Someone once said that our church is demanding. I don’t disagree with this assessment. Unlike many churches that accept visitors as members if they simply fill out a visitation card, our church asks people to come forward during Sunday worship services and sign a commitment card in order to become members. And these “members” do not have the voting privileges and may not serve in most ministry positions. These are reserved for “full members”. To become a full member, a person needs to accept Christ, be baptized, and apply for full membership. Their application must be approved in the deacons meeting, and during the Sunday worship service, the applicant is introduced by their shepherd, and the congregation must give approval by oral vote. Someone calculated that non-believers must come forward 7 times before they become full church members, to be introduced to the congregation, to give their testimony, or to receive gifts. Members are also required to attend house church meetings and take the Life series Bible courses.
This is not a problem for people who become believers through our church, because they assume that other churches have similar requirements. Complaints come from people who attended other churches and have been believers for a long time. They believe that the church should be a resting place and that our church demands too much. Eventually, many of them leave our church to attend more traditional churches.
I think that people who complain do not really understand the church. The church is not a community which provides rest or enjoyment like a country club. The church is a community with a definite purpose. It is both a mission community and a healing community.
To emphasize that the church is a healing community, when I came as senior pastor of our church, the first sermon I gave was entitled “The Church Is A Hospital”. And to equally emphasize that the church is a mission community, I made the church motto, “A Church That Raises Up Lay Ministers”. There should be a balance between these two aspects. Because the church is a healing community, everyone must be accepted and loved. But since it is a mission community, members must be trained hard. When either aspect is neglected the church becomes unhealthy.
To put it another way, the church is a hospital, but it’s a field hospital. It heals people so that they can engage in spiritual battle. People who think that the church is a place where only healing occurs do not understand the true nature of the church.
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