Some of our church members half-jokingly complain that our church is too demanding. In a way this is true. We insist that people make a commitment to the church on their own. In many churches, visitors become members automatically as soon as they fill out a visitor’s card. In our church people need to come forward in order to fill up a commitment card to become a member. To become full members, ones who can vote at church business meetings and become church officials, they must accept Christ as their personal Savior, be baptized, and apply for membership. Their applications must be approved at both the deacon and congregational meetings.
“Pastor Chai, do you know I had to walk down the isle 7 times before I was able to become a full member?” one member said to me the other day. As you know, we ask members to come forward after the Sunday sermon and fill out a commitment card if they want to become a church member, accept Jesus Christ, or be baptized. They have to come forward again afterwards, to introduce themselves, receive a gift from the church or give their testimony. When I count the number of times this member had to come forward it actually exceeded 7.
Some people who came from Korea with a more traditional church background feel uncomfortable about this. They feel like they’re being pressured. Some resent it and move to another church.
Although I understand their feelings, I think that they don’t really understand the true nature of the church. A church is not like a country club where a person can come whenever he feels like it, enjoy it, and leave. The church has a purpose for its existence. It must be both a healing community and a mission community.
A church must be a healing community. So everyone who comes must be accepted as they are and cared for. But it is also a mission community. So everyone must be instructed and trained. A proper church cannot neglect either of these two purposes.
The church is a hospital where members are healed and made whole. But it is a hospital in a battlefield. It heals patients so they can go back and fight the spiritual battle. People who insist that the church should only be a place where all people are welcomed and made to feel comfortable do not understand the nature of the church.
Our church has a mission statement and a motto. Our mission statement is this: “We raise lay ministers.” It declares the mission aspect of our church. Our motto is this: “The church is a hospital.” It declares the healing aspect of our church. I pray that our church continues to maintain a good balance between these two things.
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