NO CHURCH FOR YOU

I’ve never been a big fan of “placing membership” or been a “church roll” type of person. For one, there’s nothing biblical about church rolls or membership. You never read of Paul moving his membership from the church in Jerusalem to the church in Rome. I don’t believe I’ve ever read that when the Lord returns He’ll stop by the church building, get the church roll and use it as the Lambs Book of Life. You know, if you’re on the roll, you’re good to go when it comes to heaven!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes we are guilty of majoring in minor things and vice-versa. The church was never intended to be some kind of exclusive spiritual country club for just a select few that we choose, but a place for everyone.


God’s not looking for members; He’s asking for followers. God didn’t call us to be a social club, but a place for the spiritually sick.

I was shocked recently when a new family inquired about joining the church where I preach. They asked, “When will you let us know how the vote goes?” I said, “Vote? What vote?” They replied, “You know, whether or not we get in. The last place we attended voted on whether or not we could become members of their church?” I immediately picked my jaw up off the floor. I could just hear the voice of the Soup Nazi from the old Seinfeld show screaming, “SORRY! No Church for You!”

Please understand that there is nothing wrong with identifying with a church, in fact I appreciate knowing that people want to be a part and are ready to go to work. But please understand that your placing your name on a church roll doesn’t save you or make you any more or less acceptable to the Father. God’s not looking for members; He’s asking for followers. God didn’t call us to be a social club, but a place for the spiritually sick. And, no one, I repeat, no one, has the right to vote on membership. The church was never intended to be something that you have to get voted into. If you are worshipping with a church that does that, you may be in the wrong kind of church. Last I checked, it is the Lord that adds you to His church (Acts 2:47). That’s the church I want to be a part of.

Sorry, enough preaching for today!

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
20 Comments Post a Comment
  1. cwinwc says:

    Voting on church membership ranks right up there as far as I’m concerned with giving church folks a survey and not requiring them to sign it or for that matter, giving them a survey at all.

  2. Stephanie says:

    that is a sad story…I hate to hear that that really goes on…Good post…it makes you be thankful of what you have…steph

  3. Joshua Tucker says:

    When I was in the baptist church they voted on membership. I remember thinking how weird that was. I’m not sure what churches still do that.

    It’s about identity I guess. Many see themselves as Church members instead of Christ followers, and that can be very damaging for one’s spirituality. Thanks for the post bro.

  4. Paden Family says:

    It is wonderful to know that it is only our God who gets the VOTE. I have enjoyed reading your blog and getting words of wisdom from you. Keep up the good work. And may God continue to bless you and your family. And your family is welcome in Alaska anytime.

  5. roadtripray says:

    This is an interesting topic. As a United Methodist, the pastor has the sole right to determine whether someone can join a congregation. This became a big issue at one of the UMC’s in Virginia when a pastor denied membership to a man who was an avowed homosexual. The pastor’s reason had something to do with our vows of profession of faith in which we repent for our sins and covenant with God to grow in our faith and in our personal holiness. He said he didn’t feel that man was taking the vows seriously.

    I agree that church membership is not scriptural, although I don’t think that necessarily makes it non-scriptural. I do see the value in making a conscious decision to call a church family your home and to commit yourself to service within that congregation. We methodists agree to support the local church with “our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our witness, and our service.”

    I think there is a practical use for rolls, such as keeping up with people so that they are properly cared for. Particularly as a church grows it is difficult to keep track of all the people, and I know of people who dropped out of church for one reason or another, and no one checked in on them. Do they need care? Are they okay? Have they found another church home?

    I think all these are important if pastors are to shepherd the flock appropriately. I imagine even thousands of years ago shepherds counted sheep frequently so they were aware when one might have wandered off into danger, or have been attacked by a predator. Keeping rolls helps manage this. Now that the church I’m at has allowed their youth to dwindle to nothing, I’m left with no good records, either, so I can’t even check on those who used to come. Yes, it’s bureaucratic, but I think there are good reasons to do it, as long as we make that secondary to being Christ followers.

    Peace,
    Ray

  6. TREY MORGAN says:

    Paden’s – I’ll be there next week :)

    Ray – Thanks for your thoughts on this. You make some very good points.

    Brian – That is SO good.

  7. Timbra says:

    My vote? . . ha ha!!! Okay, some of my thoughts go with Ray. Though I think voting on membership is going a little far, I do think it’s good for a family or individual to identify themselves with a congregation especially for the shepharding purposes. So maybe that’s more an issue of the leadership just getting in touch with the person/fam and asking. . . would you like us to look after you? I don’t know. . . we do a lot of things out of a need for organization that might not be necessary if we were all meeting as house churches or whatever.

  8. nick says:

    LOL You’re going to be mad at yourself. Scroll up and reread your “hammer” sentence. The one that starts with: “But please understand…”

    I think you meant to say DOESN’T!

    This is a great point, though.

    There’s a great contrast in John 7 that someone recently helped me untangle. Jesus says that “a prophet hath no honor…” and in the VERY NEXT SENTENCE John writes that all Galilee welcomed Jesus.

    The idea that someone bonked me on the head with is that Jesus doesn’t need FANS, he needs true followers.

    Thanks for this reminder!

    in HIS love,
    nick

  9. Mommysmart says:

    Trey,

    This is something that I just witnessed first hand with a church of christ. My friends sister-in-law moved to their town and starting attending church with my friend and her husband. She started volunteering in childrens ministry and decided to make this church her home. She arranged to meet with the elders and was immediately faced with tremendous questions and concerns about her baptism. She grew up in another “denomination” and so the elders questioned her salvation therefore questioned her ability to “be a memeber” at their church. This went on with her cooperation for weeks. She attended meetings, studies, and was basically put on trial. They did “allow her in”, but the damage was done and she now attends somewhere else.

    I appreciate your point that “placing membership” has no biblical history. This story is just another example of the “human-ness” of church. Sometimes we try so hard to do all of the right things according to our “doctrine” that we forget to just love people where-ever and how-ever they are.

    Loved this post and passing it on!

  10. Joe says:

    Voting on admitting people to church sounds ludicrous to me.

    However, I think rolls are pretty useful, provided you don’t get all snotty about it. (Like the “on the roll = admittance to heaven” view you mentioned.) I find rolls to be very helpful in remembering that every sheep gets fed — because, let’s face it, sometimes we can just forget. Also, it can help us spot trends. (“I wonder why Susie stopped coming as often this year? Maybe I should talk to her and see if something’s bothering her.”)

    I think it’s irresponsible for a church NOT to try whatever righteous means it has to care for the people that come, even those that only come occasionally. (And they often need the most attention.)

  11. Amanda KP says:

    AMEN!

  12. Steven says:

    Just found your blog and enjoyed your posts about life and fatherhood.

    I think you make a good point about how some churches misplace the emphasis on membership. Sometimes pastors boast “I have 500+ ‘members'” when only 100 people show up on Sunday. Or others within the congregation use it as a status symbol or treat it like an exclusive club of “cool people.”

    But I also think membership in a local congregation is important, as a lay person, to know what is expected of me at this church (accountability, giving, serving) and what I can expect from the church (shepherding, counseling, fellowship).

    I also think that if I was a pastor I’d want to know whether the folks in my church are indeed Christians or they just like hanging out with a bunch of nice folks. If they aren’t Christians that’s great they come! But I’d want to know in order to serve them better and also how to shepherd the members in the church.

    I think the idea of the whole church “voting” is so that the congregation affirms all these new folks to the church and is committed to loving them and building each other up in the Lord.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  13. Matthew says:

    I hate the whole vote thing too. If you are in, your in. Regardless if we like it or not. Hey, I mentioned you in my comment section on my blog today. You better check it out. Just in case, you know.

  14. TREY MORGAN says:

    Nick – You are right … I’m kicking myself. How did I miss that?

    Monica – Ouch. I hate stories like that. Sadly I’ve heard way to many of them.

    Joe – Good point.

    Steven – Thanks for stopping by the blog. I hear you on the membership thing. When asking what size your congregation is, membership is misleading.

    Matthew – I hope you were being nice! :)

  15. a cowgirl at heart says:

    Oh, this is why I read this blog. You speak my language in so many ways when it comes to “the church” as an institution. You know what’s also sad? When guilt becomes a wall to even thinking about going to another church because you know your family and friends will look down on you for it and think you are “one of them” instead of “one of us.” Who are “them” and “us” anyway, other than all children of God? Sheesh. Sometimes, I get downright mad.

  16. Joshua Tucker says:

    Though the idea of “church membership” makes me really uncomfortable, I think roadtripray and some others made some excellent points on the uses of it.

    I guess this is one of the problems you run into when a congregation gets a certain size. Ideally everyone would be connected relationally and the body would be encouraging one another automatically. If someone stopped coming around, friends would know and already be intervening in their lives doing what is necessary (loving compassion or sometimes loving confrontation).

    However, that’s not typically how churches above 100 or so tend to work. I think this is one of the many upsides of having house churches vs. the institutional church. But, everything has its weaknesses.

    Personally, I don’t think “Church membership” is the route we should take if we want people to “commit”. If people aren’t committing to following Christ, serving His Body, and bringing others into that Body I don’t see putting their name on a list making much of a difference.

    It’s all about the attitude. If some kind of census is used to merely help organize ministries and things like that, I think it can be good. For example, if a Church was trying to make sure younger Christians in the Church had personal mentors and wanted to make sure people were sort of spread out, I don’t see any problem with organizing a list for that. But membership for the sake of membership tends to put alliances towards a group of people rather than to Jesus.

    People need to be connected relationally, not just officially. This is one of the biggest problems in the Church today. People tend to think that if someone is going to a building every Sunday that they are “faithful”. That’s dangerous… because then we have people coming every Sunday but living like Hell the rest of the week, and also people who don’t come but are genuinely following Jesus. Anyway, this is long enough lol.

    All the input has been great. Hope to keep hearing more.

  17. david says:

    I dated a girl for the better part 3 years in high school / college who was baptist. I went with her to church once and there was a vote for someone that wanted to place membership. The I’s heavily carried. Appearently there were some sort of letters of reccomendation from their previous church involved. I was completely surprised.

    However, my question now is, if voted in, can they be voted out? Cuz that might ocassionally come in handy…

  18. Johnny says:

    AMEN! Bring it! Thank you for your fierce words Trey. What a horrendous idea of “voting” members into a church, what is next? Checking medical records to make sure that they have done the right things medically?? To spoil the grace and mercy of Christ by putting it to a vote…is a sickening idea of social elitism. The Gospel has no room for heartless selection processes. The freedom to come to Christ for salvation is not an exclusive rite for ant church to hold in this manner. To “vote” someone in or out is a soul killing device directly from Hell.

  19. cesty says:

    Amen and Amen! Where’s the smiley?

    Ok, this will have to do: :)

    Brother, you hit the nail right on the head!

    Voting people into church was never something that I agreed with either…

    Besides, what sense is there to it?

    Who would actually say, “No, we don’t want these people to become members of our church!”

    It is not only a waste of time, but an insult to the Holy Spirit to decide by manner of voting who really belongs to our ‘Omniscient’ God!

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts,

    –Chris

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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