Caterpillar to Butterfly: Church Membership – TO – Networking Relationships

From Caterpillar to Cocoon to Butterfly – Part V

In this series we have been asking the question, “What happens with metamorphosis during the cocoon stage?”  How, structurally, do you get a butterfly from what once was a caterpillar? In my Aug. 20, 2011’s blog, I listed 18 forms of transformation that I see occurring inside the cocoon of change.   Today we will look at the principle: Church “membership” is stressed (caterpillar) TO church “networking” of relationships at various levels is stressed (butterfly).

Caterpillar: To the institutional church, “Church Membership” is one’s identity and one’s spiritual heritage: Lutheran, Methodist, Evangelical, Mennonite, Independent, Baptist, Brethren, etc.  When changing “churches”, you take your membership with you.  Even though the church boasts of its desire for unity in the “body of Christ”, church membership fragments that unity.  Church membership defines “belonging” as discussed in yesterday’s blog. Today, the Church is known as one of the most discriminatory institutions as races and cultures defined by membership meet separately.

Butterfly:  A loose “relationship” of “networking” supersedes any formal structure of formal belonging. The label of “Christian” would mean anyone who believes in Jesus Christ, and all the labels of subdivisions are of little consequence or importance. Relationally, everybody is on a horizontal equal plain with their peers.  Relationships can be birthed by non-church events like social networking, the arts, through music, one’s culture, just living in the same community, etc.  Relationships may start socially, then develop through contacting via social networking or in person. 

The Differences: Again we are faced with the issue of “belonging” or “not belonging”, and the question of how much “tolerance” should be given to those “outside” one’s group’s membership.  Old School/Church: join the club to be a part of it; New School/Church: be a part of it and eventually you will be part of the club.

Implications Today:  Personally, the church in which I grew up practices what they call a “Love Feast & Communion Service” where members share a meal together, wash one another’s feet, and partake in communion.  If you are not a member of that local congregation, you have not been able to participate, but you could come as an “observer”. Now with the younger generation marrying “outside” their denomination to spouses of different theological Christian persuasions, there has been a conflict because they have not transferred their “church membership” yet, but wish to partake in this closed service.  A leadership meeting went in circles over should they be allowed to participate as “Christians”, their commonality, because they accepted Jesus, or should “church membership” still be the standard for participation.

Conclusion:  Because there is no membership in horizontal relationships, prejudices and discrimination fueled by divisional memberships are diminished. By opting for acceptance through relationships, a horizontal atmosphere offers a better chance for “Church” unity.  The Old School institutional model does not allow much leave way for acceptance of those outside one’s membership; the New School relational model encourages reaching out to different races, cultures, and non-church environments for evangelization.