Checking In, Checking Out

Jonathan Leeman writes,

In the West today, individuals and families often resign their church membership like they check out of hotels. They make sure they have all their belongings, inform the management, and then go. In fact, many church members don’t do this much. People leave and tell no one. I suppose it’s only because the hotels have our credit card numbers on file that we afford them that courtesy.

This is true in most parts of the world, where the social cost of professing the name of Christ is low. This consumer mindset plagues the non-persecuted church. But who is to blame for this? Well, the church; particularly, her leaders.

Leeman continues,

Insofar as this practice is widespread, churches themselves are at least partly to blame. We have not taught our members otherwise. We have not taught them that church membership enacts on earth our unity with Christ and His people in heaven. We have not taught them about the nature of church authority and Christ’s command to submit to it. We have not taught them that Jesus said obedience defines love.1

Leeman is correct. Many Christians do view the church like they view a hotel—a place to check in and to be served. Some view it as a two-star hotel, not expecting to receive much while at the same time not expecting to give much. Others expect a lot because of their investment. After all, they contribute financially, they give their time to gather, and in many cases, they serve. Therefore, they expect a five-star experience—including being waited on hand and foot. They want the multi-staffed concierge of the eldership to check on them to ensure that they are having a good time. They want “room service” when they are in need and they want it now. When they gather for their spiritual meals, they expect them to be gourmet and just to their liking. They want them served on time and never exceeding the time! After all, they need to get to their other activities before returning to the hotel for more service.

Whether the consumer-minded church member views the church as a two- or five-star experience, when they decide that it is time to check out they often do so as Leeman suggests: They leave without telling anyone. They figure that they have already paid their bill and they owe no one the courtesy of explaining their next move. And this is tragic.

Read more here.

  1. Jonathan Leeman, The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 314.

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