the weblog of Alan Knox

Members or Membership?

Posted by on Mar 23, 2006 in definition, members | 5 comments

This is actually a continuation of yesterday’s post. If the church is not a corporate singularity – only a group that meets in the same place at the same time – then how can we understand the church?

Let’s start by looking at the use of the term “membership” for the church. “Membership” is a term commonly associated with an organization. I can have “membership” in a gym or civic organization. What does this mean? It means that I am a part of an organization. I can remove myself from membership, or I can be removed by others.

However, Scripture uses the term “member” for those who are part of the church. Isn’t this the same as “membership?” No. When the Bible uses the term “member,” it speaks of a person being a part of an organism… a limb of a body. How does a person become a member of the body? By regeneration… the new birth… being a new creation in Christ. When a person is born again, he or she immediately becomes a part – a member – of the body of Christ. I do not make myself a member, and no one else makes me a member. In the same way, I cannot remove myself from being a part of the body, and no one else can remove me from being a part of the body. I am a part of the body – a member – by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. I am indwelled by the Spirit of God in order to properly function as a member of the body.

So what does this have to do with the nature of the church? If I am a member of the body of Christ, and you are a member of the body of Christ, then there may be times when we gather together and become “church” even though we do not share a common “membership.” What makes a gathering of believers a “church”? Keep studying… I know I am…


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  1. 4-3-2006

    Perceptive. The phrase “church member” or “member of the church” doesn’t occur in the NT. “Member” means limb or organ. See Louw & Nida, also NIGNT series for 1 Cor. (I forget the author’s name.)

    If calling Bible things by Bible names means anything to you …

    It does to me. :)

  2. 4-13-2006

    “Houses That Change the World” gives an interesting perspective on the church. (Reading 2/3 of the book is, to more than one person, sufficient. He [Wolfgang Simson] repeats himself a bit.)

  3. 4-13-2006

    Actually, after following your link to the Messiah Baptist Church blog, they sound a lot like the book I just mentioned. Sounds like you’ve got a really good group there. (Sorry I took two posts up! Should’ve explored before writing.)

  4. 4-13-2006

    We’re certainly not perfect. But then, no group of humans will be perfect. We do attempt to continually examine ourselves based on Scripture, and modify what needs to be changed. Of course, change is difficult, even for those who recognize the need for change. Thank God that we are indwelled by His Spirit!

  5. 8-6-2007

    Alan, I wanted to ask you about something via e-mail. Could you get in touch with me (my e-mail address is listed in my Blogger profile). Thanks. =)