Day 47: Shared Convictions

Read 1 Timothy 4:15-16

He asked, “How do you determine who is a member of our church?” I replied, “Everyone who has gone through our membership seminar and agrees with what we teach, seek to do, and signs a covenant of membership is a member.” With some frustration, he questioned me again, “But what about the people who are part of our church who serve and give regularly, but don’t believe everything just as we do? What about them?” My heart ached with the question. I, too, know people in our church who love our ministry but disagree with some of our teachings. I consider some of these people my dearest friends.

Equally disturbing is that some who disagree with our church’s understanding on one or another Bible teaching seem a whole lot more committed to what our church is doing than many of our official “members.” Many of these “non‐members” demonstrate remarkable commitment to weekly worship, serving, and giving generously. They are obviously precious brothers and sisters in Christ among our church family. So? What about them? I commend these people for their conviction and for remaining open to dialog. I have learned much by talking to Christians influenced by other interpretations. Our disagreements are actually a good sign because it means we do agree that Scripture alone is the basis for truth and that truth can be known. We want to conform our lives and teaching to the Bible. The day we start pushing some of our beliefs under the carpet and make friendship, or an area of service, or even missions the basis for membership, we will have stopped being Church and started being a club.

The YMCA is an example of this. My family joined the YMCA. All we have to do is keep giving them money and we remain members. Why did we join? We needed a gym. Few people rarely think about the name: Young Men’s Christian Association. Even fewer know that the first YMCAs were formed to provide Bible study and prayer for those living on the streets. YMCAs were started by evangelical Christians who decided to overlook doctrinal differences. Over time this openness led to acceptance of other religions because, though their beliefs were different, one didn’t have to be Christian to help people. Today, most people simply think of YMCAs as holistic “fitness clubs.”

The story of the YMCA proves that beliefs matter. People at our church who feel unable to sign our covenant of membership seem to agree. Otherwise, they would join whether they approved of our teachings or not. Unfortunately, there may be some people who have joined our church without really agreeing with what we believe, teach, and seek to do. Maybe they just like our music or style. That might explain why they fail to get more involved.

Of course, membership is more than just believing the same things, but also about what we believe God has joined us together to accomplish. Ideally, “members” are people who share the conviction about our congregation’s mission and ministry. Membership is not about excluding people—especially people we have come to know and love. Membership is about uniting people around truth, which even the committed people among us who are non‐members agree is important.