We count how many people attend church every week. But that’s not all: we also keep a membership roll of who “belongs to the church”. Then we also look at how much money ends up in the offering plates every month. How big is your church? We answer that question in terms of Sunday attendance, membership and income.
In all honesty, the three measuring sticks of attendance, membership and income are not as accurate as they used to be. Originally the idea was that members attend “their” church regularly and give regularly to “their” church. That is hardly the case anymore. My own son went to preschool at a United Methodist Church. We attended chapel there regularly. I go to spiritual direction in a Roman Catholic Community. My wife serves a Presbyterian congregation and I join them for special services as time permits. In many patchwork families children attend services with mom one week, dad another and grandparents on a third weekend. We have children in our own Sunday School who are part-time Baptists. A lot of children hit every Vacation Bible School in town. Faithful church members of our own congregation – now in their 70s – tell me that was commonplace even when they were little. We went to a First Communion Service last Sunday. It was a great moment for our friends. But the reality is the kids had had communion at our UCC church for years – only on the Catholic side of their identity can they call it “First Communion”.
Bottom line: Everybody is wearing multiple hats. Hardly anybody “belongs to” one particular church. We show up in places. We give when we find meaningful ministry that deserves support. For most people church does not fit into their life at all. So for those who show up and give, let’s celebrate them and not give them a hard time that they don’t abide by some rule of exclusivity. The church as the body of Christ belongs in all incarnations to the one God. Let us wear our human reflections of that lightly.