Recently, I was reading a short little book called “I Am A Church Member” by Thom Rainer. Basically, I’m going to go ahead and say this is essential reading for any church-going follower of Christ. Why? Because it’s short, easy to understand, and helpful as we consider how we engage with the greater Body of Christ and its individual, local expressions like Calvary. So please, read the book if you can – newer members at Calvary will already be familiar since it is used in our membership process. (And by the way, it’s only like 75 pages! Link here. Also available on Audible.)
But he takes it a step further – and this is where my understanding fell short in a painfully obvious way. I have, of course, always rejected the idea that church membership means you “pay dues” through giving and then expect something in return. I knew it was different than that. But Biblically, “member” means something closer to appendage than club participant/owner. Of course it means that!
What Being a Member Really Means
Anyway, there is a piece in there that I wanted to bring to your attention because it just made SO MUCH SENSE. Rainer looks at the word “member” carefully, and points out how our understanding of that word has been corrupted by outside influence. He highlights what membership in a country club looks like – you pay money, so you get special perks and privileges of the tennis club/golf course/etc. And, he argues (rightly) that that is not what Biblical membership is or should be.
1 Corinthians 12: 27-28 “Now you are the body of Christ, and individual members of it. And God has placed these in the church.”
Membership has nothing to do with being in a club and everything to do with being appendages and parts of a greater body of believers. Membership – to be a member – is not about which local church’s database has your name in it; it’s about how you participate in the Church at large.
You can’t be a member without doing your part.
You can’t just consume church, or you’re not a functioning member! (And, let’s all keep in mind that “doing something” is a broad net. For example, some of our seasoned saints may have lost a lot of capacity to serve in “traditional” ways, but their prayers, encouragements, wisdom, and worship mean a great deal to our body!)
Membership and Your Family
So, why is this important? Well, for the sake of your kids, we need to all work together to impress upon them how important it is to be a part of God’s church; to be a member. And that’s not to check a box or fulfill an obligation. Instead, it’s about getting the most out of the life God has called us to, and doing the most to honor the love He has already offered us (not to earn his favor or love). Paul continues to flush out the idea of parts/members here:
1 Corinthians 12:12 “For as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many are one body – so also is Christ.”
So no matter what age your children are – from diapers, to diplomas and beyond – they are an essential part of the full body of Christ! And this Body they belong to is the same Body each of us belong to. As such, they are MEMBERS, no matter what the database says. They are essential parts of the body and all parts matter. There’s no part of the physical body that is inconsequential or irrelevant (yes, we can live without a kidney or an appendix, but they still serve vital functions!), and that is true in the church as well. So everyone – including children – can be an active participant, contributor, and member of the Church!
For some inspiration, you can watch this and think about your own ideas of how to show the love of Christ to all people with your kids! Video
Finally, Some Good News
Here’s a piece of good news I can share: compared to the Millenials before them, Gen Z (roughly those born between 2001 and 2020, depending on who you ask) is more likely to go to church. Huh. Who would have thought? But so far, the jury is out whether they will stick around. In my opinion, a key factor to them staying is involvement and investment in the church – not as partial members, not as “junior members” but as full Members of the body – appreciated and championed and loved and accepted by the rest of us.
We’re talking more about this in the FamMin department. We’ll see what comes down the pipeline. For now, let’s all work together to be the Body, to encourage our kids to be the Body, and enjoy being members of the same Body.
Until the next Feast,