Three years ago, I became a charter member in what was then called the D-Day Museum on Magazine Street downtown. Later, it became the “official” World War II Museum. I bought a brick on the walk just outside the front door to honor my father, enscribed with his name and what he did during the war (“Dug the Coal that Powered the Ships”). And I dutifully sent in my annual membership fees of $35 dollars at first, and now seems to have climbed to $140. I still write them a check though. It’s a great museum.
Today another appeal came from the museum. They’re going on line with the “official” listing of the charter members. Would I please check how my name is listed (“Mr. Joe McKeever- River Ridge, LA”) and send this back to them, alongwith another $140 dollars. Oh, my dues are current. They just want more money for the expansion they’re doing.
I have sometimes thought the main benefit of membership is that it entitles one to receive letters asking for more money. They seem to come at a regular clip, several times a year. Those poor non-members never do get these things.
Oh, and the letter said I would be happy to know that the actual count of “charter members” of the museum is now up to 170,000. Apparently, they keep the charter membership rolls open for the first couple of decades.
Reminds me of the time I “joined” the support team of our public radio station here, the one that airs classical music in the day and “All Things Considered” in the evenings. By “joining,” I mean I sent them a check. That’s all it took. Thereafter, I was bombarded by requests for more money.
If anything, I felt penalized for having contributed. “Poor sucker. You sent us money? That must mean you have more money! We want it. Send it now.”
Now, I have been pastoring churches since I was 22 years old and have long forgotten, if I ever knew, what it was like to be a regular, normal member of a church. But I find myself wondering….
…do new members of a church feel the same way I do about our museum and the public radio station, that joining primarily entitles us to receive all these requests for funds?
…is that how people see “joining” the church? As just writing a check? That it gets you in and gives you all the so-called privileges of membership?
…if the only contact some people have with their church is when the pastor sends out appeals for more money? And what that says about the church.
…if church leaders and museum executives and radio station boards all make a mistake in thinking that just because someone joined up and wrote you a check once, this automatically means they are as committed to your program as you are and thus will welcome your regular fund-raising appeals?
…and if so, why do church members put up with it? Why don’t some of them get together and march down to the pastor’s office and rein in this greed-based drive to amass more and more money for bigger and more exotic buildings and projects? That failing, moving your membership to a “real” church also works. But don’t do this until you try the first. Your church may still be salvageable.
And lastly, I wonder if God’s people who truly love Him and are committed to His church would simply write a tithe of their paycheck each month, wouldn’t that meet all the needs of the Lord’s work?
In case anyone is wondering, no, I’ve not received a letter from my church asking me for more money in about five years. That’s when I was the pastor of the church, and as I recall, I wrote the letter.