Of Genealogies and Charter Church Members

While definitions may vary slightly, a charter church member is basically someone who was an original or founding member of the congregation. In some churches, charter members are celebrated, looked up to, or held in special esteem. Often, their family members share some of this esteem.

There is no such celebration of charter church members in Scripture. However, Scripture does not precisely lay out every atom of church practice. However, there are thinks Scripture prohibits and charter church membership just may fall into one of those categories.

In Sunday school this past weekend we studied Titus 3. After class, a few of us briefly discussed charter church membership in light of verse 9. Titus 3:9 states, “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (ESV).

Promoting and talking about charter church members could certainly be a foolish controversy that causes dissensions as these members could be held in higher esteem. A charter member’s word may also be held above that of others possibly usurping biblically authority and wisdom.

Principally speaking, the claim of charter membership may also fall into the genealogy category that Scripture warns against. I say principally, because laying a claim to charter membership is not exactly like the Jews objecting to Jesus’ words by laying claim to being Abraham’s descendants. Just as there was pride in the Jews’ claims to Abraham, there is pride in appealing to being a charter member.

Being a charter member gives one no higher rights within the Kingdom of Jesus nor should it do so in His church. Instead, charter members may be grateful God allowed them to serve by being part of the beginning of a local church.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dale Pugh August 5, 2013 at 8:34 pm

A church I pastored in Oregon had one older couple in it that had been charter members.  They left our church so that the wife could play the piano in a sister church in our same town.  We had made a transition in worship styles that she wasn’t able to make, the church had grown, new people had become leaders, and they just weren’t happy with everything we were doing.  At first, she was just “filling in” for the other church.  Eventually, they decided to join the other church.  They  wrote a letter to our church asking if it would be okay for them to be members of both churches.  The reason they gave was they they wished to retain their status as “charter members.”  After some discussion in a business meeting, we came to the conclusion that if they wished to join with the other church that we would be glad to grant their request for a letter of membership.  They would not be able to retain membership in our church, but their status as charter members remained unchanged.  After all, history can’t be changed.  Much of this was just a matter of power and control, of which they had little.  What they did have had been diminished.  It was a power play, and it was recognized as such.  Some people really do make way too much of such things.

2 Mark Lamprecht August 7, 2013 at 9:39 am

Dale Pugh Thanks for sharing, Dale. It seems fine to recognize and appreciate what God has done through charter members. It is another thing to be proud of that standing and use it for your own pedestal essentially erasing God from the equation.


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