Thursday, March 02, 2006

some thoughts on church membership

I recently received an email and have had a couple of convos with folks asking questions about our vision for church membership because of some comments that I made in a message a few weeks back. So here some things to throw in your hopper as we think about this controversial topic together. Let the comments begin. . .

  • Church membership is nothing to be afraid of. It's merely a shepherding tool. Abuse is always a possibility, but Biblical shepherds are to be gentle. Our desire is not to create an "inside" and an "outside" here at Grace. Nor to track tithes. Nor to compel Sunday morning attendance. Nor to control people's lives in an authoritative or heavy handed way. Our desire is to simply covenant and commit ourselves to one another.
  • Presently, Grace is nuts in a good way. It's hard to know and track who's here, who's just passing through and who's "just looking." We don't want to just care for some and neglect others, but we do want to know who's committed to Grace. Church membership provides a means to know who's here and who's committed, so we can provide appropriate pastoral care for all.
  • Membership provides a screen for those who want to serve in teaching roles. We need to know that those who are teaching Sunday School to our kids have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that they are committed to the vision, direction and statement of faith of Grace Church. We need to protect the flock in this way. Yet at the same time, we don't want folks to have to be here for 10 years before they are "known" and can serve. We want to streamline and speed-up the process of integration into full and involved body life and service here at Grace. Church membership can help us both protect the flock and employ the flock, as God has gifted each.
  • As I mentioned in that sermon on Matthew 18, sometimes the Scriptures call for the church leadership to humbly confront sin in believers' lives. Yet, we feel like folks need to give the church leadership permission to humbly confront them when they wander. We don't want to assume or presume. Church membership again can serve as a "permission-giving" tool.
  • All of these issues become more acute as God continues to grow Grace. Our desire is to be as open, welcoming and hospitable to new folks, believers and unbelievers alike, as we can possibly be to help them first come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior and then to find their place in the body of Christ.
As we get nearer to our implementation plan, we'll work to clearly layout the reasoning for this move. If you've got concerns, you're not alone. Pray for the Elders, as we try to provide Biblical oversight of the flock of God here at Grace, which He purchased with His own blood ! (Acts 20:28)


Andy Gibson said...

This post has been up under an hour, and yet, here I am. Amazing. You'd think I don't have a job, but trust me, I do.

"Yet, we feel like folks need to give the church leadership permission to humbly confront them when they wander. We don't want to assume or presume. Church membership again can serve as a "permission-giving" tool."

Why do "we" feel like folks need to give permission? If that is the case, isn't it that person's ego/hard heart/dense personality which is driving the "we" to be afraid or standoffish when it comes to confroting a believer? That seems in direct conflict with Matthew 18. Or is it the church feeling that they need to give personal accountability to the believer before they step in and "assist", per se?

I had a huge problem (well, problem at the beginning, which is now confusion) with it when you said it during that sermon on Matthew 18. I was sitting back in the sound booth and it threw me for a whirl, all I could focus on was that for the rest of the service. Obviously, I am still grappling with it.

Why does the church need permission to humbly confront a believer? Church membership doesn't instantly make the church humble, so how does membership make a difference?

Don't think I don't agree with membership, I do, so far. I just don't understand the permission aspect of it.

I know you usually don't jump back into the "fray" Tim, but you opened this can (again) and need to give us understanding. I'm sure I'm not going to be the only one with questions.

If I am totally missing something here, just bean me with a basketball tonight!

Pastor Tim Theule said...

Yo Andy, your yanking in the host. . . I better respond to this one before others pile on....

As church leadership, we should, we do, and we are humbly confronting people who need it now, but at the same time, because of the open, dynamic, large nature of Grace in these days, there are quite likely a few more on the edges who might need to be humbly confronted, but we don't know who they are or how they're living.

Membership at least provides one more "fence" or boundary for defining where people are at in terms of their commitment to the body of Christ at Grace and their submission to the Elders at Grace.

The reality is, it is very difficult to practice humble confrontation with someone whom we don't know. Membership will allow us to meet and "get to know" those call Grace their home, at least in a very limited way, providing a "context" for humble confrontation should it become necessary.

If you missed the message on Humble Confrontation, you can listen to it here!

Andy, I'm coming after you if you need it! You do the same to me.

Stay tuned. . . I'll post what I believe is the Biblical argument for church membership sometime in the future.

Brian Wong said...

I think beyond the above comments that Pastor Tim made, there's another issue of why we need permission. (Pastor Tim, being the Manager Tools guy you are, I'm suprised you didn't mention it.)

The fact is that often times confrontation without permission often falls on deaf ears. Humans, especially those who need to be confronted, have a propensity to develop selective hearing. To confront a person without his or her permission might be the right thing to do, but confronting a person without permission is often not going to illicit the desired change in behavior. Now, I agree that this may not necessarily be the biblical perspective on confrontation, but I do believe that this is a perspective that accurately takes into account our human nature.

The point of the aforementioned confrontation is to correct a behavior (sin) that is wrong. If we confront without the behavior changing, what good is it? On the other hand, having permission means that there is a greater liklihood of that behavior changing for the better.

Lisa Lewis said...

Gentlemen there is yet another reason why membership is beneficial in a body this size. Tim alluded to it when he mentioned knowing a person's position in Christ and seeing them living what they claim to believe as being essential for all levels of teaching. Just because people come to church faithfully and appear to be living a godly life doesn't mean it is so. We all run the risk of living our lives for the approval of others and hiding behind a facade. The permission given to the leadership to hold me accountable by my making a public choice to become a member allows these wise God fearing men to humbly confront me in the practice of sin. If we don't have a method to agree with the clearly defined statements of belief at Grace then the leadership could find themselves in a position to apply discipline to a non-believer! My own dear husband attended Grace for seven years before he came to Christ. The church was much smaller then and I being the extrovert that I am went to the pastors and elders and asked them to pray for his salvation. What about the hundreds of people who come now who aren't extroverts or don't know those in leadership well enough to come to them? We can't assume that by attending regularly everyone agrees with these Biblical principles and commands. Church membership clarifies who is willing to take a stand for what they believe by making themselves available to be under the authority of the men in leadership over them. (Now those words ought to stir up those of us who have issues with authority!)

Thanks again Pastor Tim for bringing us the full council of God. We all need it daily!

Jeannett Gibson said...

Yay Lisa! Good to see another woman chime in! (Not that I don't love the men's perspectives!) :0)

I think the membership thing, while a little scary, is a great thing. With Cal Poly and the very nature of students coming and going, it's a good idea to just have some idea of who the "core" of Grace is for a variety of reasons. Andy and I are just NOW getting assimilated into Grace and learning people's names. It was funny, because for a LONG time every morning during the little "say good morning to the person next to you" thing we do, people would always ask us "How long have you been coming to Grace, are you new?" and we would say "6 years." Only now, after 8 years of attending, are people beginning to know who the Gibsons are! Boy, were people missing out! Just kidding.

The entire concept of having 3 services and almost 1,000 people every week makes it hard to know who's coming and going, and I think that while we want everyone to feel welcome, we don't want to do that to the extent that those who attend regularly feel like just a visitor. Church should be an extended family, not just something you check off your to-do list. And if we have no real idea of who is committed, we can't really love and care and be there for eachother as we are commanded to do.

Tim Weaver said...

I'm leaning in favor of having a membership, but I'm a bit torn because I don't think that a church should NEED it. I'm sure that it would help the pastors and elders know that all those who have committed themselves to Grace Church are being cared for. It is not to ignore those who have not, but as you are doing you best to care for all you can ensure that you are getting those who have overtly said 'shepherd me' since you have a list of them.

In my mind if the body of Christ is functioning as it should, the members will be caring one for another as well as confronting and encouraging. The shepherds should be teaching us how to do that more effectively and taking on the bigger issues that people bring to them. Those with aspirations to teach and shepherd will talk with the pastors and elders and their character and faith will be known by those around them. If someone has aspirations to teach and has the ability, it should not take more than a year for members of the body to get to know that person well enough to be able to recommend them. Fruit either grows or it doesn't.

That said, especially because of our size, I think that having the membership will help Grace church leadership make sure these things are happening. It will help them to feel like they are getting their hands around things or know that they are not and need to get help or make changes.

Andy Gibson said...

I love ya, Tim, but Lisa just took this blog and ran with it.

"Church membership clarifies who is willing to take a stand for what they believe by making themselves available to be under the authority of the men in leadership over them."

That is the best I have heard it said!

Suzette Lyons said...

I was really thinking the membership idea was great until I started reading all of this. One of Lisa Lewis’ comments probably applies to me. It has forced me to ask myself, “Do I really want to be confronted?” That is a tough question. God must really want me to look at this issue in my life. Not only have we been talking about this in the discussions about Matthew 18, we just studied the topic of confronting sin in POW the Thurs. women’s bible study. We looked at David and Bathsheba and the results (2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12). Also the fact that no one in David’s household was willing to confront. Some of the questions in the study were “Who would you want to confront you?” and “Do you have people who help you with accountability?” also “Who could you ask to hold you accountable?”

I really like the idea of all of us being forced to think about confrontation and how serious we are about humbly confronting others and the possibility of being confronted ourselves. It is really a difficult painful thing on both sides. So I have been thinking about all of that and wondering:

1) If I become a church member who am I giving permission (i.e. promising to prayerfully consider any input that person may have) to confront me. I would think it would be ALL of the other church members and not just the Elders.

2) Have you guys really thought about all the possible consequences of this and are you prepared to deal with them no matter how unpleasant that will be. (for example if I promise to accept being confronted and you promises to confront, then if you see something you will be bound to confront it and assist me in sorting it out and finding accountability etc. no matter the inconvenience and time commitment involved.) I don’t think you can confront and run. You have to stick around and walk with the person and give support.

3) All of us do have some level of sin in our lives. Is there a level of sin that is worthy of confronting and things we should let slide? (I am asking what level of scrutiny will I be under. As an example I understand that some of the ladies posting on the blog concerning the women’s conference did not really like the idea that they should make looking good for their husband’s and keeping their house clean a major priority. There is a biblical basis for this (and anyone who has seen me or my house could see that I could use this advice – too bad I could not attend). I was also wondering – “Who is going to come to me and tell me that I need to lose forty pounds?” It is obvious and would be good for my health. This is just an example there is probably lots of other things that I just don’t see or just am not doing anything about.

4) Another question in the study of the life of David was “Is it God wanting you to confront this person or is it something coming from you?” I thought that was a good thing to ask before confronting and consider it a part of removing the log from my own eye.

The idea of being confronted is probably me weakest point. I have thought about it and decided that I want to hear what ever God wants to say to me. I am willing to listen to it no matter who it comes from: Elders, Church Members, Christians, Non-Christians, even strangers. I just have to warn you that if you hit a particularly sensitive spot there will be tears (I know how tears adverse some people can be so be prepared).

I will pray for God to give our church body and all the Elders wisdom in discussing and deciding this matter.

Missy Grant said...

I'm going to chime in on this one...very interesting comments from those who have responded. I would hate for any of us to focus primarily on church discipline as the "reason" for church membership. Church membership is an issue of obedience which is mandated in God's word. As with many other issues - one can't pick and choose which parts of God's word to obey and which parts to ignore. While some may not be comfortable with the thought of church membership it is required within God's word.

Tim, I would disagree with you in this post that it is "merely a tool to better shepherd the flock". It is much more than that. Hebrew 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account." There is that submit word again. I would put forth that most peoples discomfort lies in our complete misunderstanding and misuse of that word. To be subject to God given authority is to obey Christ. Many sections of the New Testament discuss the structure of the church local as it represents the church universal (too many to list here) and our response to authority within that.

I read a very good article which stated it this way. Is church membership necessary or an option? Another way to ask it is obedience to Christ a necesssity or an option? God requires those who call His son Lord to live within a Christian community. To be baptized, to take the Lords Supper together, to be taught the entire counsel of God, and to practice the consistent use of church discipline. Those are marks of a God Fearing (loving) church!

I would put forth that our church is not being obedient to God's word by not having church membership as it is defined in the New Testament. 1 John 1:6 says "If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." 2:4 says, "The one who says I have come to know Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him."

Church membership is a way of showing obedience to Christ by following his word. The benefit (beyond organizational objectives) is the blessing of God who smiles on those who are obedient to His word (even the hard stuff).

Jeannett Gibson said...

I just wanted to clarify a quick point: I wasn't saying that looking nice for your husband and having a clean house wasn't or shouldn't be a priority. In fact, I'm probably more particular than most about the way my house looks, smells, and feels. (I even have this thing that all hangers must be white. If I somehow get a colored one in there, it gets tossed!). What I was saying was that I was concerned that the focus was mainly on these types of perfection.

Don't want this to go off topic, just felt that I don't think that the comments made regarding the women's conference are in the same vein as this other type of confrontation issue.

Anonymous said...

MEMBERSHIP is a very loaded term with a whole host of meanings.

Members are in, accepted, paid-up, special, approved, wanted, trusted and better. Non-members are unwelcome, can’t afford it, don’t measure up, untrustworthy and excluded.

Everyone posting so far seems to be Member material, but how about all those who aren’t ready for that yet. I think all believers are members of the Body, but not all are ready for what the Elders might have in mind.

Maybe more specific terms for what is being proposed would make it less intimidating and controversial while avoiding the second-class status non-members might feel. Someone at Grace who is willing to accept guidance from the Elders might join the “Discipleship” or “Submit to the Elders.”

Just a thought.


Brian Wong said...

Clearly, emotions run high for this issue, which quite honestly, baffles me. Every other church I have ever attended had formal church membership. Granted, I never attended a church that went from no membership to having membership, but having formal membership at church was never a big deal. That's not to say it wasn't important, but there was never a brouhaha like I'm seeing here.

Membership was just something you did to formally become a part of that body of believers. As Pastor Tim mentioned, it was a tool for shepherding; it provided a way to check on those who were in positions of authority or instruction, and it allowed a forum for giving permission to be humbly confronted.

My point is not to minimize anyone's concerns, but the degree to which those concerns have been voiced is of considerable interest to me. In all honesty, I believe that the degree to which church membership is a foreign concept to many who attend Grace is the same degree to which having a church without membership is a foreign concept to me.

Andy Gibson said...

Of course, an anon poster has to come in with the first flame toss. I love the internet; gives people the ability to spew their trash with zero accountability. Of course your not ready for membership. Kinda ironic you signed with a number.

But, unfortunately, he/she has a very good point. More specific terms for what will be laid out before us would make it less intimidiating and less controversial. Thus far, all we really know is what Tim posted, and what it won't be; "Our desire is not to create an "inside" and an "outside" here at Grace. Nor to track tithes. Nor to compel Sunday morning attendance. Nor to control people's lives in an authoritative or heavy handed way."

Like Brian pointed out, we have only been presented, in the most general sense, that Membership will be a tool for shepherding, per se. And I agree with him, the emotions are running a little rampant, but that is what makes this fun.

I think, Tim, by opening this can, your lighting a fire (in the "now this might be urgent" sense) under the church and consequently under the Elders to bring this concept to fruition. If it has been presented to the church that all of the Elders agree with membership (Evening with the Elders), and the emotions are starting to appear for both sides (life at Grace), it's time for more framework.

"Second-class status non-members might feel". That is such a pessimistic view for something which you argue we don't know much about yet. Come out from under your desk and open your self up to accountability, open yourself up to the Gospel, and start taking charge of your life. Quit complaining.

"unwelcome, can’t afford it, don’t measure up, untrustworthy and excluded". I just can't leave this alone.
Unwelcome...I haven't seen anybody unwelcome at Grace ever in my 7.5 years.
Can't afford it....that is just so asinine I'm not going to waste my Sunday evening.
Don't measure up....there is a level of measuring up in the Gospel. God does lay out some pretty solid guidelines for how to live your life.
Untrustworty....previous comment applies. Maybe it would be cool if some person acted like a christian and became teacher of one of the Sunday school classes, and subsequently turned them into devil worshipers? Trust and accountability will, no must, be a factor in this.
Excluded....same as unwelcome.

Lets go for some serious discusson about church membership and how/why it is good for Grace and the body in general. I'm still intrigued and interested. What does Grace plan on doing? How? What ARE the Biblical reasons? How will it be "enforced", if?

I'm not for membership or against it yet, but based on what I have heard from Tim, Elders, and Biblically, I am "Member material" so far......that, and I haven't heard any good, powerful, or Biblical reasons why not?

Tim Weaver said...

Missy, (I realize that you are referring to Tim Thuele's comments not mine, but I would like to chime in on that.) I agree with you. Submitting to the leadership of the local church is Biblically mandatory. As a Christian we are absolutely commanded in the scripture to be in fellowship with one another which is being committed to one another. As long as the Lord has me at Grace church I'm committed to all those who are walking through the doors. They are the family of God and thus my family. I'm under the elders authority. I welcome them to ask me about anything in my life (good or bad).

I think we really only differ in that I don't think that having a written membership is Biblically mandated. I have seen churches work with one and without it. I think that it is one of those things that the Lord leaves open to each indiviual gathering as to how they think best to 'do church'. I throw it in the category of music style, but maybe I'm missing something.

Andy Gibson said...

Exactly Tim (Weaver). Obviously, it has been shown there are some fundamental differences to membership, but that is another aspect; what are the biblical reasons? Missy may have touched on them. They are so critical to know (and I don't know, I didn't go to seminary, I have an engineering degree!) before we can really continue to hash this out and address some of the differences/questions/concerns.

Keep it up. This good discussion and good questioning is just continuing to "yank in the host" and actually tackle the issues regardless of differences (except for one exception).

Amazingly, as a side effect, I think this membership thing is going to be very good for the blog, which in itself is a powerful tool. Now if we can just get the lurkers that read and never comment to comment....

Brianna Heldt said...

Mostly off-topic but...

"All of us do have some level of sin in our lives. Is there a level of sin that is worthy of confronting and things we should let slide? (I am asking what level of scrutiny will I be under. As an example I understand that some of the ladies posting on the blog concerning the women’s conference did not really like the idea that they should make looking good for their husband’s and keeping their house clean a major priority."

I am sorry that my comments came across this way. Not once did I say that keeping my home clean or looking nice for my husband was not a priority. I'm an at-home mom so my priorities naturally are my husband, kids and home, in that order. For the record (and I suppose this is my silly pride leading me to even say this) generally my home IS clean (by the grace of God having three kids aged 2 and under!) and I guess Kevin would have to tell you whether or not I "look good" for him.

I WAS however saying that the way some things were said at the conference seemed wrong to me. Suggesting that Kevin will be tempted to be unfaithful to me because I am not in full makeup when he leaves the house (5:30 a.m.) seems extreme, and I felt concerned that maybe there could have been someone there who took that to heart (unlike myself, who just thought it was extreme and moved on.)

On a side (but related) note I think it's okay (and really very healthy) to disagree with something an author/speaker says from time to time. I think it's good to be always thinking and weighing things against what the Bible says, not simply taking them for granted because we heard a Christian speaker say them at a conference.

I am not trying to open this can of worms again, I just felt I needed to clarify what I was saying (before the church staff staged an intervention and home/looks inspection. :) )

As for church membership I think it's a fine idea. I like the idea of people more formally "belonging" to Grace Church.

Kevin Heldt said...

I think you're smokin', babe, barn painted or not.

I missed the confrontation sermon and at some point I intend to listen online but based on some of the comments above it sure looks like there will have to be a lot of very specific instructions and clarifications given if and when this transition to church membership takes place. If I just walked in off the street and read this, it would certainly sound like we're about to engage in some serious full contact "confronting." And Pastor Tim said in his post that that explanation would be forthcoming so I'm not too concerned about it right now. But I just worry about the scenario of A confronting B about something, A being totally in the wrong in their understanding of the Bible, but B being new enough in the Lord or otherwise impressionable enough to just accept it. There are many fads that blow back and forth through Christianity and they are rarely seen as such in the moment (but rather the "clear teaching of Scripture"). How do we guard against "overzealous confronters" if Member-to-Member Confrontation is one of the encouraged aspects of Church Membership? (Though now rereading Pastor Tim's original post, he referred to the confrontation coming from the leadership so maybe this is a partially moot point.)

And again, maybe these are the sticky things that are covered in that sermon I missed.

As a last thought, I agree that the Bible doesn't make being part of a local body of believers optional but there is, in my mind, a substantial gap in reasoning between that assertion and the assertion that churches that don't have formal written church membership are disobeying Jesus. (And I grew up in a church with membership.) I agreed with what Tim W. said about it. As for formal, written membership, it may very well be a good idea and the right one for Grace but I think we need to be pretty careful when we start definitely stating something as a Biblical imperative. It sounds like our leadership has done a good job of avoiding just that.

Missy Grant said...

Wow! I don't think I have ever responded twice in your blog before. Great thoughts all they way around....Let's up the heat a little. I truly am interested in what those of you who have responded think on a couple of questions I have.

First, Let's see some bible references here to support your ideas (good ones, by the way). I know what a lot of people think, but what does God's word say about it? It isn't good enought for us just to rely on Tim T. for this. I know Tim T. will cover this at the right time but where are you getting your thoughts from? Second, Kevin - good comments, but it is not a jump to a biblical imperative on this one. The bible speaks to Christian community, its structure, roles and responsibilites of the local church of men/women and leaders. If that is not happening in a formal way in our congregation then how is that being obedient to God's word? I really am asking that question? My other question is this how would you or anyone else propose to monitor membership other than in writing? I totally agree the bible does not speak to the specifics of written membership (and I did not reference that by the way). The bible does not speak to the specifics of a lot of things. When that happens you must take a step back and see the framework (context) the issue is written about. In this case what does the bible say about Christian Community for believer's. The bible has a lot to say about this (most of the New Testament!)

Tim T. I hope some answers from you and the elders are coming forth soon. I would like to know what the elders are struggling with. Knowing and being challenged in that will only make my walk stronger. Thanks for the post...good stuff.

Kevin Heldt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kevin Heldt said...

Missy, thanks for the follow-up. I understand better what you were getting at. My earlier objection was to the idea that "the Bible directly commands us to have formal church membership." I agree that the Bible commands us to do those things you mentioned and church membership (of a formal nature) might well be the best way to accomplish that, but I felt it was important to distinguish between "this is what the Bible specifically commands us to do" and "this is the best way we've devised to accomplish these Biblical objectives."

Cyndie Hamley said...

Since 1979 I’ve considered myself a “member” of Grace Church. Before God I’ve committed to attend, serve, support, submit, and minister at Grace Church. I agree that Christians are called to community and fellowship within the body. I personally believe that can be accomplished within the current framework at Grace or within the structure of formal membership.
I am curious about which specific passages in the Bible Missy refers to as commanding a formal church membership.
My initial response to the idea of membership was positive and I could see no reason for controversy. However, in our growth group a few of the people (my husband included) shared some horror stories of church membership.
In my wildest dreams I can not imagine these happening at Grace.
1. Ron remembers church leaders sitting at their dining table with his parents questioning about their income and pushing for a commitment for a designated tithe.
2. Another told a story of how leaders would come to members’ homes on Saturday night to insure they were pure enough to receive communion the next day.
3. Another church would not allow non-members to enter on evenings when communion was served. People were actually turned away at the door.

After hearing some of the impressions and associations of church membership, I realized the challenge our elders have before them.

I'll be in prayer,
Cyndie Hamley

Brian Wong said...

Wow, Cyndie, those are some pretty freaky stories of Church Membership. I know you weren't saying that this would happen at Grace, but for those who are concerned about such stories here's what I'd say. Honestly, those stories are so far removed from anything that Grace stands for, that were such things to happen, I know Grace would no longer stand.

What I mean to say is that such scenarios aren't a part of Grace's DNA. If such things began to happen, the members and attenders alike would revolt. That's not the current Grace Church we attend, and I don't even believe that it would be possible for Grace to reach such a position, especially under the current leadership.

Let's examine each one in turn:
1. We, as "regular attenders" are not currently questioned about our income and pushed for a designated tithe. There's no reason for that to happen in the future. Did anyone notice how long our church ran in the red this fiscal year? I didn't have anyone knocking at my door asking for money, and I think we were in a pretty dire situation. If we were a public company, Wall street would be going nuts.

2. We're not currently checked for purity in receiving communion. In fact, the "only" check in receiving communion is the explicit instructions that Pastor Tim gives regarding the necessity to be a Christian in order to take it. We're not required to be members of the church to take communion now, why should that change in the future?

3. Not only do we allow non-regular attenders to enter when communion is served, we allow non-believers into the church when communion is served.

I believe that Pastor Tim adequately covered most of the concerns that have been posted in the comments section with his original blog post.

I'll close with this thought. I agree that the idea of membership needs our prayers as a congregation. I agree that the Elders need our prayers as they consider how to implement a membership program at Grace. What I don't agree with is the widespread fear and "crying wolf" that I'm perceiving here. Do you know what such things imply to me? They imply a lack of trust in our current leadership. To me they say, "We don't trust our Elders or our Pastors. We're very concerned about our autonomy and freedom, and we don't want to submit."

Jeannett Gibson said...

Brian, you are so right. I agree that Cyndie's stories are crazy and scary and horrid, and I am especially sad that they happened because of the lasting impressions they left with people. It's sad when religion and church get mixed up in the Gospel. :0(

Just because it's been done wrong before doesn't mean it WILL be done wrong in the future, or that it should now no longer happen at all, or that we HAVE to keep doing it wrong. (This by the way, is also a layman's version of a legal principle).

And I know that some reading Brian's post will say "well, I bet those other people never thought it would happen at their church. We can't say that it would never happen to Us..." And, I think ultimately, that's our question-authority-assume-the-worst-beware-of-the-man mentalities that we've inherited from our 1960's forefathers. We need to trust in our leadership, and frankly, trust in oursevles that if those situations arose, that we would be a strong enough congregation to humbly call our leadership "on the carpet" as well. Remember, this whole thing goes BOTH ways...

Brian Wong said...

Jeannett, if what you're saying about the whole "question-authority-assume-the-worst-beware-of-the-man mentalities that we've inherited from our 1960's forefathers," then that would clear up a lot of the confusion I've been having over all this angst. I guess I'm fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to not have grow up in that environment with that mentality.

I guess until I get burned, I'm willing to follow our leadership with a little more trust.

Lara Laity said...

Dear Mr. or Ms. 557,
Though at this point I am leaning toward being pro-membership I think you did bring up some valid concerns. Though Andy is right, no one is ever unwelcome at Grace that doesn't mean there aren't people who FEEL unwelcome at Grace. Membership or no membership I think 557 has described how non-believers and maybe some new believers feel about the church in general. Does anyone have ideas about how to really address these concerns? A dear friend of mine who just became a believer isn't comming to fellowship with us because he feels he "doesn't measure up".

P.S. Please remember in your responses that one of the fruits of the spirit is gentleness.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lara,

Thank you for your welcoming kindness. I'm afraid I was misunderstood, my only intent was to address the term "membership," and its host of meanings to different people, not the specific environment or membership terms at Grace which certainly has been more than welcoming.

Thank you again for being open to those who feel more secure (for now) in remaining Anonymous.


Andy Gibson said...

Granted, one of the fruits of the spirit is gentleness, but let us not cloud that with political correctness, thwarting of the truth, and/or make us too scared to state the truth.

-557, you want to stay unknown, fine. But you can't tell us (me at least) your only intent was to address the term "membership". You blasted some things up which give some insight into what you might expect from church membership. As a matter of fact, they were so over the top (considering what we know from Tim and the church so far) that if I was Tim or an Elder I would be moderately offended that people were drawing those conclusions when we still don't know what the church plans on doing or what they expect. It would worry me.

Regardless of the host of meanings that membership might have, people need to be careful of jumping to conclusions over this whole issue. I would argue you did just that in your post, and others have done it as well.

You weren't misunderstood, I believe I heard you loud and clear.

Suzette Lyons said...

There is no way to edit the posts once made as far as I know. I recommend copying to a blank Word file and spell/grammar check before posting.

Lara I can really identify with your friend. My background before coming to Grace was completely secular. As a child we went to the Unity Church and later my mom and her friend started their own metaphysical/new age church (right here in SLO). My list of sin was long and the wrong ideas I had amaze me now; idolatry, sex before marriage, abortion, divorce, all of those resentments piling up like a giant log jam and just killing me inside and more. God does not heal all of that over night. The gospel and the promises of God are what help me every time a condemning thought comes into my mind. I write them on 3X5 cards and work on memorizing them.

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! …

2Chorinthians 10:5 … take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 5:6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, Purifies us from all sin. (ALL! All sin. Halleluiah and Amen to that).

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. (Wow! What a thing to think on.)

There are so many more good verses that address this issue. When we first started coming to Grace I struggled with feeling unwelcome. I had to first seek the healing that can only come from God through his word. Then I had to make the effort to reach out to other people. A growth group would probably help your friend a lot. It is a great way to meet people in a non-threatening environment. My husband and I have been met with nothing but kindness and gentleness in the groups we have been in. Keep encouraging your friend.

557 – Words do mean different things to different people. I see that you were pointing that out and suggesting a name change to eliminate the negative associations. Change can be concerning. I think we all may just need repeated reassuring as this change is discussed and implemented.

As we discuss this we need to keep in mind Ephesians 4:2-3 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. I see that spirit in our Elders and will support what they have decided.

Lara Laity said...

Thank you Suzette. I'm all choked up. "See I am doing a new thing!" He has done a beautiful new thing in you.