I’ve been thinking about church membership and what it means. I guess if you are attending a large church, membership might not be as important, but in a small church, it is an important topic. Just what is church membership all about? Thought I’d share a few ideas this week.
First of all, I’d like to share some of “rights” you have as a member of a church.
1. Since I am a member of this church, I have the right to claim my own pew. Don’t anybody dare sit in my pew without an invitation!
2. When the church gets new carpeting, the members have a vote on the color. It’s my right to fight for the color blue, and I will, because I know I’m right!
3. The pastor needs to visit my third cousin, twice removed, right away, even though he belongs to another church and really doesn’t want a visit. I’m a member, and the pastor needs to take care of my family.
4. Member of the church? My grandparents were charter members. They started this church, so I think I have as much right to say how things go as anyone.
5. Do I have a relationship with Jesus? Well, I’m a member of the church, isn’t that enough?
These were a bit ridiculous, I know. Whatever your belief about the rights of church members (and I hope I didn’t step on any toes above), the Bible has a lot to say about the privileges of membership in the Church.
1. The Bible gives Church members the privilege of forgiving others. “For if you forgive [others] when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). It is a privilege to be able to restore someone else, to be able to make a difference in the life of someone, even if they have sinned against you. By exercising that privilege, we not only restore their dignity and ability to start over, but we also build in ourselves the attitude of Christ, who came to earth to purchase forgiveness for us.
2. The Bible gives members of the Church the privilege of contributing their individual gifts for the good of the gospel and others. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully” (Romans 12:6-8). We are given gifts, skills, and talents by God. Church membership gives us the opportunity to use those gifts to make a difference in our world.
3. The Bible gives Church members the privilege of putting aside our own wants to serve others. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Exercising the privilege of service changes us, it makes us more in tune with the needs of others and helps us appreciate what we have received. By giving up one soda or cappuccino today, I can contribute another dollar to the food bank, to a missionary’s support account, or to a disaster such as in Haiti.
4. The Bible gives members of the Church the privilege of receiving forgiveness. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23,24). Being a part of the Church gives us the privilege of being forgiven, first by God, and also by God’s people, that is, other by “members” of the Church (See Number 1 above.)
5. The Bible gives Church members the privilege of being peacemakers. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17,18). The presence of God’s Spirit in our lives gives us the option of being the kind of people who bring peace to the world around us, starting in our homes and radiating out to our communities and farther. With the help of the Spirit, we can plant seeds of peace, even if we don’t see the fruit of that planting ourselves.
6. The Bible gives members of the Church the privilege of growing in faith and mercy. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). We are not just a part of some social group or country club, but rather an integral part of God’s family. That identity alone identifies us as those who are being changed, transformed, renewed, constantly growing into the image of our Savior, Jesus Christ. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Did you wonder why the word “church” was capitalized all the way through these items? Because I am not talking about your local church or mine, but about the Body of Christ, the universal church, which you cannot join by signing a piece of paper, or making a offering, or stating your allegiance. The only way to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ is to believe in the One who exemplified these privileges and showed us the way to live, by receiving forgiveness for our sins because of His sacrifice. Forgiven? Show your membership in the Church today by exercising your privileges!
Mary Kay Glunt
Pastor, Ebenezer Presbyterian Church