“I’m just a church member.” Over the years, I’ve heard people say this when introducing themselves. There are many reasons why someone might say this (they may want to clarify that they aren’t in full-time ministry). But I cringe inside when I hear it. And if I’m able, I offer a gentle correction because there’s no such thing as “just” a church member.
This isn’t a difficult premise to prove. Consider what God says about those who are church members. They have come to believe the gospel, receiving Christ Jesus as Lord (John 1:12; Rom. 1:16; Col. 2:6). They are loved before the foundation of the world and then were adopted into Christ’s body (Eph. 1:4–5). They are adorned with the everlasting righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) and indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). They are the object of God’s unwavering love and joy, even the subjects of his songs of gladness (Zech. 3:17). God surrounds them with shouts of deliverance (Ps. 32:7). They are ambassadors of the King of kings (2 Cor. 5:20) who represent him in this world. They are his children and heirs, destined for glory (Rom. 8:16–17). They are part of his family, his body, the church (1 Cor. 12:27). And our Lord Jesus Christ is not ashamed of any of his family, even happily embracing all of them as his “brothers” (Heb. 2:11).
If you’re a member of Christ’s body, you’re never “just” a church member. You are a privileged member of a royal family.
I think this is one of the reasons why the Apostle Paul ends some of his letters by talking about a bunch of people we’ve never heard of. He wants to remind us that kingdom work is accomplished by ordinary people. Take the ending of the book of Romans, for example. To punctuate this magisterial theological treatise, he sprinkles in well over 30 names of people who, in varying ways, partnered together for the advancement of the gospel. We might be tempted to say that many of them were “just” church members.
But they’re not.
When we read through the chapter, we find people like Epaenetus, the first convert to Christ in Asia (Rom. 16:5). What a trophy of grace! We see people like Urbanus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis, who were labeled workers in the Lord (Rom. 16:9, 12). Paul even labels some, like Mary and Persis, as those who worked hard (Rom. 16:6, 12). They were people like Prisca and Aquila who sacrificed for the mission, even risking their necks for Paul’s life (Rom. 16:3–4). They were people like Rufus’s mother, who was like a mother to Paul (Rom. 16:13). There were warm, loving relationships that so blessed the Apostle. On and on, the list could go. Yes, they were ordinary people, like you and me, but they weren’t “just” church members. They were servants of Christ who worked hard to advance the mission of the kingdom to the ends of the earth.
My point here is not simply to edit a phrase from your vocabulary. That wouldn’t do anything. Instead, I want to inject it with a measure of the biblical significance and beauty found in the New Testament. If you’re a member of Christ’s body, you’re never “just” a church member. You are a privileged member of a royal family granted the infinite and eternal blessing of serving to advance the kingdom of grace. We should never diminish this!