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Are you “a member of your church” or…?

Are you instead “in Christ”?

When you talk with people, sooner or later they might mention the church they belong to. And others describe certain ones as being “a church member” or a “parishioner”.  So people say “I’m a church member of …” or “I’m an Anglican” or “I’m a Catholic” and “I belong to the (denomination) church”.   Some denominations even give you membership cards – and in one case I know, you even have to display that membership card to get into the building where they worship.  Of course you have to be a member of that denomination or you’re not getting in.  I find that appalling.

I gave a recent sermon about being a new creation in Christ, based on 2 Cor. 5:17

What’s the problem with saying you’re a “church member”? Are some groups focusing too much on church membership in their fellowship, their group, their church? 

Click on “Continue reading” to see a better and more Biblical way.

Peter and Paul don’t talk about being “church members”.  They use the word “member” – from the Greek word referring to body limbs and parts of a body.  The reason they use the word “member” is to REMIND us that we are part of a BODY, and not just any old body.  Those who have God’s spirit are new creations in the body of Christ himself. They are part of HIM, part of His body. 

So Paul speaks of greeting certain ones by name – “Who are in Christ”, or who are in the body.  Peter does the same.   The phrase “in Christ” can be found 93 times.

Look up Romans 16:3, 7,9-10;  Philemon 3.
Or, “The faithful brethren in Christ” – Colossians 1:2 – NOT “the faithful church members…”  

In Philippians 4:21 Paul says to “greet every saint in Christ Jesus”, instead of “greet all the church members”. 

The problem with focusing on being a member of this or that church is that we promote sectarianism and division by doing so. We focus on the denomination – instead of the wider and more correct view that anyone who has God’s spirit in them, leading them, IS a part of Christ himself.  That’s the one true church.  That’s the one true Body.  Period.  Anyone led by God’s spirit is part of the one true ekklesia – the body of called out ones. 

Romans 8:9
“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”

            So if you do have the Spirit of Christ, obviously you ARE His.

            1 Cor. 12:13 says we are baptized by one spirit into the one body. And that body is Christ, and the church (the group of called-out ones) is the body of Christ.  (Eph 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, 24)

And Scripture clearly teaches we are members of His body (Ephesians 5:30), and therefore parts or members of one another as well, just as a thumb is a member of the body that includes arms and legs and ears and a nose (Romans 12:4-5). 

When we start talking more about those “who are in Christ” or “are members of the Body” – without identifying denominations and creeds – we do open ourselves up to the wonderful possibility that – surprise, surprise – God just might be working with more people “out there” than we might have first imagined. Yep, even people who are NOT a part of our usual fellowship and “church” congregation we usually meet with.

OK, you Hebrew Roots folks and Messianics, you might prefer to refer to those “who are in Messiah” – but don’t forget, “Messiah” and “Christ” refer to the same meaning:  the Anointed One.  Guess who that is.  Hmm.  It’s Yeshua the Messiah, Jesus the Christ.   He’s THE anointed one. 

Let’s also look at this matter of the church you “belong to”.  Really?  You belong to a denomination? They own you?  WHO really owns you?  Do you belong to the Church of God? Do you belong to this or that world-renown mega-church?  Let’s look at this again.

The Dictionary defines “belonging” or “Belong to” as being the possession of, or the property of, someone.  That’s pretty weighty!  Be careful to whom you wish to belong.  You and I were bought with a price by God giving up His Son for us (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23). 

Mark 9:41
“For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

You belong to Christ!  HE bought and paid for you with his own blood. You belong to no one else. So I’d recommend we also dispense with the terminology that we belong to this or that church. 

Romans 8:9 says if you have Christ’s spirit, you “are his”.

1 Corinthians 3:23 – “…you are Christ’s…”

In the Song of Songs – the Song of Solomon 6:3—“I am my Beloved's, and my Beloved is mine….”

So I hope it’s clear to whom you belong. If you realize you belong to the Son of God, you are a part of Him, a part of His Body, and He considers you to be “in Him” if you have His Spirit – let’s let them cross over into our conversation and choice of words.  We are among those who are “in Christ”, we now say, instead of “we are a church member”. 

So personally I want to steer away more and more from talking about “belonging to” this or that group or denomination, or being one of the “church members’ of a denomination – and replace it by referring to “those in Christ” – because “church members” makes us get too much into funnel vision, looking at only OUR church, or our fellowship.  And remember to whom you belong.

What do you think?  Let me know.  I’d love to hear from you. Or leave a comment. 

For more on what it means to be a New Creation in Christ – check out the latest sermon on this website. 

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