Belonging Before Believing?

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:46-47

I’m asking a question. An article I read this morning in a popular outreach website didn’t ask the question, but made it a statement and seemed to be promoting a ‘church’ called “Inversion Community Church” As the article explained the church challenges “this idea that you have to believe before you belong,” he (the Pastor) says. “You can actually belong before you believe. That’s what we’re doing.”

I visited the website and Facebook page of the church to learn more about it, but I’m intentionally not going there in this post. If you are interested, you can easily find both from the source article link at the bottom of this post.I’m just asking questions. What it really comes down to is the definition of a ‘church.

“The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.” (GotQuestions.org). Other good sources also define church the same way, focusing on the fact that the church is not a ‘building’ but a ‘’body of believers.

While it might be permitted to belong to an organization calling itself a church, is it possible to ‘belong’ to the body of ‘called-out believers’ if one has not yet believed? It sounds like a ridiculous question, does it not? The terms ‘counterintuitive’ and ‘oxymoron’ come to mind.

So WHY even consider such a concept as ‘belonging before believing’, much less advertise it?  I can think of some reasons, but since they don’t speak well of the idea at all, I’ll keep my big mouth shut. Like I said, I’m just asking the question. I hope others would also consider the question and if necessary.

The last question I have is of the hypothetical variety. IF the idea of belonging to the church before believing isn’t biblical sound, or contradicts the NT definition of ‘church’, what should be our response? My immediate response after reading the article this morning was to ask a few questions via a blog post to get us thinking and maybe searching the scriptures. Perhaps that’s enough for the time being. J

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts concerning the ‘belonging before believing’ paradigm! Do I need a sanity check?

10 responses to “Belonging Before Believing?

  1. Our responses to this idea may differ depending on whether we are Credobaptists or Paedobaptist. Paedobaptists seem to have no problem with the idea of belonging before believing. It is not the mode of baptism that separates us but the nature of the Church. As a Baptist, I find the idea completely ridiculous and non-biblical.

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    • Interesting perspective, randy. I hadn’t thought of it in terms of water baptism. I was trying to understand the evangelistic ‘philosophy’ underlying it. Good comment. I think it blurs the definition of church and as one article I read stated, confusing for both Christians and non-Chrisitans.

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      • I couldn’t agree more. From an evangelistic standpoint it is totally unbiblical and confusing. I used to drive by an outfit called “Church Without Walls.” I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that being without walls biblically was always a curse and never a blessing.

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  2. Jesus promised to separate the wheat from the tares. This is a hard job only he can really do. The truth is people go to church for all different reasons. Not everyone believes. Not everyone has good intentions. We are at war, and your enemy wants to deceive. You deceive by pretending you are in.

    Personally I see two types of involvement. To be a member or a leader, confession of faith and baptism are vital. If you someone trying things out around helping with a church dinner or doing other tasks maybe that is different. There is room for their help presalvation. Where is that line is the question. It is an important question to labor over.

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      • Good question
        I do have a specific answer that is not the norm so it might create some healthy dialogue.

        1 Timothy 3 talks about elders, they need to be a list of things that are moral and able to teach.

        Then we see deacons and they are aloud to serve if they have a set of moral qualifications and have been tested.

        So for me people do something and are moderately involved but get examined and approved as members. Deacons and deaconesses each have qualifications sometimes it is a miss translation (my opinion) deacon’s wives.

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  3. Good point about qualification for ‘offices’ in the church. Back to the passage at the top, “the Lord added to the church those who were ‘being’ saved”. Hard to define that maybe, but it is a qualification. Folks just hanging around with feelings of belonging’ because nothing is presented to them that might make them feel uncomfortable might not be candidates for membership. The NT church wasn’t looked at by outsiders as ‘safe’ in the way ‘Inversion Community Church seems to present itself.

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  4. I’ve seen a campus ministry apply this…and they compromised so much of the Gospel as a result. These guys parade themselves as doing something new when they are not…

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  5. I see two options. You mentioned compromising the gospel, which necessary if your goal is to be liked so you can maybe present a Jesus unbeliever will like that doesn’t dare mention sin and repentance. Option two is to get to the true gospel at some point, which means a spiritual ‘bait and switch’ that will be seen by any unbeliever with half a brain.

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