I was born again when I was 15 years old. I believe it was September 19, 1988. My life would never be the same after that Sunday evening service, that said, I haven’t always lived in a manner that was pleasing to my Savior. I was out of church for about 9 years due to multiple reasons, I will not divulge here. In August of 1997, I returned to church in honor of my step-mother, but I would not find it easy to stay away. Since then, church has been a part of my life, a huge part. I would join the church and attend every opportunity I had. Since then, I have had many experiences, some good, some not so good.
Over the years, I would come to learn that a Christian is a church member, but being a church member did not mean one was necessarily a Christian. In Matthew 7, Jesus presents a very disturbing fact when He says that not all that call me Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. As a matter of fact, He states that some are workers of iniquity and to depart from him, because He never knew them. Talk about a sobering thought. I’ve often thought, including today what the difference is between a Christian & a church member. Below are simply some things that come to mind while pondering upon this thought…
- A Christian has a since of duty unto Christ and His people regardless of where they attend, while a church member is loyal to a certain denomination or system of religion. This may be based upon their own decision making or because it’s where their family has always attended.
- A Christian holds everyone to God’s standard, but more importantly and foremost, they hold themselves to His standard. The church member is the standard, because they are constantly comparing themselves to everyone else or rather everyone else to themselves. You will hear things likes: I don’t do that or I wouldn’t do it that way or I can’t believe they allow that. Their system is based upon part bible and part their own preferences, but mostly their own preferences.
- A Christian holds the pastor to a realistic level of accountability, realizing they are not perfect. They are not stunned to the point of quitting on God or even leaving the church when he does not do as they expect. The church member holds the pastor to a completely different standard than they do themselves. While he is not allowed to make mistakes (at least not big ones), THEY are justified as not being perfect and can make mistakes. They are allowed to miss as much church as they deem, but he is to be there without fail. They are excused from service when it becomes too much, but he cannot take a break at any time.
- A Christian studies the bible loyally and applies everything to themselves first, realizing they must be in line before they hold anyone else accountable. The church member opens their bible at church for teaching/preaching (hopefully) or to try to find something to use against someone else.
- A Christian is devoted to Christ first and has the expectation of themselves to practice the teachings of Christ. The church member is devoted to many other things before Christ, such as family, holidays, sporting events, the local school extra-curricular activities and even the pastor (so long as he is serving their interest).
- A Christian knows God’s plan of how to fund the ministry, missions, and other activities of their church is through tithes & offerings. Therefore they believe in the monetary support of their church financially. The church member has heard of the plan, but thinks the pastor is just money hungry, therefore to give anything is a favor to the church. They claim, “God can take care of his church, why does he need my money?” They do give, but it is the same amount every week without fail. Unless they feel guilty.
- A Christian knows there are two main priorities of the church’s calling: 1) to see the redemption of the lost soul 2) to see the believer grow in the grace and in the knowledge of Christ. The church member is convinced that the priority of the church is to provide social services to them and their groups, not to mention to compromise in anyway to get more numbers than the church down the street.
I could go on and on and on an on, but I must stop. We certainly mean no offense in what we’ve written, however Jesus, Himself stated there are those in the fold who are not of the fold, as did the apostle Paul. One of the most painful things a pastor or any church leader can do is confuse the church member with the Christian. It’s difficult from time to time and the results can be and are devastating.
If we could offer a quick, but probably powerful example to conclude. Peter, James, John and even Thomas were all Christians. Yes, Thomas doubted and Peter denied, but they repented when the truth was presented. Maybe not immediately, but eventually. Judas betrayed and that wasn’t even the worst part. I mean, Peter denied even knowing Jesus. Judas’ mistake was not repenting. Church members and Christians alike will likely make some of the same mistakes throughout their lives, but the Christian will always accept their part in what they’ve done and seek to make ammends. The church member will always have a scapegoat.