In our information age, where everyone is plugged into the talk-o-sphere at multiple points, we are actually more distant and independent than ever before. Average workers change jobs every five years. The idea of community, and even the idea of extended family, is rapidly falling apart. People peck at the computer keyboard but rarely sit on the front porch for a face-to-face discussion. It is common to have never met your neighbors.
As relationships become less vital and more transitory, social scientists report an epidemic of depression-like symptoms as a result of loneliness. People who ostensibly exist in society—who live in a city of twelve million people, who wake up in a hundred-unit apartment building to the sounds of their neighbors stirring, who drive to work in streets congested with commuters, who work in office buildings packed with cubicles, who grab lunch in restaurants clogged with eaters, who stand in grocery store lines ten people deep—sometimes feel very detached from society. It’s a feature of our private impersonal lives that someone can feel utterly lonely while literally surrounded by people!
Sadly, some report the same about church. They come to worship God, but don’t consider themselves an integral part of the congregation. They do not realize that the Christian life is more than just believing—it also involves belonging.
Membership means far more in the church than it does in the world. For many, membership means simply paying dues, following meaningless rules, attending yearly conferences, and displaying a dusty certificate on the wall.
But membership in the body of Christ is much deeper. It means being a member of a living body, being a vital, irreplaceable part of a functioning organism. In fact, the Apostle Paul uses that very metaphor to describe Christians in the church.
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Romans 12:4–5).
Being a member of the Lord’s body provides acceptance. Despite a person’s faults, which may make him an outcast in other areas of life, he still finds a welcome in the church. Now, that’s not to say the church tolerates open sin—but consider that the Corinthian church was made up of former homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, and adulterers (1 Corinthians 6:9–11). As God-fearing people become outcasts, they need a place to call home (see 1 Samuel 22:1–2).
Being a member of the Lord’s body provides love. Like any supportive family—and the church is very much a family (1 Timothy 3:15)—the church cares for and shelters its own. Emotionally, when the world wants to destroy you, your family extends love and comfort. The church is a group among which you can express your Christian faith and hope without fear. “If one member suffers, all the member suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). And physically, when Satan causes illness or financial trouble, the church provides support (Acts 4:32–35).
Being a member of the Lord’s body also provides a sense of worth. Your talents are needed. Though you may not be able to see how your contributions matter in the world in the long run, your work in the church has eternal significance (Hebrews 6:10, Luke 14:14). By working for the Lord, you gain a sense of purpose. Not everyone has the same talent in the body, but each talent is essential.
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired (1 Corinthians 12:12–28).
Get active in the Lord’s church, get connected and involved with the family of God, and you will never feel alone! —John Guzzetta