How do you think it works? Think people believe first and then belong? Or do you think they act on an innate desire to belong and then believe?
What do you think?
There was an interesting flare up last week after an article by Michael McKinley on the 9marks blog outlined a wolf awareness program that prohibits small group participation until the candidate has joined the church (HT to Ben Reed for his early catch).
Somewhat like columnist Dave Barry, I feel compelled to add, “I am not making this up.”
“We don’t let people attend small groups…until they are members. In order to join the church, a person is examined by the elders and approved by the congregation. Once a person has been through that process, we feel reasonably comfortable that they are safe (that is to say, not a wolf).”
Seriously? I repeat, I am not making this up. (By the way, I gave serious consideration to titling this post, “I Almost Hurled.”)
Now…let me be quick to say, you can do anything you want. You can exclude seekers from a small group. You can exclude the still unbelieving spouses of believing members. You can exclude neighbors and friends and family. You can exclude anyone you want from the optimum environment for life-change.
You can exclude anyone you want in the interest of “protecting the flock,’ but can I tell you something? I’m not sure you’re catching on to the innate human desire to belong before we believe. Although your bounded set modality may provide protection for your flock…it certainly also provides a fence that keeps out the very people who need to find their way back to God from what many believe is the optimum environment.
In researching the “belong before you believe” concept, I came across this reference to teaching by Bob Roberts in an article by Jeremy Myers.
At a recent Glocalnet church planting conference, Bob Roberts talked about how churches are generally made up of three things: Believing, Belonging, and Blessing. In other words, they focus on doctrine, fellowship, and service. The typical church requires that a person believes the same way they do before they will allow that person to feel accepted in their fellowship or to get involved with service in and through the church. They require belief as a prerequisite to belonging and blessing.
Bob Roberts suggested that the biblical model, and true discipleship, allows people to enter into “church life” through any of the three areas (Note that “church life” is NOT to be equated with “eternal life.”) So in this way, if a person longs to be part of the close-knit fellowship of the church, or join the church in building homes in the community, they can do so without signing a doctrinal statement. Discipleship churches allow people to belong or be a blessing without first believing.
Joseph Myers talked about it in Search to Belong. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch talked about it in The Shaping of Things to Come.
You can do anything you want. You can tightly control who can lead a group. You can control who can be in a group. But you’ll never convince me that your position is really about the Kingdom. I will always be convinced that it is about “getting all you can, canning all you get…and poisoning the rest.”
It is 2011. We are living in a post Christian era. It is absolutely time to wake up and smell the coffee. If you want to hear “well done,” you will not be controlling who can be in a small group. Feel me?
What do you think? Make sense? Want to argue? Got a question? You can click here to jump into the conversation.