What are you a member of?
A few months ago, my wife & I decided to join the local YMCA. I’ve always been resistant to joining a gym, but when you join any gym, it comes with certain benefits. Certain services. Certain things that I get because I’m a member at the Y that you may not get if your not a member of the Y.
For example, I can go to the Y & use any of their equipment whenever I want to. I can run their track, lift their weights, use their machines, swim in their pool… all because I’m a member.
I can watch any of the 20 or 30 tvs they have while I’m working out so I can stay caught up on the news, sports, or whatever I like. I can take any one of the classes they offer. I can take advantage of their child care so my kids have fun & are supervised while I work out.
Not only can I do all of these things at the local Y here where I live, but because I’m a member, I can do this at any YMCA in the country. How great is that?
And what’s better, if I experience any problems at all, all I have to do is let a YMCA staff person know & they will do all they can to fix my problem & make sure I am satisfied.
I think the problem for a lot of us, including myself, is that sometimes we superimpose what it means to be a member at the local gym, or whatever we’re a member of, we’ve superimposed that membership over what it means to be a member of a church.
And, as you know, that comes with a certain set of problems.
Membership & Church
There’s tension here because we know this is true… so many times we look to join a church based on the services offered & the benefits it might provide for us & our family.
But we know that being a member of a church is different than being a member at the Y.
So what does it mean to be a member of the church?
I’ll be honest, I’ve really struggled with the language of membership when it comes to church. And I think part of that struggle is because the word member in our culture, in our communities, is so directly tied to us belonging to a place that is there to serve us.
So the way it works for so many of us is we pay to be a part of a place that then guarantees us certain services & benefits. And because we pay to be a member, we feel like it’s our right to receive those services & benefits.
And if those services & benefits are interrupted for any reason, if we aren’t satisfied with the services & benefits that we receive, we do one of two things:
- We complain & insist that it get better, that we get treated better, that our expectations are met & that what we feel was wrong is made right as quickly as possible or…
We leave & take our business elsewhere.
Now, if your anything like me, you’re getting really uncomfortable when you start thinking about how sometimes, we see this exact thing play out in a church. It’s uncomfortable because we know… That’s not what a church is. That’s not what a church is about.
And that’s where I struggled for a really long time, & that may be where you’re struggling today as well, because if that’s what it means to be a member, then we need a new word. We need a new way of talking about what it means to belong to a church & be a part of a church.
But I’ll tell you, I really do believe that the best way to talk about your relationship to church, my relationship to church, is by saying that we are members of a church.
And it’s not because of the way we define membership, it’s because of the way God defines membership.
Membership & Christ
So, what I want you to see today is the way a man by the name of Paul talks about the church.
In a letter to a troubled church in the ancient city of Corinth, he wrote these words…
“All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12.27, NLT
Here’s another translation of the same verse:
“Now you [collectively] are Christ’s body, and individually [you are] members of it [each with his own special purpose and function].” 1 Corinthians 12.27, AMP
Now the problem in the church at Corinth was that the people in that church were being divisive, & what’s worse is that they were saying they were better than each other based on the spiritual gifts that they had been given by God the Father through the Holy Spirit.
So Paul sends them a letter to tell them…
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” 1 Corinthians 12.4-7
Paul essentially says there are a ton of spiritual gifts, but the point is not what the spiritual gifts are or who has what gift, & it certainly isn’t that one person is better than another person because they got this really cool gift while that person got this gift instead.
NO! Paul is shocked by that notion all together.
The key word in this verse, the ENTIRE reason spiritual gifts are given, is so that they will be HELPFUL to the church.
Spiritual gifts are given to BENEFIT the church!
Don’t worry about what the spiritual gifts are & who has what… Are you using your gifts to HELP His church? That’s the question.
And so Paul says in v.31, “So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts.”
What it really means.
Here’s what I know about you. The happiest times in your life are the times you were giving yourself away. The times you were serving. The times when you were helpful, helping.
It’s the times when you knew you were bringing something to the table, you were contributing something meaningful, & it felt good.
Because you are a member of the body of Christ. This is what it means to be a “MEMBER.”
And as a MEMBER of the body of Christ, you have been given a spiritual gift. For what purpose? For the BENEFIT of the church!
Everyone of you has the ability to bless, to help, to be helpful to God’s church!
This is not a membership to the Y. A club. Etc.
It’s not about the services offered, the benefits you get or the customer service.
It’s not about your benefits, it’s about your purpose.
It’s not about what you get, it’s about what you give.
It’s not about your rights, it’s about you being a blessing.
It’s not about your rewards, it’s about you being a resource.
It’s not about your position, it’s about your service.
It’s not about your title, it’s about your humility.
Here to Help
Using the gifts God has given you to help the church, this is the biblical picture of what it means to be a member of God’s church, the body of Christ.
You are here to be helpful.
So maybe everyone of us needs to ask & answer these simple questions:
What can I do? How can I help?
How can I use the gifts God has given me to HELP the church?
Because we are all members of the body of Christ. And each one of us has a part to play. If one part of your body stops working, it can be life threatening. A body can only survive so long if only part of the body is working.
In order for a body to do more than survive, in order for a body to THRIVE, every part has to do it’s part.
And the same is true for the church.
Every part has to do it’s part.
Every member matters because the body of Christ matters.
This is us.
We’re real people
with real problems
believing in a real God,
members of the body of Christ.