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Compiled by Alex S. Leung | aleung@sixsteps.

org

Church Membership
Key Scriptures
Matthew 18:15-17 Acts 20:28 1 Corinthians 5 1 Corinthians 12:1231 2 Corinthians 2:5-7 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:17

Key Questions
1. Matthew 18If there is no church membership, how can you define the group that will take up this sensitive and weighty matter of exhorting the unrepentant person and finally rendering a judgment about his standing in the community? 2. Acts 20How are the pastors/elders to know who their flock is? Specifically, who are pastors responsible for? For whom will pastors give an account to God? 3. 1 Corinthians 5How can there be outsiders? Who are those inside the church? Who is an accountable part of this body, and who is not? 4. 1 Corinthians 12Who intends to be treated as a hand or foot or eye or ear of this body? How many bodies are the members a part of? How should each member treat one another? 5. 2 Corinthians 2What is the majority? Does there seem to be a definite number of believers here? How can there be such a majority if it is not part of a whole? 6. 1 Thessalonians 5; 1 Timothy 5; Hebrews 13Without membership, who is it that the New Testament is referring to who must submit to a specific group of leaders? What does church membership signify (meaning)? What should be the criteria (prerequisites) for church membership? o Who can be permitted to be a member of this local church? What are the entailments (responsibilities) of church membership? How can we avoid the dangers of meaningless membership?

Summary of Positions
Criteria for Membership
A Presbyterian Examplei 1. By Profession of Faith in Jesus Christ: One becomes an active member of the church through faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and acceptance of his Lordship in all of life. Baptism and a public profession of faith in Jesus as Lord are the visible signs of entrance into the active membership of the church. 2. By Reaffirmation of Faith in Jesus Christ: It is sometimes the case that persons who previously made a profession of faith and became active members in a particular church are unable to secure a certificate of transfer or other evidence of church membership. After instruction and examination by the session, these persons shall reaffirm publicly their profession of faith and their acceptance of responsibility in the life of the church. 3. By Transfer of Letter: If you are active in another Christian church, you may join First Presbyterian by transferring your letter. The day after you join, the church secretary writes to your former church for the letter or other evidence of church membership.

A Baptist Exampleii Membership is open to anyone who has placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins and has been baptized by immersion by a body of believers of like faith and practice. If you have not placed your faith in Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness of sins and been baptized by immersion we will assist you with these spiritual decisions. Two Requirements for Membership: 1. Saving Faith. Trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins. This decision is the beginning but not the ending of what it means to follow Christ. 2. Baptism by Immersion. We view baptism as being an outward, visible demonstration of an inward spiritual transformation which comes about when one trusts in Christ alone for salvation. Interview with Pastor(s). One or two elders will be assigned to meet with prospective members for a required elder interview. Goals of this interview: 1. To learn how the Lord drew you to himself. 2. To confirm you have a good understanding of the meaning of church membership. 3. To confirm that there are no biblically warranted concerns with your joining the church as a covenant member. 4. To answer questions or help you find opportunities to connect at the church.

Responsibilities of Membership
Evangelical churches generally requires its members to personally assent to the following items of church governance: 1. Doctrinal Statement/Confession of Faith. 2. Church Covenant 3. By-Laws/Constitution

1. Statement of Faith At the minimum, affirmation of the churchs doctrinal statement is required by all church members. This may be expressed verbally in an interview with elders, and/or publically before the gathered body, and/or by the signing of a membership application to indicate such doctrinal affirmation.

2. Covenant Subsequently, some churches may additionally require members to covenant with one another, professing their commitment to the local body of Christ by way of a promise. The church covenant is equal parts promise, summary of expectations, ethical statement, and biblical standard. It summarizes how members promise to live together in the covenant. It forms the ethics, or the moral principles, of our worldview and holds out a biblical standard by which we live. Acceptance of this multifaceted document follows the practice of believers throughout the centuries who have pledged to God and one another to live out the gospel in community.iii

3. Constitution. Lastly, the church By-Laws or Constitution governs the ways in which the church and members functions. Such a document describes in detail the churchs operational standards for its weekly gatherings, as well as logistical/business requirements. Members, pastors/elders, deacons, and staff are all required to adhere to these regulations, regardless of whether or not they have read the document.

Other Responsibilities
Membership Classes.iv Churches may have membership classes that are open to all, regardless of their interest in church membership. However, the membership class is often a prerequisite/co-requisite for membership in that local church. The membership class has a two-fold purpose. 1. To provide an informal setting to learn what the pastors, staff, church, and denomination in general believe on various topics. 2. To give an opportunity for potential members to become acquainted with a pastor who can help them connect with one or more of the church's ministries. Community Groups/Small Groups.v Upon becoming a member of the local church, participation in the local church community is a requirement of each member expressed in the active involvement in a Community Group. Community Groups allow members to connect with others and build closer relationships. They are basic Christian communities where Christians grow (discipleship happens) and where the gospel grows (evangelism happens), so encouraging one another to believe the gospel and become the gospel in the lives of others. Groups meet in homes and other locations throughout the week to discuss and apply the Sunday sermon/Scripture, and build relationships. Groups can also band together throughout the year to serve the needs of the church and community through various projects. (Non-members may visit a group at any time of the year by invitation of one of the group members or a pastor.) Business Meetings. It is the privilege and responsibility of members to attend all Business/Members Meetings and vote on the election of officers, on decisions regarding membership status, church budget, ministry activities, etc. How and when these meetings take place depend on the churchs model of governance and constitution. The Lords Supper / Holy Communion. Upon membership into the local church, members are thus given the privilege of sharing in the Lords Supper. 1

First Presbyterian Church of Nashville, TN. http://fpcnashville.org/membership.htm Houstons First Baptist Church. http://houstonsfirst.org/membership iii Capitol Hill Baptist Church. http://www.capitolhillbaptist.org/we-are/governed/covenant/ iv Bethlehem Baptist Church. http://hopeingod.org/about-us/getting-connected/becomingmember v Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. http://www.crpc.org/connect/community-groups
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Whether or not baptism/immersion should be a prerequisite to the Lords Supper is a separate issue to be addressed. Cf. Baptist Faith & Message, 2000 edition, Article VII: [Baptism] Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
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