When my grandmother was alive she was a “member” of her church for over 45 years. My mother for 33 years was a “member” of St. Luke Missionary Baptist Church. She is now a “member” of the church where I serve. My grandmother and my mother viewed their connection to the local church as a commitment and charge. They were “members”.
“Members” were the ones who saw themselves called and assigned to their local church. They were members because of some divine reason. When church dysfunction showed up, as it would, in the leadership or among the membership of the church I never knew my grandmother or my mother to discuss leaving their churches. Where would they go? They were members!
They considered their pastors to be spiritual leaders of a spiritual family. Their pastors were not their executives, promoters, entertainers, counselors or social workers. They viewed their pastors as men of God. They looked forward to the sermons and prayers of their pastors. They knew if they ever needed him he would be there with the Word and prayer. They supported the pastor’s vision and contributed to the mission of the church. They served where they were asked to serve. They lead when they were asked to lead. They gave what they were asked to give. They were members!
We now have something different being raised and shaped in the local church. We have an ever-diminishing minority of “members”. We seem to have called into our congregations a crowd of consumers. This group that now gathers in our churches and into our ministries is a group that arrives for self-fulfillment. They enter ministry in order to serve their own needs instead of the needs of others. They are customers!
“Present your bodies a living sacrifice” is not language they can even bear. These are not people that will climb up on an altar and give their lives to God. This is a group that will climb up on an altar and demand that God give them a bigger sacrifice. There are a people that have created a culture in the church that demand that modern ministers operate like customer service agents or a concierge in a luxury hotel. They come into ministry rating and grading how well people served them. If they don’t feel properly served, they complain. They are customers!
They will purchase books, compact discs and digital video discs. They will rush to take advantage of a sale on spiritual resources. They want added value to their purchases. They have no problem making an exchange as long as it’s a good deal for themselves. They would rather buy than to sow, sale than to give. They want bang for their buck, not blessing for their obedience. They are customers!
We need “members” again. We need God to raise up a remnant in the earth that will be “members of the Body of Christ”. Members are the parts of the Body that enable the Body to function as it was created. I call for the parts to become members. God will have a Body in the earth that will live out the meaning of membership.