What does it mean to be a “member” of a local assembly?
Is it good enough that your name is in the church directory? Or are you an integral member of a vital, living body? Many Christians believe that once you are saved and baptized, you should join the church of your choice. Your name is on the roll, you are a member of that church. You go to church once or twice a week, listen to an uplifting sermon, enjoy the singing and fellowship, and then go home and not really think about church for the rest of the week.
Is this what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Heb 10:25)? Maybe you are thinking that this is not a problem in our assemblies. Really? Go back and read the previous paragraph, substituting the word “assembly” for “church.” Could that be a description of you and me?
Active or Atrophied
The meetings of an assembly are not “put on” for our enjoyment or entertainment. If you are content to come to the breaking of bread meeting or the prayer meeting as a spectator, and not as an active participant, you are missing out. In a living body and in the assembly, active members grow, but inactive members atrophy. In an ideal assembly, every member is an active participant, but the reality is that in many assemblies, public prayer, worship, and the ministry of the Word of God are left to two or three brethren, and the work of hospitality and helping those in need is left to two or three sisters. Too many are content to just “go to meeting,” and believe that their attendance is enough.
What is the problem here? I believe it is a failure to recognize the truth of what Paul is teaching in I Corinthians 12. Being part of an assembly is much more than just having your name on the roll. Paul compares the local church to a human body. It is a vital living organism, with many members, each with its own distinct purpose, with all working together.
Functioning or Frustrated
Everyone in an assembly is a distinct member of that body, with a unique purpose. As in a human body, the health and vitality of the whole assembly is dependant upon the health and vitality of each individual member. It is extremely important that each one of us understands our purpose in this body. Am I a foot, taking the gospel to those who are not saved? Am I a hand, reaching out to help those who are in need? This body does not have any useless appendages; often, however, not every member is fulfilling its full potential.
What part of the body am I, and how can I know? God has a purpose for everyone who is part of this body. He has a work for us to do, and has fully equipped us to accomplish that work. We have been given spiritual gifts and natural abilities that complement those gifts. In order to fully know my purpose in the body, I need to know what gift God has given me. If I have never asked God to reveal my gift and the work He has for me, how can I expect to know my purpose? If I have an earnest desire to know my gift, and to use it for the glory of God, He will reveal it to me. He may reveal it through His Word, through the exercise of my heart, or through the recognition by others with similar gift.
Healthy or Harmful
Am I healthy? For a body to function properly, each of its members must be healthy. If you have a headache, cold, or a broken bone, your whole body is affected as other members of your body must compensate for the part that is sick. In the same way, the spiritual health of the whole assembly is dependant on the spiritual health of each of its members. If I am away from the Lord, if there is sin in my life, not only am I spiritually sick, but the whole assembly suffers.
Am I functioning at full capacity? If one member of the body is weak, the other members must work harder to make up for it. How is my spiritual strength? Am I growing in my knowledge of the things of God and in my relationship with Christ? This can only be accomplished by prayer and by studying the Word of God. Am I growing in the exercise of my gift? This will only happen if I am using it in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the will of God.
Competitive or Complementing
Am I working in unity with the other members of the body? For a body that has two feet to walk forward, both feet must be working together, moving in the same direction. If one foot is trying to pull the body one way and the other in the opposite direction, the body doesn’t move, and may very well fall down. Disagreements, strife, contention, pride, and other things can arise; these will render the body ineffective. God’s plan is that all the members work together in unity. None of us function in a vacuum. Each of us needs the fellowship and support of the others. If we are working together in unity, with common goals, with brotherly love for one another, each one looking out for the good of others, then the body can move smoothly and efficiently, accomplishing the purposes of God.
The meetings of an assembly are not “put on” for our enjoyment or entertainment.
Each one of us needs to be more than just a name on a roll. We need to understand that the local assembly functions as a body, that each of us is a member of that body. The functioning of that body depends on every one of us knowing and fulfilling the work that God has for us, keeping ourselves spiritually healthy, carrying our share of the load, and working in unity with our brethren.