The book of Hebrews urges us not to forsake assembling together with fellow Christians, but it does not say I have to be a member of your church (Hebrews 10:25). We have all heard the phrase "Church hurt is the worst hurt." I don't know if it's true for everyone, but it has been true for me. The world is a dark place, so many seek to find light in the body of Christ. People expect love from their church families, but when they are bruised, they feel a pain that cannot be described. It pierces the soul. For a victim of church hurt, the thought of church membership can be paralyzing. It can be overwhelming and suffocating. Thus, many have opted for fellowship beyond the walls of church buildings.
After several horrible experiences at church, I couldn't fathom stepping foot in a church building again. On Sunday mornings, my entire body would ache. I experienced feelings of guilt for not attending church, but my feelings of anxiety dominated those emotions. How can I give myself to a church again? How can I serve? How could I befriend new church members? Can I follow another church leader?
The first day I attempted to try another church service, I was hyper-vigilant and I wept during the entire service. Despite my apparent need to heal, people kept telling me that I needed to become a member of a church. They told me I needed "spiritual covering"; what they were really trying to tell me was that I needed to be a member of their church. I found that if I chose a different place to worship, I faced a launch of verbal and personal attacks. I was told that I was being disobedient; that I didn't want to be pastored; that the enemy was confusing me; that I would be punished by God for leaving the church; that no other pastor truly preached the Bible at their church; that no church is perfect; that I was being emotional or unstable; and the list goes on and on. The truth is—I didn't want to be a member of their church and I didn't have to be. A true godly person needs to understand that.
I would be lying if I told you that it was just one church I struggled with attending. Quite frankly, after seeing so much darkness in the church, the thought of attending anyone's church for an extended period of time frightened me. I am not alone; I believe many share my sentiments. I know many who are reading this article are yelling that no church is perfect, and that this is just an excuse, but I beg to differ.
Does Hebrews 10:25 Demand Church Membership?
First, we must ask ourselves whether Hebrews 10:25 demands church membership. I would argue no. I believe the writer of Hebrews was encouraging the believers to assemble together because many were failing to meet with other Christians for corporate worship and fellowship. For that reason, I recognize that being part of a church community is essential to the life of every believer. I believe worshipping, praying, and serving together are necessary for personal spiritual growth. Similarly, I believe having close fellowship with other believers provides accountability. Additionally, you are able to easily find mentors to disciple you and a pastor to shepherd you as you walk with Christ. I have to admit that church membership makes it easier to accomplish all of this, but is it the only way? I don't believe so.