Published January 5, 2006
LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP) — Today, a lot of Christians are what I call “floating believers.” It is an expression of America’s rampant individualism.
Many Christians hop from one church to another without any identity, accountability or commitment. They have not been taught that the Christian life involves more than just believing – it also includes belonging.
C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay on church membership, reminding us that the word “membership” is of Christian origin.
To Paul, being a “member” of the church did not refer to some cold induction into an institution but rather it meant becoming a vital organ of a living body (Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 6:15, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). We need to reclaim this image!
Joining a church used to be an act of conformity in our society. You joined a church because everybody else did. Now the rules have changed and conformity is no longer a motivating factor.
Membership is now an act of commitment. The way you motivate people to join today is to show them value-for-value what benefits are in return for their commitment.
There are numerous benefits to membership:
You need to emphasize the fact to attendees that the church provides them with benefits they cannot find anywhere else in the world:
There are many analogies for a Christian disconnected from a church: A football player without a team; a soldier without a platoon; a tuba player without an orchestra; and a sheep without a flock.
But the most understandable (and biblical) picture is that of a child without a family.
1 Timothy 3:15 refers to the church as “... the family of God. That family is the church of the living God, the support and foundation of the truth.”
God does not want his children growing up in isolation from each other, so he created a spiritual family on earth for us. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 2:19, “... you are members of God’s very own family ... and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.”
A Christian without a church family is an orphan.
I believe it is important today to position the church as a family, rather than as an institution. Since the 1960s, Americans have become increasingly anti-institutional. They use the phrase “organized religion” with contempt.
On the other hand, people are longing for a sense of family and community.
Today, we have a record number of single adults in America. Vance Packard called America “a nation of strangers.” As a result, we’re experiencing an epidemic of loneliness in society. One Gallup poll reported that four in 10 Americans admit to frequent feelings of “intense loneliness.” Americans are, in fact, the loneliest people in the world.
This longing for belonging provides the church with a timely opportunity. Positioning the church as an extended family – and as “a place where you are cared for” – will strike a sensitive chord in many lonely hearts.
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