The question of church membership was posed to me this weekend. Now some people may not think much about church membership. Hey, if you go to church, what’s the big deal about being a member? Some people treat church membership in a way that makes church just one place to go and worship. I can worship in my home or when I go camping in the woods or while driving my car. But as my friend, Dr. White, often says, “Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.” We really ought to be concerned about what Christ and His Apostles have to say about His church.
Now this is not an easy question to discuss for me since I have been personally struggling with church membership for the last couple of years. This is not some mere academic exercise, but a real life situation that I have been living. Over the last couple of years, I have seen several people struggle and some having fallen away from church. So again, this is real life and has real life impact on ourselves and our families.
A few years back I decided to move my membership to another Baptist church that is consistent with my Reformed Baptistic theological beliefs. The major problem with the decision I had made was that the church was literally over 2 hours away. With the price of gas, this has made going to church on a regular and consistent basis a major hardship. Another difficulty is that I have always believed that if it possible, one ought to attend a church in one’s community.
A third difficulty is that of offending friends and relatives, especially former church members in the church I used to attend. I want to be clear. I do not think that other denominations are somehow evil. But for the same reasons (hopefully) that a person who is not theologically Reformed would not want to attend an RB church, are the same reasons I am trying to be consistent in this area.
Being in the Reformed Baptist camp theologically has placed me in quite the bind. Since there are no Reformed Baptist churches in Scott City, how should I interact or work with local churches? For many, this may seem like a silly question, but as one who takes theology very seriously this is a far bigger problem than most realize till I have offended someone with some theological viewpoint.
For example, my father-in-law is one of the associate pastors/elders at the First Christian Church in Scott City. I know this terrific man would love for me and my family to attend regularly in his church. I know he would love to have me help in teaching youth or high school groups in some way. Yet if I were to do so, would I not cause offense rather quickly? (Something I am trying to avoid.) Reformed theology isn’t just some academic exercise. It is a rigorous and systematic theological thought that has a great impact on one’s life and how one approaches ministry.
So for the last couple of years, I have tried to find that balance where I might go to church within the area of Scott City and yet still attend as a member of FBC, St. Francis. Over these couple of years I have not found this balance profitable and not being a member within a local church in the local area has, I think, impacted my life negatively. Yet how to deal with this has been the most perplexing question in my entire Christian life.
Hopefully, I will be able to post some thoughts on my views of church membership over the next few posts and also evaluate my own situation. Perhaps together, some conversations may be started and some wisdom may be gained by thinking through what Scripture has to say about this very important subject.