the weblog of Alan Knox

Is this the connection between love and membership?

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in blog links, love, members | 9 comments

I’ve written several posts on the topic of church membership as it is typically practiced today. Unfortunately, I think the concept of church membership tends to separate brothers and sisters in Christ from one another, and it tends to give us a false sense of unity when in fact we are quite divided.

Other authors have taken up this topic with much more eloquence (and often brevity) than me.

For example, Arthur at “The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia” recently published a short post called “A quick thought on ‘church membership’ and titles.” Without getting into the “titles” part of his post (which is good in itself), I simply want to point out two very short – but extremely important – sentences that Arthur uses to begin his post:

If you love one another, “membership” is completely unnecessary.

If you don’t love one another, “membership” won’t make a difference anyway.

Arthur said that he was paraphrasing this from something that he had read previously. Those are strong statements… and completely within the concepts of being “members together with one another” as we read in Scripture.

Yes, there is a strong connection between love and membership in the context of Scripture. And, I think Arthur’s statements (or whoever’s statements) above point out that “church membership” will not make up for a deficiency in love.

What do you think?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 3-12-2012

    The purpose of church membership is to get a reduction in seminary tuition. Everyone knows that.

  2. 3-12-2012

    I’ve gone back and forth on this quite a few times. I do agree that church membership does very little for personal interaction. Some of the most active believers in our fellowship are not ‘members’ for various reasons. Many use the ‘membership rolls’ as a club to keep some in line, a way of getting and maintaining power in the local congregation, guilting folks to get back into ‘church’, etc.

    If we were to mentor and disciple better (like having real relationships) then you probably wouldn’t need formal membership. But because we are flawed human being and chase the latest thing that emands our attention, it is sometimes a good idea to realize that sometime in the past, we have made a formal declaration to join with a local body of believers and our name is written somewhere to remin us. If you don’t believe that, just tell your wife that you really don’t need that marriage certificate or even a wedding ceremony.

  3. 3-12-2012

    Being “members of one another” is different from being members of an organization, in the same way that being a son or daughter in a family is different from being Americans or going to the same school together (Beach Boys “Be True To Your School” just started playing in my head all by its little self!).

    We are enjoying our second grandson (our first, Travis is 21, and now Lucius is 2 months old). There is something very different and very strong about being family, being members of one another. Can’t “splain it” but I feel it pound in my chest when I hold him.

    Part of it is in seeing our connection as internal or external. Sister Sledge sang about, “We are family” and Melanie sang about the “Beautiful People” all around us (60’s nostalgia day amping up in my head). If someone artificially imposes on you a responsibility to be a patriotic American or to have school spirit, it doesn’t really develop intense connections.

    But if you begin to identify internally as one who belongs by birth as others belong with you by birth in the same family, then it is profoundly satisfying to know we are–and to feel we are–connected to others, that we belong and that they belong.

  4. 3-12-2012

    This is great, and I love the statements that Arthur made/quoted/paraphrased. I had a conversation with a Reformed Presby brother about six months ago about the topic of “covenant relationship”, which is basically the RefPres lingo for “church membership”. I was trying to make the same point that Arthur’s statements make, although I never got it that succinct. (I will remember this summary from now on!)

    He used the marriage analogy, just like John Notestein did in his comment above, and I find that analogy lacking personally. I don’t have a clue where my “marriage certificate” is, nor do I give much thought at all to the wedding ceremony my wife and I had because that is completely insignificant in the course of our relationship. Our relationship is built on love and centered around Christ, and with those things in mind, the marriage certificate and ceremony were merely a tip of the hat to the state requirements for marriage.

    Rather than make concessions for “fallen human beings” (a concession that I argue is antithetical to considering ourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ), we must recognize that looking to past commitments means nothing if we don’t desire to live in a present commitment. If that were the case, divorce would not be nearly as prevalent as it is today.

    The truth is that our relationship to Christ is what puts us in relationship to one another, and anything else placed upon that relationship is artificial and serves no higher purpose.

    There I go being so un-succinct again. I should just say “Ditto what Arthur wrote”! LOL 🙂

    steve 🙂

  5. 3-12-2012

    Steve is right on. My only response to John is that in marriage, like in the church, if you base your relationship on a certificate provided by the state or a one day ritual your marriage is going to be pretty week. I also have no idea where my marriage certificate is and my wedding ceremony was in a Roman Catholic church twenty years ago. I would actually be in favor of doing away with the whole “church wedding” event because it puts an undue level of attention on a one time event rather than a lifetime together. If your relationship with other believers relies even in part on being a “member” or attendance on Sunday morning, you are missing the best parts of what makes the church into a community and family.

    BTW, I am almost never praised for my brevity!

  6. 3-12-2012


    Well, 50% is a big discount…


    I understand what you’re saying, but I think your marriage example works with Arthur’s point as well. The certificate/ceremony does not make you love your spouse. And, if you love your spouse, the certificate/ceremony is not necessary.


    I think the family metaphor (or reality) is a great way to look at it.


    We are fallen… imperfect… in ourselves. In Christ, we are already members of one another. I think one of the questions here is this: which reality do we live in?


    Well, I guess since you were paraphrasing someone else, that person deserves my praise for being brief. 🙂


  7. 3-12-2012

    Membership in the churches that I have spent any length of time in over the years has boiled down to nothing more than giving an individual a right to vote for issues like the annual budget, electing elders & deacons, building plans, etc. Nothing more than that. It was even a bit of a burden to have people’s membership transferred from one church to another. I’ve seen husbands and wives torn by this decision because one was raised Catholic and the other Protestant.

    Like many other issues in the I.C. it’s a grossly over-complicated mess we’ve made for ourselves.

  8. 3-12-2012


    I agree with you that one must consider the question of which reality one is living in. What concerns me is that rarely do Christians qualify their statements about being “flawed” or “fallen” or whatever negative self-image they are discussing. I rarely hear the clarification you included “in ourselves”.

    If I “consider [myself] dead to sin”, then it is not helpful to refer to myself as “sinful” or “flawed” or “fallen”. Those types of statements simply reinforce an incorrect belief that we are still alive in sin. Identifying myself as “in Christ” puts the focus where it needs to be. As Paul said elsewhere (Galatians 5), we must live by the Spirit, and we will not fulfill the deeds of the flesh. This is also described in Colossians 3 with the instruction to set our sight (our focus) on things above.

    Now that all sounds like a tangent to this post, but it’s really relevant because considering ourselves as “in Christ”, as you said, automatically puts us in relationship with others who are also “in Christ”. Christ is all, and in all.

    steve 🙂

  9. 3-14-2012


    Yes, the “membership” language causes alot of problems among the church. Even when it is meant to bring people together, it often works to separate them.


    If I am “in Christ,” then I am automatically “members together” with everyone else who is “in Christ.”