Staging Responsibility

By | 9 September 2009

I’ve written recently about both baptism and church membership.

In those two posts, I argue both that the modern concept of “membership” is wrong, and that withholding baptism from a professing believer implies a more perfect knowledge of the state of someone’s soul than a mere human can claim to have.

If membership is a Biblical concept in some fashion, is there a legitimate rationale for “stages” or “types” of membership, or disallowing membership until the applicant has reached a given age?

What I mean is that if there is a way of defining “belonging” to a church without the manmade additions as seen in modern church membership, is there a reason to have a series of member statuses. For example, junior member, full member, transient/associate member.

Is there any Biblical or otherwise reasonable warrant for limiting the responsibilities or roles of a member because of their age? For example, does it make sense to dismiss “junior” members when issues that need to be handled by the church arise but are of a “mature” nature (perhaps sexual sin, or public incidents involving drugs, etc)?

If there is reasonable warrant for such levels, how does the church determine at what age a person should go from “junior” to “full”? Should it be up to the parents of the member? Is it entirely based on age? Is it a determination that needs to be made from the member’s standpoint, by speaking to the elders about a change in status?

Of course, if there is a staged membership concept, it could be abused by people not wanting to become “full” members, and keeping themselves as “junior” for as long as they could.

My question about associate/transient membership is more related to a person who spends a lot of time traveling or splits his work between a few places for more than just a week or two at a time. Such a transient status could allow a level of local responsibility with a given church, for example in St Louis, while maintaining a similar status with another church in, say, Detroit.

If we use Paul’s commendations of various people from one church to another, then it seems there is warrant for an associate concept of church belonging. Of course, as with the “junior” and “full” concepts, this could be abused by someone who wanted to avoid responsibility at all by claiming they were committed to the other church(es) they belong to, and really do nothing with any of them.

What are your thoughts?