Rethinking Membership

WORDS FROM W.W. January 17, 2012

The past year in college football has been about as predictable as the European financial community. The only sure thing is that someone from the SEC will be in the BCS Championship game. Other than that…
For instance, TCU announced that it was leaving the Mountain West Conference to join the Big East Conference, but then reneged on that decision when Texas A&M left the Big 12 to join the before mentioned SEC, which left a spot open for TCU…which years ago used to be in the Southwest Conference, which pretty much is what today’s Big 12 Conference is comprised of. Meanwhile Boise State decided to leave the Mountain West in football to join the Big East, because whenever you think of the East, doesn’t Idaho automatically come to your mind? Worse than Boise is the fact that San Diego State, which I believe is on the West Coast, is also joining the Big East in football only.
If you looked back at who was in what league two years ago and compared it to who will be a member of what league next fall, you’ll be amazed.
Schools are influenced more by money and TV guarantees than they are by loyalty.
Thus the changing attitudes about what it means to be a member of something. Sam’s Club will treat you royally…until your membership expires. Try to walk into Costco without a membership and it’s like going through airport security procedures.
I’m a member of the YMCA…no matter whether I choose to go and workout or not. I’m a member of AARP, because…oh, wait! That’s right, I didn’t renew, and they remind me every month with something in the mail. I’m a member of my high school basketball official’s association, even though it means I have to attend even more meetings. (If you didn’t figure it out already, I already attend way more meetings than a person should have to. Some weeks I have more meetings than encounters with God! I’m not bitter though.) I’m a Priority Club member, which simply means that if I need a hotel reservation at a Staybridge Suites I can get about $10 off a night of the otherwise ridiculously high priced lodging rate.
I’m a member of the American Baptist Minister’s Council, which reminds me that my 2012 dues haven’t been paid yet. No wonder I got some stern looks from a few of my pastor friends…who are current in their dues!
The point I’m trying to get around to is that there are so many institutions that treat membership like a Monopoly “Get Out of Jail Free Card.” It gets used only when it benefits me. In like manner, people treat membership like generic Jell-O. If it doesn’t get used it didn’t really cost me anything, and the better brand is on sale this week. Switch!
It seems that Jesus talked about being a follower. Not all of the questions were answered by him when he invited a various assortment of people to follow. Not all who followed in the midst of the initial excitement continued (John 6:60). Not all who followed were consistent in their following. Some followed, denied, and then followed again.
It seems that the church is about followers of Jesus partnering together for the journey we’re in the midst of, and what is ahead. The church is a rowing team that sometimes has to crash into the waves, and sometimes goes with the flow of the tide.
A marriage is a partnership, not a membership. An athletic team that is realizing its potential is a partnership, not a membership. A mission cause is supported and powered by partners, not members. The community of believers, known as the Body of Christ, is a partnership. It demands. It supports. It depends. It encourages.
Think about that when you watch San Diego State and Boise State playing in the Big East title game next December.

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