“The very word membership is of Christian origin, but it has been taken over by the world and emptied of all meaning,” wrote C. S. Lewis in one of his essays.
Lewis further opined, “I am afraid that when we describe a man as ‘a member of the Church’ we usually mean nothing Pauline” as he referred to Paul’s statement regarding “members of the Body” of Christ (1 Cor. 12:22).
Being a member of the Body is not like being a member of a club, business organization or some kind of fraternity. For example, when I joined Rotary, I was a member of a local club and was expected to do three things: (1) Attend a local meeting. (2) Abide by the rules of the club. (3) Pay monthly dues. Failure to do so could result in my termination from the club.
Too many Christians have that kind of view of the church. They attend just enough, behave well enough, and give just enough so their membership won’t be revoked. According to 1 Corinthians 12, that’s not a Biblical view of being a member.
Being a member is an analogy. Paul compared it to the physical body. The illustration is simple and obvious, and almost humorous. The physical body has different members–eyes, ears, hands, and feet. The body is not one member.
Can you picture someone who is all nose? A giant eye? A huge hand? An enormous ear? Or a humongous head?
Just as the physical body has many members and work together in unity and harmony, so should the spiritual body function in the same way. This analogy teaches us several lessons.
(1) The rich diversity of the members.
Just as the human body has different kinds of members, the body of Christ is composed of people of different nationalities, genders, education levels, occupations, and ages. The diversity adds to the richness and beauty of the body.
(2) The mutual dependence of the members.
No one can function effectively alone. Staying connected to the body is essential to prevent decay and death.
My physical body depends a great deal on my right hand. I eat with it. Type with it. Shake hands with it. But if I cut if off, it is useless. It will die. Likewise, if you cut yourself off from the spiritual Body, you will die. People who say, “I don’t need the church, I can get by fine without it” are mistaken.
(3) The varied duties of the members.
The Corinthian text points out the varied roles and responsibilities of each member. All are different. In the mini-version of this analogy in Romans 12, Paul says we all have different gifts. They are God-given. Some have leadership skills. Others teaching gifts. And then there are those who are really good at serving, sharing, and encouraging others.
What is your gift? Your talent? Your special ability? Your passion? Much controversy and conflict could be spared the Body if we would each learn to just do what we are able to do.
(4) The common importance of the members.
These texts tell us that all are important, but not equally so. The heart is more needed than the big toe. The lungs are more vital than the left thumb. So, I need to be careful not to think of myself more highly than I ought to think.
While every member has worth, value, and dignity, not everyone can be a preacher, pastor, deacon or Bible class teacher. But each one has a place. And a role to fill.
(5) The community of feeling among the members.
The physical body is self-protective. When something comes flying toward my eye, my right hand instinctively rises to protect it.
Similarity, we need to protect fragile, frail and delicate members in the spiritual Body. We’re called to “care for one another.” When one hurts we should all hurt. And “we weep with those who weep.”
(6) The harmonious working of the members.
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ (I cor 12:12). Note that the word “one” is used three times. God wants us to be one.
Sadly, many churches are a divided mess. The leaders can’t agree. The members are estranged and embittered. So the cause of Christ suffers and becomes a pathetic reproach. Unity takes effort. And harmony requires work. But it’s worth it.
Don’t be just a “church member.” Be an integral, functioning, and contributing member of the Body of Christ.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman