Recently someone asked me to clarify the “benefits” of being a member of the church (I think their question sounded more like “what’s in it for me?”). I suggested that my answer was “nothing” and that I am more inclined to talk about the “responsibilities” of being a fully devoted follower (aka disciple) of Jesus Christ . Reading Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Church several years ago helped me clarify the question of membership. So I pulled his book off the shelf, turned to the chapter “Turning Attenders into Members” and reacquainted myself with some valuable lessons (see pp. 309-329). Let’s explore …
First, let’s pay attention to the word member. “Member of what?” one might ask. We understand joining social clubs, country clubs, and civic organizations. Is membership in the church any different? Yes it is! C. S. Lewis reminds us that membership is not induction into a cold institution, but is becoming a vital organ in a living organism! Scripture teaches us:
- “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Romans 12:4-5).
- “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 6:15a).
- “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
Being a member of a living body is a difficult concept for USAmericans to grasp. We have been
raised on the Lone Ranger and far too often we think we can be Christians all by
ourselves. This is because we have confused “believing” with
“belonging,” that is, many see Christianity as a set of ideas, not as
discipleship (aka followership) of Jesus Christ as Lord. When we “member” ourselves into the church the organism adapts to welcome this addition of life! (Essentially when someone joins the church it re-members itself in a new way as the living body of Christ in the world.)
Membership in the church then involves making a commitment to another person or institution. Rick suggests that the following questions are probably on people’s minds as they explore making this commitment:
- The question of acceptance: Do I belong here?
- The question of friendship: Does anybody want to know me?
- The question of value: Am I needed?
- The question of benefit: What is the advantage of joining?
- The question of expectation: What is required of members?