While I'm still years from the day when I will humbly begin leading a congregation as their lead pastor or church planter, my head already rattles with thoughts of what that might look like on that scary day. I recently had some new thoughts about church that I am still processing, so as I share these with you, please offer me much grace as they are not fully developed.
When wondering about what it means to 'be the church' and be 'part of a church', I think that the church fails to be the body of Christ when it fails to embody Christ. We fail to be the church when we fail to put on the ways of Christ and actually embody his life in the world around us. The "body of Christ" is not simply the name of a group, but instead, the definition of a lifestyle. The early church was refered to as Christians, or 'followers of the Way', not because they signed the weekly attendance roster at their house church, but because they put on Christ's skin in a physical, tangible, earth-changing way for the world's sake. Christians tend to treat Church participation as something to put on their spiritual resume, rather than treating their faith life as the resume itself.
With that in mind, my thoughts on church membership are beginning to change. The church is different than any group or club because it is never about membership, but only about action. I fear that churches look no different than your local Elks, Kiwanis, or Rotary Clubs, when the church was always meant to be so radically counter-cultural that it couldn't help but stand out. Church membership seemingly goes against this idea because it allows people to think they are being the body of Christ even if they are not embodying Christ. Membership also puts some people 'in' and some people 'out'. It creates an "other", when the message and life of Jesus was all about destroying those walls of separation.
Rather than membership, I wonder what it would look like for churches to covenant together toward Kingdom purposes. Rather than focusing on simply being at worship gatherings, what if all those in attendance were committing to one common cause of being the Good News to a hurting world? Here's where my humility comes in...I have no idea what that looks like, but look forward to journeying with others so we can lean into God's fullness together, so that we might make heaven a reality here on earth as a covenanting group.