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Membership Dues

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     I was once heard a sermon on the fourth chapter of Ephesians, and the preacher made this challenging comment: “I think that, when we pass the offering plates, many of you aren’t worshiping with your tithes or giving to the work of the Kingdom at all. You’re really paying your ‘membership dues’ – the fee that is required to have access to the services of the church.” Ouch…

     If we pay membership dues to a local gym or swimming pool, we gain access to a variety of privileges and services. Is that what we’re expecting from our offerings? I once belonged to a local gym and regularly paid my membership dues. But then I saved money to buy exercise equipment to use at home, thus saving me the time and money required to drive to the gym three or four times a week, and I stopped paying my dues. I know some people who consider their membership dues to the gym to be a bargain, because they make use of the swimming pool, classes, and childcare, thereby making it worth the cost to them. These are reasonable decisions when considering the privileges and services of a gym compared to your needs.

     Is this what membership in a church is all about? There are certainly privileges and services available to the members of our church, but those blessings aren’t the focus of membership. Here is the way that the Apostle Paul described the Church: “[Christ] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to perfect a man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…” (Ephesians 4:11-13). According to Paul, the first words that should come to mind when we think of membership should be “ministry”, “edification”, “unity”, and “Christlikeness”. Being a member of the body of Christ means that your purpose is to minister and edify one another, with the goal of becoming one in Christ, like Him in every way. It is a commitment to other sinners like yourself, based upon what God has enabled you to do for them, not what they will do for you.

     Church membership is about serving others and being accountable to them. In their book, The Trellis and the Vine, Colin Marshall and Tony Payne challenge us to be a congregation made up of “disciple-making disciples”. In their own words: “The call to discipleship is the same for all. Jesus says, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it’ (Mark 8:34,35). There are not two sorts of disciples – the inner core who really serve Jesus and His Gospel, and the rest… The Great Commission, in other words, is not just for the Eleven. It’s the basic agenda for all disciples. To be a disciple is to be a disciple-maker.” We need to re-discover this central purpose of our church, so that each of us can embrace our responsibilities as members – to disciple one another, to serve and edify one another that we might become one in Christ. Then our tithes and offerings will be what they’re supposed to be – expressions of thankfulness and worship to God.

Posted by Rev. Dan Kiehl with