Yesterday evening, KNWA - Northwest Arkansas News - reported on a story out of North East Arkansas, where a local church disassociated itself with a man who a short time earlier had come out as gay. It is interesting that this even made the news for several reasons. Suffice it to say, if in our own back yard a member of a local country club was dismissed for not obeying the 90-degree rule in his golf cart, it wouldn't have made the news. If a member of a local Rotary, Lions, or Kiwanis club were dismissed because they no longer aligned with the purpose and mission of these organizations, we'd never know about it. Why is this newsworthy?
The underlying premise upon which we are supposed to be outraged by this event is that church membership is as much of a right as the right to chose who to have sex with. What is the right of church membership? Let's start by making sure we understand what a church member is a member of. What is the church? The church is both visible and invisible, local and universal. The invisible, universal church is the collection of all who have been redeemed by Christ's death on the cross for their shortcomings, while the visible local church is a gathering of like-minded believers for the purpose of preaching and learning, praying and worshiping, service and evangelism, baptism and the Lord's supper. For the purposes of this discussion, emphasis must be on the term "like-minded."
The U.S. declared its independence from Great Britain because we were no longer "like-minded." Business partners dissolve their businesses because they are no longer "like-minded." People leave churches all the time because they are no longer "like-minded." Why is it a problem for the church to initiate that separation? It's not as if the church said "you can never again take part in our services." It's not like the church told this man he could never come to the food pantry for food when he is hungry or ask for alms when he is poor. When a church makes the decision to disassociate itself from a member, they only prohibit the former member from voting, and most of the time from receiving the ordinances of the church. Put simply, this is a case of a church member and a church no longer being "like-minded."
So the first right of church membership is to be like-minded with the church. Scripture points out several other aspects of the right of church membership. Church members have the right to die to themselves daily. Church members have the right to give up their time and money to fulfill the mission of the church. Church members have the right to attend services on a weekly basis. Church members have the right to go and make disciples of all the nations. Church members have the right to do a lot of things that don't quite seem like rights - they seem more like responsibilities.
So it really boils down to this: church membership is not a right. To the extent that it is, it is a right to give sacrificially of yourself as a church member to the church. Following Christ and becoming a member of the church will cost you your sexuality, whether you are homosexual or heterosexual. It will cost you your wealth, whether you are rich or poor. It will cost you everything - Jesus demanded no less. This is what it means to die to yourself daily, take up your cross, and follow Him. Church membership is costly. When we allow anyone and everyone to be members of the church without the cost Jesus required, we cheapen its value. This is a principle that must be applied uniformly across a broad range of sins away from which a person will not turn, but it is a principle that must be applied.
I follow Christ. I have a beautiful wife Megan and three wonderful children, Harrisen, Rebekah, and Carter. I am a candidate for a Ph.D. in ethics from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, have an M.Div. from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and a JD from the University of Arkansas, am licensed to practice law in several state and federal courts, and live in Rogers, Arkansas. I write a blog and produce a podcast. And I do it all that others may know Christ.