In the world that we live in, ‘Membership’ is a fairly common idea. We have memberships to libraries, sports clubs, magazines or journals, road service organisations, schools, clubs, gyms, churches and much more.
We pay, to secure some benefit – be it the ability to borrow books, or to secure good seats to watch our favourite sport, or to receive the magazine that interests us, or guarantee help if the car breaks down, or help for the school to give our children a better education, or a vote in the club that we belong, or cheaper entry to be able to use exercise equipment. You get the drift!
In many ways, the benefits of ‘membership’ in our secular world mirrors ‘membership’ in a church, but not completely – there is a difference.
Secular membership is almost entirely for personal benefit and whilst there is personal benefit for those who are members of a church, that is not the driving motivation for church membership.
Church membership should be about loving and serving God, and his people, before ourselves.
What is Church?
Let’s talk about Church. This essential Christian principle is about being core in membership in a church community. Before thinking about what it means to be committed to a church, we need to understand what Church is!
Very simply, Church is an assembly of God’s people.
It is a place where there is a distinction between God’s chosen people and those who reject God.
The word for ‘church’ in our English bibles is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. It literally means ‘to call’ (kaleo) ‘out’ (ek). In other words, ‘church’ is a body of people who are ‘called out by God’ to join together as his people – the followers of his son.
It is a family. It is a place where ‘worship’ is exercised. It is a place where the people of God, serve him and others before themselves.
If you have been Christian for some length of time, then the church is your spiritual family – a place where those in Christ belong. And if you are new in your Christian walk, then church is a gathering of adopted brothers and sisters who God has given to walk alongside you in faith.
Whilst it should be a place where the stranger is welcomed and addressed, it should never be a place where the person of the world has greater influence than the person of God. When Christians gather, they gather in what should be a safe place and one where they are spurred on in their Christian life and witness. It should be inevitable that what a Church family offers is distinctly different to what the world offers.
For other articles in this series:
Belonging to Church (Part 1 of 5)
Membership (this one)
The Church – universal and local! (Part 3 of 5)
Draw Near to God and to Others (Part 4 of 5)
Core in Membership (Part 5 of 5)