Why Membership Matters
I love being a member. It entitles me to lots of benefits I enjoy -- friendly people, good service, and those little free snacks everywhere are great. And the best part is, if I ever get tired of it, I can cancel it and walk away to a better deal. Or I can do without it altogether for awhile.
Of course, I’m not talking about church membership there I’m talking about my membership at Costco. But I want to make a point about Christians and membership.
Lots of Christians can treat church membership kind of the way they treat Costco. It’s sort of an optional extra, something that might even be good but it’s not totally necessary. And it’s tempting to only evaluate church membership through the lens of the way it benefits us--do we get any additional benefits or anything? (Hey, I’m a pastor and I can still do it!)
Members of a Different Kind
In the church at Corinth they were consumed with self-importance and self-interest. What’s interesting is that Paul corrects them with a theological picture: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:12, 27). Paul says that we as Christians are not the kind of members that can simply cancel our membership and look for a better deal. No we’re the kind of members where, if one of our limbs walks off, the whole suffers.
Here are few important truths drawn from that picture:
- Being a member of the body isn’t optional, it’s essential to our own health as Christians
- We’re each unique with our backgrounds and strengths and gifts, but we need one another to do all God has called us to do
- We can either choose to live in line with this identity or live in a way that contradicts it. In a sense we are members of one another but we must actively choose to function like it.
Why bring all this up? Because our church membership classes are happening next week and if you haven’t considered becoming a member of the church, and you attend here regularly, I want to encourage you prayerfully consider it.
While it’s true that every Christian is a member of the spiritual body of Christ we’re called to express that in a real, flesh and blood commitment to a specific local church. Our heart is to see every Christian plugged in as a member of a specific local church. You want to commit to walk alongside others in good times and bad, and you want others to commit the same to you. You want to be able to place yourself under both the care and accountability of others. You want to live your identity as a member of the body of Christ.
But how do you decide where to make a commitment as a member?
Members of a Thoughtful Kind
Should you join a big church or a small church? What ministries should it have? What kind of music or preaching should it have? In considering where to commit as a member all of these questions are legitimate but they can easily push us back toward consumerism. We have consciously push against this to consider first what the Bible calls us to consider first.
Here are some key questions to ask as you prayerfully consider where to become a member of a church:
- Does this church hold to the gospel clearly? [Without this, I don’t think biblically you can join the church.]
- What does the church believe about the other primary issues of the faith like the trinity, the nature of God, and the inspiration of Scripture? [Without this, I don’t think biblically you can join the church.]
- What do they believe about the secondary issues? What do they believe about God’s sovereignty or about the work of the Holy Spirit or about things like marriage and divorce?
- What does life look like at the church? How do they pursue community and care and a host of other biblical priorities? [Every church will do this differently so it’s important to consider]
- What is their mission as a church and how do they pursue it?
- How is the church led and governed?
- What are the specific requirements and commitments of members?
This is why our church offers a membership class. It’s an opportunity to find the answers to questions like this. Other churches hold similar classes or you can meet with a pastor or leader to walk through this.
So if you’re a regular attender of Cross of Grace but not yet a member let me share my heart with you: Being a member of a good local church has changed my life and the life of my family and I very much want you to experience the same thing. After all, it’s just living out the spiritual reality of being members of one another.