Saint Paul writes:
ďFor 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.Ē (Romans 12: 4-5, NRSV)
I read the following message concerning membership as our opening devotion at Mt. Edenís Annual Congregational Meeting which was held on Sunday, January 17th, 2016. These words were written by Pastor John Stuart of the Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee back in July 29th, 2019. I found his reflections on this Bible verse very insightful and so I repeat them here again for you to discern and to pray about.
Your Brother in Christ,
Ö Thereís a current trend in Western Christianity of people church-hopping and resisting joining a local congregation. They donít want to make a commitment to a certain church or denomination because it doesnít exactly fit their personal beliefs and theology. They move from congregation to congregation seeking to get something, but never really stopping long enough to give something back in return. They are spiritual locusts who feed on what they can get and then move on to another place.
I feel sad for them because they never really get to know the joys of membership, fellowship, and discipleship. To them, Christianity is something to be consumed. While itís good to be nourished by the Spirit, itís even better to share those blessings. After all, wasnít it Jesus who said, ďIt is far better to give than to receive?Ē
Membership is originally a Christian invention. It comes to us directly from the writings of Paul. The local church is the Body of the Lord and we are each called to be different parts of Christ. And the different parts of that spiritual body are called Ďmembers.í
I hope that this trend to be independent and individual begins to diminish. I canít think of a worse form of Christianity that requires no humility and is always motivated by self-interest. We are meant to be members in the Body of Christ, not individual parts that wander off to go and do their own thing. Christianity works best when people of faith are joined together and serve the Lord by being banded together in a common faith, church, and congregation.
So letís rejoice and celebrate our church membership. Letís take time to thank God for this wonderful innovation that was inspired by the Holy Spirit through the writings of Paul so long ago. And letís also remember, before we criticize Paul for instituting church membership, that he was significantly and deliberately chosen by Christ Himself to do this. Ö
Let us pray Ö
Lord Jesus, we thank You for church membership and how it is wonderfully celebrated and practiced throughout the world. We remember those Christians in China for whom church membership can bring imprisonment. We recall those Christian congregations in Iraq and Iran for whom membership can cost them their lives. And we remind ourselves that our own congregations are full of folk who are called to serve You together through the bonds of friendship, fellowship, and above all else, membership.
In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.