Church Membership

Someone recently placed a posted note on my office desk that read, "When does someone become a member of their family? When they become 18? Does the Church body need to vote? It's not explained in the By-laws or Constitution."

What I want to do is to tackle this posted note line by line. Here we go...

First, someone becomes a part of their family at the moment of their conception. They arrive into their family at birth. They are presented to their family shortly afterwards.

Second, I don't know any family that only acknowledges their family member when they turn 18. Sates have various laws regarding minors and adult children, and even they vary.

Third, the Church doesn't vote on your children, or when they become a part of your family. All we do is acknowledge your family.

Fourth, it is clearly explained in our Church By-laws and our Church Constitution about how we receive and dismiss Church members. Here is how the Spirit Lake Baptist Church By-laws and Constitution reads: (Please read it carefully - it is very clear about membership).

Section 1.  This is a sovereign and democratic Baptist Church under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The membership retains the exclusive right of self-government in all phases of the spiritual and temporal life of this church and the conditions of such membership.
Section 2. Any persons desiring membership in this church shall attend a new member’s class offered by the church at various times. Should these come from a Sister Baptist Church by letter or statement; from other churches; or having had an experience of salvation by grace and a New Testament baptism by immersion , be presented to the church for membership, but only after completing the new member’s class.
Section 3. New Member Orientation -- All people desiring to become members of Spirit Lake Baptist Church must complete the new members orientation class, which is offered several times throughout each calendar year. At the end of the class, all will be given an opportunity to share their own personal testimony and their desire to become a church member.  They will also be asked to sign and date an affirmation of agreement with the Spirit Lake Baptist Church Constitution and Bylaws, Statement of Faith, and Relational Commitments. Those who desire to become members will be presented to the congregation for membership at the next available business meeting.
Section 4.  Voting rights of members -- Only those members in good standing shall be allowed to vote.
Section 5.  Termination of membership -- Membership in the church shall end through one of the following:
(A) By a letter of recommendation to another church of like faith and order (only members in good standing shall be entitled to a letter of recommendation-- members shall be considered "in good standing" unless the church had found disciplinary action to be necessary).
(B) The church may terminate membership of persons who become an offense to the church or its good name by reason of immoral or unchristian conduct, or by persistent and willful violation of their covenant vows, but only after due notice and faithful efforts have been made to bring such members to repentance and amendment. In such a case, a committee composed of the Pastor and the deacons will investigate and bring a recommendation to the membership as to the action needed. If the number of deacons serving is not adequate for this purpose, additional members shall be added by election by the church.  
(C) Erasure, in the event of a member joining another denomination or no longer attending the church for a period of 1 year without communicating a good reason for extended absence to the church. In these cases, the Pastor and deacons shall present satisfactory evidence to the church, whereupon the church will drop the person from membership.  
(D) Death.

Now, with that out of the way let's talk about if Church membership is biblical. I would say, YES! Yet, at the same time there is no place in the Bible that tells your directly - Thou must join a Church. Having said that, I believe that it is implied everywhere. The Apostle Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders in every city (Titus 1:5). The word "elder" is synonymous with, "bishop, pastor, and shepherd. So, if you have one elder in a small rural church, it is sufficient. What were their duties and responsibilities? They were to led, feed, and protect those among them. We read in Philippians 1:1 about the saints, the bishops and the deacons. And over in 1 Peter 5, elders were changed to shepherd the flock of God that the Lord had given to their charge. I cannot believe that there was no order within these churches. People were identified, and people had responsibilities. In 1 Corinthians 14:40 we are reminded, "Let all things be done decently and in order." Haphazard organization is NOT of God.

We also need to remember that as we look back at Church history we see Church membership practiced in every denomination of Churches around the world. I think our present culture balks against Church Membership because they prize their autonomy and even their anonymity. Scripture teaches a big part of Christianity is submission. No one seems to want to submit to anything anymore, yet alone Church membership. 

Are you aware that Christians are called to live in community with one another, and to have spiritual accountability and agape love for one another (See Hebrews 3:13; Ephesians 4:11-16; Acts 2:40-47). Pastor's are told that they will give account for the people that God places under their care (Hebrews 13:17). Question: How do you care for people if there is no such mechanism to do so? Many people want to be a part of the fellowship of the fickle floaters - go and land wherever and whenever they place - they jump from Church to Church. The early Church wasn't that way, nor was the Church throughout most of its history. God's people are to graciously submit to the leadership of their pastor - they aren't suppose to fight it.

I saw someone wearing a tee-shirt at a National Park that read, "Nature is my Church." Can that be true? No! Nature doesn't teach you, pray with you, care for you when you are sick, visit you when you are in a hospital, or bury a family member you love. I would say that anyone with this idea is on open rebellion again God's better plan for their lives. Church membership allows you to connect with a body of believers who are following Jesus, and who are seeking to live out God's commandments (which none of them are burdensome).

I had a missionary friend who was a medical doctor in Nepal. In Nepal you are born a hindu and you are to die a hindu, and at that time it was against the law to change your religion. People could give their hearts to Christ and yell it from the housetops and nothing would happen to them. However, once they were baptized the state recognized that they had changed their religion. Now, do you realize that for thousands of years the church used a persons baptism as the method for bringing someone into church membership. This is how records were kept. We still do this today!

I would highly encourage you to do a study on the names of the Churches listed in the New Testament. Also, track the people listed in those Churches. How did they know who attended their Church? And what about Church discipline? Are you aware in 1 Corinthians 5 that there was a man in the Church living in sexual sin, and the Church was told to excommunicate him if he refused to repent. How do you excommunicate someone if there is no membership? Time and time again we read about people in the N.T. Churches that the elders of the Church needed to confront. How did they have the right to confront these people? Church Membership!

Finally, God has books where He keeps records of everything we have ever done. The good and the bad. He also has the Book of Life where the names of the SAVED are kept. Perhaps this is too hardline, and we should ask God to STOP keeping a record of those who have turned from their sin, and received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

If Church membership is to confining for you it's because you haven't done your homework. I mean think about it - the Church is likened to a body, a house, and a community. My body is a whole. My house is a whole. My community is a whole. Ask the city clerk if you can skip out on being a member of the community the next time your water and sewer bill is due.

  • People have Costco membership.
  • People have Library membership.
  • People have Gym membership.
  • People have Golf-club membership.
  • People have AARP membership.
  • People have Magazine membership.
  • People have Credit-Union membership. 

So, I ask you, why are you against Church Membership? 

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