C. S. Lewis on ‘Membership’

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What does it mean to be a member of a church? As a minister, I invite people to join the church. Does that mean the same thing as joining a club? Some people respond by saying, “I don’t need the church to encounter God.”

That’s true. But, trying to walk with Christ alone is challenging and does not provide opportunities to fulfill God’s purpose.

In 1945, C. S. Lewis read a paper about church membership to the Society of St Alban and St Sergius at the University of Oxford. The paper covers several subjects. (a) The Christian faith is never solitary. (b) Christians are part of a body and hold valuable roles in relation to one another. (c) The best place for parts of the body are in the body.

Lewis writes, “The New Testament knows nothing of solitary religion.” I thought about his sentence. Are there any people of faith in the New Testament who exercise their faith in isolation? I can’t think of any.

Lewis picks up the etymological connection between ‘member’ and ‘organ’, and seems to point to Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.12-31. People often mean ‘unit’ when they say the word ‘member’. We stray far from the biblical notion of membership. We are not called into a collective, but to be parts of the body.

How can we live our faith in communion with other people? Social media and the isolation of twenty-first-century life pushes a kind of isolation. When we accept the isolation of the world around us, we abandon biblical membership. We miss out on finding out our part of the body.

What does membership in church mean to you?

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