Membership Has Its Privileges: Why We Shouldn’t Join a Church

Membership Has Its Privileges: Why We Shouldn’t Join a Church

A few decades ago American Express unveiled the tagline: “Membership has its privileges.” Their ads implied that great benefits awaited those who qualified to carry one of their exclusive cards.

To start, there was a high annual fee and, as I understand, minimal annual levels of usage for their various membership tiers. The card became a status symbol, separating the fortunate few who carried it from the masses who didn’t. It generated pride and caused envy.

Church does the same thing when it touts membership. To become a church member, there are hoops to jump through: attend classes, agree to certain teachings, follow specific rules, and commit to donate money, possibly even at a certain annual level.

Once we do so, the church accepts us as one of its own; we are fully embraced and become one of the flock. We are elite, and, even if we won’t admit it, we swell with pride over our special status. Now the church and her paid staff will care for us.

To everyone else, they offer tolerance but withhold full acceptance. After all, church membership has its privileges.

There’s one problem.

Church membership separates attendees into two groups. Click To Tweet

Church Membership Is Not Biblical

We made it up.

Having members separates church attendees between those on the inside and everyone else; it pushes away seekers. Membership splits the church of Jesus, separating people into two groups, offering privileges to one and instilling resentment in the other.

It is a most modern concept, consumerism at its finest.

To my shame, I have been a church member. Never again.

Although perhaps well intended, membership divides the church that Jesus wanted to function as one. Jesus accepted and loved everyone, not just those who followed him or offered money.

Paul never gave instructions about church membership, Peter never commanded we join a church, and John never held a new membership class.

I confess my sin of being sucked into this unholy institutional practice of church membership, at both the local and denominational level. I stand in horror over my role in promoting division among the followers of Jesus. Father, forgive me.

Though I will never again join a church as an official member, I am open to attend one, to immerse myself in community, to engage in corporate worship, and to serve others.

This is what church should be. This is what the early church did. This is what Jesus wanted when he prayed for unity. And this is what I will do.

Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, paperback, and print wherever books are sold.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.


  • Dennis Clough – Born-again Christian, retired house painter. Married over 60 years to an amazing woman I'm getting to know, father to two amazing daughters (they take after their mother), four amazing granddaughters (they take after their grandmother), Christian radio preacher for Jesus Christ (I'm getting to know Him), and consumed by a desire to help believers grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord.
    Dennis (N Posted May 13, 2016 8:12 pm

    Since Paul instructed the Cor. to expel a person from the fellowship, it stands to reason there were recognized members of that local body. We also see church discipline in action. Christ loves all and correction is one way of showing it.

    • Peter DeHaan – Peter DeHaan is a published author, blogger, commercial freelance writer, and periodical publisher.
      Peter DeHaan Posted May 14, 2016 9:15 am

      Dennis, this is an important verse to keep in mind and we need to follow it. Given the context, however, I think this was more akin to “don’t hang out with them.”

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