What’s the Difference Between a Church and a Club?
When Dana Carvey played “The Church Lady” – a character called Enid Strict – in the TV show Saturday Night Live in various episodes from 1986 to 2016, many of us in the Church were summarily convicted. The Church Lady was judgmental, snotty, and mean! But knowing that art imitates life and vice versa, Christians across America were wondering: Is that really how we come across to others?
The shocking (or embarrassing) answer is yes, sometimes we do. After all, when we take our Christian faith seriously, our attitude can spill over in our actions in such a way that our expectations of ourselves appear to equate to high expectations of others as well – whether this is true or not.
So the caricature of The Church Lady is deserved to some degree, and that’s partly because those of us in the Church take very seriously Jesus’ admonition to “be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). It’s a standard to which we hold ourselves, and by extension also those in our immediate family.
It’s also a whole lifestyle baseline that we expect of everyone in the Church. We have an understanding that God is constantly watching us, so we need to try our best to be perfect! Some modern feel-good ministries try to water down that message by saying “You don’t have to be perfect,” but that message goes against Scripture.
Church vs. Club
And here is where the people of the Church have a different approach to it than to any other organization, club, or company. “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). So being a member of a church, we are also a part of the greater worldwide Church, which is the extended body of Christ Himself!
Being a member of a living body, which therefore wouldn’t survive without each individual, is very different from being a member of a club. In a club or secular group, you can simply stop attending and your membership will discontinue. In contrast, if you are a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, you are inherently part of the greater Church whether or not you are technically a member of an individual church. You are a member of the overall body because of your belief.
Still, we are called to be active participants in our faith, not mushy do-nothings. “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:17-18).
That is why most charities that provide food and clothes to strangers around the world are Christian charities. We are called to feed the poor and clothe the naked, and (gulp) to heal others in Jesus’ name! Dare we do that nowadays, too? Hmm. Being a member of His body can be very demanding.
Is Tithing Required in a Church?
Many clubs have followed the Church’s example in serving others, but take a look at the requirements of club membership: There are fees or dues to remain a member. In contrast, any viable Christian church does not require any kind of donation – indeed, that is between you and the Lord insofar as what you give.
You might be thinking, “But the Bible says you have to tithe!” And many people, even Christians, don’t really know what that means. A tithe is literally 10%, and this directive actually comes from the Old Testament in the very last book, Malachi 3:10: “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house. Try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of Hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of Heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it."
But the 10% tithe is not a requirement. “Each person should do as he has decided in his heart – not reluctantly or out of compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Since we know that God is always watching us, we also love to impress Him by mimicking His generosity by being generous back to the Church, and also to other worthwhile organizations that are serving our world.
That is all because we are members of the Church, the body of Christ. Everyone around us should assume that they can always count on us in times of need of any kind, and that the members of the Church are here to serve with no questions asked. Amen!