer out of schools. But there is no time like the present.



  64. Ms. Kennedy, much to her credit, usually has no qualms presenting the gospel to her readers. She frequently writes about the necessity of repentance for the forgiveness of sin in accordance with Paul’s succinct definition of what the gospel is in I Cor. 15:1-4. Ms. Kennedy’s “church,” has, however, over the years moved away from giving the gospel to sinners via expository preaching into what can best be described as an amalgam of church growth practices coupled with large swaths of Tim Keller’s progressivism thrown in for “relevance.” At this “church” the gospel has been redefined as, “God is making all things new.” Repentance has become, “deciding not to do life without God.” Biblical terms like sin and repentance for said sin have been nearly expunged in favor of more crowd-friendly phrases. The pastors, by necessity, must preach “sermon series”, for expository preaching opens them up to having to explain those pesky hard sayings from scripture, which would not be seeker-friendly at all.

    If the marks of a true church are the preaching of the Biblical gospel, the correct administration of the sacraments, and church discipline (for her “church” claims to be Reformed), membership in Ms. Kennedy’s “church” has no privileges, for it is not a true church. Furthermore, one wonders how long Ms. Kennedy will remain orthodox at all, since she has been sitting under the eisegetical preaching of the subtly manipulative leadership in her “church cum community center” for many years.

    Ms. Kennedy deserves our prayers, for she does have an audience. She should be given a pass for the use of the term “true believers,” for if Ms. Kennedy is unable, at this point, to discern what is and is not a true church, perhaps her definition of true believers has become hazy as well.


  65. OUR PASTOR’S RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    “Reasons for Church Membership”
    It is commanded to the believers of the church to join in a COVENANT community
    in the local assembly of believers.
    You stop being an independent Christian.
    Elders are commanded to bind and lose and
    therefore believers are implicitly commanded
    to be bound to a local assembly.
    You are no longer on your own, but willfully submitted to the accountability of the elders and the
    entire church – Matthew 18:15-18.
    You are either bound or loosed from the local church.


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