This Sunday we celebrated our newest members, Larry and Julie. And it might have brought up a question for you, what does “membership” mean? The reason that churches have “members” comes from Paul’s equation of “people in the church” with “members of the body of Christ”. You can find Paul writing about this in I Corinthians 12 (“Now you are the Body of Christ and individually members of it”) and Romans 12 (“We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”)
Membership is one of those things that seems to be making some changes in the American church. City Church, one of the fastest growing churches in Tallahassee, has eschewed the nomenclature of “members” in favor of “owners”. Enterprise Rent-A-Car does this same thing when they call most if not all of their employees “managers”. But there is something to what City Church does – we are all owners together of University Lutheran.
Strangely in our church body, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, you are probably not a “member” of the LCMS (unless you’re a church worker). The only individuals who are members of the LCMS are called workers, the other members are not individuals but corporate groupings – congregations. So when we celebrate Larry and Julie, we don’t celebrate them being a part of our church body (especially since they came from one of our sister congregations in Missouri), but we celebrate them being a part of our local church.
All of this is supposed to reflect what we find in Romans and I Corinthians – the sense of being members individually of one another. It is like we have gained new cells in our body with Larry and Julie, and this weekend we celebrate the tenure of other members like Edson, Caroline, Evan, and Austin with the Senior Roast. And in all of this, what we’re celebrating is the fact that we’re being included together in the Body of Christ, that the Holy Spirit is doing His work of “calling, gathering, and enlightening” us into a local manifestation of Jesus’ Body through Word and Sacrament.
And that means that we celebrate you too, if you’re a member with us, because we celebrate together being brought into Jesus Christ.