Who needs membership?

As a former pastor and former member of numerous congregations, I have for years questioned the value of membership as an institutional policy. I question whether it represents the church as a hospitable group of people seeking to live out the teachings of Jesus. It mimics secular corporate/social behavior for the purpose of control. With membership, the body in charge decides who is included. One example would be the churches that exited Mennonite Church USA due to disagreement about inclusion of anyone desiring Christian fellowship. Removing membership guidelines would incentivize participants to identify with a living, collective body, rather than just placing their names in a book and identifying with those on the list as “the church.” An authentic body of Christ is an interactive group collaborating in the work God is doing. I imagine an annual covenanting ceremony in which people commit to carry out the vision of the church. This would eliminate the option of being an anonymous observer.

Phil Esau, Topeka, Kan.

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