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Church Membership

By Gianluca Cueva

Department stores that sell in bulk. Movie theatres that give unlimited viewings a month. Gyms that provide all-access fitness. And credit cards that have premium rewards. These may be some of the things that come to mind when you hear the word “membership." And when compared to the last two or three decades, it seems like we have more opportunities than ever before to become a “member” of something. But what comes to mind when you think of “church membership”?

To think or see church membership in a similar light or fashion as a movie theatre or credit card company might seem silly at first, but the reality is a lot more serious and grave. Unlike a movie theatre, we don’t just go to a “showing” to be entertained every Sunday morning. Unlike a credit card company, we don’t spend or give expecting to get some “reward” in return. Unlike a large department store, we don’t simply go and “pick and choose” what we want. And unlike a gym, the sole focus is not us, to “strengthen and build” ourselves up.

Thankfully the New Testament offers us examples or metaphors of what church membership looks like. And this is where we begin to better (and perhaps even truly) understand what membership means. Though there is not just one metaphor in the New Testament, Paul’s metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12, I think, is of particular interest for us. Here Paul reminds us that the church is like a body. “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. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body…” (1 Cor. 12:12-13)

Paul is telling us that like a very real physical and anatomical body, the church is the body of Christ himself. And, like in any body, it is not made up of just “one member, but of many.” If it were not so, then the body would stop being… well, a body! Therefore, every member of a church body is in need of each other. But what about on the ground level? How does one practically apply this? We become members of a local church.

There is a French animated film that chronicles the journey of a hand (think of the “thing” from the Addams family) that is trying to return to its body. Upon hearing this, we of course see this as pure fiction and maybe even a little ridiculous. Yet, this reality may be more common today in the church than we think. There are dear brothers and sisters who have not yet joined a local church body. They are “members” either wandering or simply visiting the “body” every Sunday. They do not experience the life, accountability, service, discipleship and all the blessings Christ has for his people by being part of a local church body.

Paul’s words today remind us that the church body needs its members. And the members need the body. Afterall, we have been saved into a body, and we all need each other.  
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