The disturbing data is in. Church membership in America is declining rapidly. I read a recent poll that revealed that although 76% of Americans claim to be Christian, only 17% claim to be a member of a local church. Ten years ago, 38% of Americans identified themselves as church members. Someone recently posted the following question on Facebook and Twitter: “Why are you opposed to church membership?” One of the most popular answers was: “I don’t want to join a social club.”
I believe that one of the greatest threats to the church is the heretical understanding that the church nothing more than a local social club or social-service organization. And it is not non-members who are propagating such a false understanding of the church, but church members themselves.
We act as if the church is about meeting our needs, instead of rearranging our needs. We come to church asking God to fulfill our desires, instead of transforming our desires. We view the church as a place we go to take care of the self, instead of viewing the church as a way of life to die to self. The question that we most often ask in the church is: “What do we want?”; instead of asking: “What does God want?”
Another way that we act like social club instead of the body of Christ in the world is the way give to the church. In the past, we have looked at the church’s budgetary needs, and then have asked the question, “What are my church’s needs?” If the church’s budget is increases, we increase our pledge. If the church’s budget remains flat, so does our pledge. If we did not give anything the previous year, and the church met its budget, we figure the church does not need us to pledge anything for the coming year.
However, since the church is not a social organization designed to meet selfish needs but is the living body of Christ, the proper question to ask is not “What do I want to give” or even “What does my church need me to give?” The proper question is: “What is God calling me to give?”
I believe, if we truly asked this question, our finances would never be in a state of deficit, and our membership would never be in a state of decline.