Today I had coffee with a local pastor. He’s a good friend and someone I really respect and am having a blast getting to know. He said something simple in passing that struck me as interesting and worth sharing.
His church, a local fellowship in Marseille, has 40 members. That’s what he told me. On their little rolodex in the office somewhere, 40 members. 40 people receiving newsletters. 40 people who call themselves members of this particular church. 40 total people, not families. Not too odd. Most evangelical churches in France I would guess hover in the 20-60 range.
But you know what? They average 60+ for Sunday worship (excluding les vacances of course!). Yes, average attendance is higher than membership. It’s not that this church is suddenly on revival and growing so fast the secretary can’t keep up. That’s just how it is.
If you live in the USA and go to church, ask your pastor/secretary/record-keeper sometime the number of members of the church. For most churches, even small ones, I would guess that number to be in the thousands. Now take a visual survey of how many people are in the worship service on Sunday, and do some division. This is a total guess, but I’d say it’s maybe less than 30% of the membership (and feel free to tell me if I’m wrong).
So why does this church in France have less members than attendees when most churches in the USA have vastly more members than weekly attenders? Well in France, having your name on a membership roll doesn’t get you anything. No one would tell their neighbors they attend a church they don’t really attend. Why heap ridicule on yourself? No one identifies themselves as a Christian, especially not an evangelical church-going Christian, unless they really mean it. So in the same way, no one asks to be a member of a church unless they are truly committed in every facet of their lives.