There has been a lot of resistance to the concept of church membership (or partnership) lately. Putting your name down on a church roll is becoming more and more “old fashioned” these days and the concept of being a member of the “global church” has become a more favorable philosophy. I admit, it does have a pious ring to it. When I hear it, it conjures up the image of a faithful believer making his/her rounds from church to church, taking part in Bible studies in this church, worship in that church, outreach with another church, etc. After all, with so much to give, why not bless all the churches with your presence instead of just one?
I have some reasons why not. However beneficial this philosophy seems; the effects are less than desirable. The philosophy appeals to the flesh, it reduces effectiveness, and is impossible to sustain.
Free-Agent Mentality is Carnal
Imagine you’re a coach of a local basketball team who had a player that practiced with your team on some days and other teams on other days. He chose these practices based on what workouts were best for him. When asked which team was his, he smugly replies that he is a member of the league, not one individual team. We wouldn’t consider that individual a team player because it would seem that his behavior only benefitted him, not any one team. That coach would probably prefer that player never came at all.
The carnal mind is a mind that finds its motivation for everything centered on self. Choosing to attend the best parts of each local church in my community and avoid the parts that are less attractive to me is selfish behavior. Selfish people are only interested in consuming, not producing. Being a true disciple is when the goal in living is to glorify God by producing fruit (John 15:8). But the consumer is only interested in consuming it. Being in an abundant vineyard does not make you an abundant branch. Being an abundant branch is what contributes to an abundant vineyard. Being a selfish branch, only interested in gleaning spiritual nourishment from the vine has a dire consequence (John 15:2).
Free-Agents are less effective
Typically, it is assumed that going to various churches means that you are having a greater impact, but in truth, no one remembers you and no one takes you seriously. We remember people who matter and we take people seriously when they can be trusted. Neither of those traits can be established when someone is not fully committed. People become important when they are dependable. People who bear responsibility can be depended on. The more they step up to their responsibilities the more they matter because they have made themselves an invaluable player in the local church’s mission.
If you bounce from church to church, you know less about the mission of each local church, and instead believe something worse: You believe you’re the mission. You’re the reason the churches exist. This is why you believe you’re making an impact. You believe you are contributing to the churches by being seen and heard. But the impact you assume is more of a distraction than anything else. You’re not special. No one cares what you think. Start being someone a local church can depend on and they’ll start to care and you might even become special to them.
Being a Free-Agent is Not Sustainable
Given my basketball illustration, what would become of basketball if every player had the same non-committed attitude. Basketball would cease to exist. In fact, all team sports find their success in the commitment each player has to the cause. It is so important that any coach in his right mind would be sure to keep that mentality on the bench. Team sports win by being a team and there is no “I” in team. The success in the local church is no different. If pastors take time away from their members to pour into a free-agent, they are both starving their church and setting a poor precedent.
The “global church member” mentality only renders the church inert in a dark world that needs the gospel. It advocates the kind of Christianity where submission, longsuffering and bearing burdens can be avoided. How can we show the world we’re different without these important Christ-like attributes. Submitting to godly elders (Hebrews 13:17), suffering through hardship (Romans 8:17), and taking time to bear with one another (Galatians 6:2) are what set us apart in this dark world and put God on full display.
Ready to Sign?
I hope that you can see the value in what can be accomplished when saved sinners commit to Christ by committing to one another. Even if the church you choose does not have formal membership, make that your church. Be there for the fun stuff and the hard stuff. Make it known that you can be depended on and you’ve made that church your family of faith. If every Christian made it their personal goal to have a meaningful effect in one church, we would have many strong churches instead of many weak ones.