Pastor’s Blog May 2018

This is the second part of a 3 part blog that is seeking to answer the question, Does Church Membership matter?

As I mentioned last month, one of the commonest objections to the idea of church membership is that it is not a biblical idea. However I would want to argue that the biblical word koinonia often translated “fellowship” is a word that includes within its meaning, many of the ideas associated with membership. In fact in my view, the N.T. idea of fellowship is more demanding than modern ideas of church membership.

Let me highlight 3 ways in which koinonia is used in the N.T. that I think should challenge us to think again about membership.

  • Koinonia is used to describe our fellowship with both Jesus and the Holy Spirit.1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1: Fellowship is first and foremost with God himself but it is something we share with all other believers and is a bond even greater than family. Sharing in the life of God must inevitably involve a commitment to other believers, not simply as a notional idea but as a nailed down, I’m with these people!
  • In Phil. 1:5 and Philemon v6, koinonia is translated as partnership or sharing and in both verses is associated with partnering in the work of the gospel that is God’s mission. Partnership in a shared task is a good deal more than polite conversation over coffee after a service. When we speak of membership we are talking about partnership in the on-going mission of God through the church. As all Christians are called to mission we are therefore called to partnership with one another in that mission.
  • Koinonia is also used in Hebs. 13:16; and 2 Cor. 8:4 & 9:13; in the sense of sharing. In these verses the emphasis is on the sharing of our resources with others. This points to a practical commitment to others, an idea that is at the heart of church membership.

At this point you may object and say but I can do these things without formally being a member, isn’t it just a man-made hoop to jump through. That is one way to see it. I think one reason we think like this is because we tend to believe that what really matters is what is internal and unseen. This is however not a biblical way of thinking, the bible encourages outward signs of inward realities, faith expressed in baptism, remembering Christ’s death in communion and I believe publically acknowledging through church membership that this church is my church and these people are my companions in my walk of discipleship.

Phil Dixon