Church Membership

This is the text of a leaflet we use at our church. Feel free to adapt it for the same purpose in your own church.

Brotherhood Baptist Church, Eldoret

What is church membership?

“Church membership” means joining a church and belonging to that church. The Bible describes this in different ways. It says that a church is a family. God is the Father, Jesus Christ is the family’s Redeemer, and all the members are brothers and sisters (Colossians 1:2). When the believers meet on Sunday, we meet to worship the Father together, to have fellowship with each other, and to address any “family issues”.

The Bible also says that a church is like a body. Its head is Jesus Christ, who is to rule and give direction to every member (Ephesians 4:15-16). The members are the body’s parts. Each one is different, but each one is needed to do its work – like hands, eyes and feet in the human body. When every part is strong, the body is strong; when one part is sick, the whole body suffers (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

The Bible also says that a church is “the pillar and ground (or foundation) of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). God has given the world churches, to be places where truth is taught. They are to be shining lights, like “a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14) to point the way forward to the world.

The Bible says that a church is “God’s household” (1 Timothy 3:15). It is the place where the holy God dwells with his people. There, he welcomes them, and they fellowship with him and serve him.

Church membership means joining this family, this body, this pillar and this household. Church membership is therefore deeply important. It is much more than just joining a club or society. When you join a club (e.g. to play football), it is a small commitment. When you decide you do not like it, you can move on. But when we join a church, we are dealing with God. It is a very deep and serious commitment.

Who should become a member?

Every true Christian should become a member of a church. This is the command of Jesus through his apostles (Acts 2:42-47, Hebrews 10:25). The local church is Jesus’ place for caring for believers. It is where they can use their gifts to serve.

In fact, only true Christians should become members of churches. By “true Christian”, we mean someone who has been converted. They have had a true experience of God in which God has transported them from spiritual death to spiritual life (Ephesians 2:4-6, John 3:3, 2 Corinthians 5:17). The church is not a club that anyone can join. God tells us that his house must be built with “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5). It is not for those who are still spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Therefore, if you want to join the church, the church’s leaders will take time to talk to you and to listen to telling us about your experience. We will want to hear what you know about sin, about the death of Christ at Calvary, and about conversion. We want to know if you know the truth about Jesus Christ, and if you now personally know him. Do you know the truth about him? Have you believed it? Have you personally experienced its power in your life? Can we see that you are “a new creation – the old has gone, the new has come?” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Many people in Kenya think that Christianity just means agreeing to the Bible’s truths, and trying to obey the Bible’s commands. But the apostles taught that there was a real experience of conversion, when God comes into and changes your life (2 Corinthians 5:17). When we talk to you, we want to know how best to help you. If you are converted, we will want to welcome you into the church so that you can grow as a Christian. If we are not sure that you are already converted, then we will try to teach you and show you the way to Christ so that when God does visit you, you can join.

Finally, your life must agree with your testimony. If you say you know Christ, then you must live as Christ taught. One particular area is, that if you are living in a marriage, we will want to talk with you about whether your marriage has been legalised under the law of Kenya (John 4:16-18).

What are the blessings of becoming a member?

Firstly, if we commit ourselves to a church, we will know that we have obeyed Christ, who saved us and owns us (Romans 6:15-18).

It is the duty of a church’s pastors to give special care to their members. They are to visit them and get to know them. They are to teach them the Word of God and help them to apply it to their lives and situations. They are to seek to encourage them and show them an example, to help them to grow as believers. The Bible says that church leaders will have to give an account to Christ for their care of their people (1 Peter 5:1-4).

When you are a church member, the rest of the church has a duty to care for you too. It is the duty of the whole church to pray for you, to encourage you, to fellowship with you, to speak God’s words to you and to persuade you to continue in the right way, seeking to bring you back if you go astray.

Church members are those who sit together in the “Lord’s Supper” or “Communion” each week. Because they have committed themselves to Christ, Christ gives them this gift to help them remember his death and get strength from it each Sunday. The Lord’s Supper is a regular source of help in our Christian lives (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).

What are the duties of church members?

When we join a church, we are making a commitment to the other members of the family, to walk together with them in obedience to the Bible. The commitment is quite large. Here are some of its parts:

  • We commit to obey the Bible and fight to live a holy life. When we join a church, we are taking the name of Christ upon us before the rest of the world. We must carry that name in a worthy way. Therefore we must study the Bible to learn what Christ teaches, and listen carefully to what is preached each week (Romans 2:23-24).
  • The first command to obey is to be baptised (Matthew 28:19, Acts 10:48). When someone becomes a disciple of Jesus and wants to join the church, they should first be dipped into water. This is a spiritual sign that through the death of Christ they have ended their old life of sin, and through his resurrection have begun a new life of service (Romans 6:3-4). This should happen once in a person’s Christian life, when a person joins a gospel-preaching church as a believer for the first time. The water of baptism does not take away sins; that happens when a person believes in Christ (John 3:16). Rather, it is an outward testimony to the inward work which Christ has already done in the person.
  • We commit to the rest of the family. This means we must pray for them, encourage them and try to love them in real ways. We must meet with them each Lord’s Day, and not say that other commitments such as work or clan meetings are more important than God’s family. In particular, when we take a new job, we must tell our employer that we are Christians and cannot do work on Sundays (Exodus 20:8-11). We have a meeting every Sunday to preach the gospel to lost people, a Sunday School for children, and we should be trying to invite our families, friends and neighbours to hear so that they can be saved (Romans 10:13-14).
  • We commit to find ways to serve the Lord. When God made the human body, every part had a use and a service to give. It is the same in the spiritual body, the church. The church is part of God’s kingdom, and there is work to do to help the kingdom forward. There are orphans and widows to serve, sick people to encourage, children to teach the gospel to, estates and neighbourhoods to be evangelised, and so on. There is work just to keep the church’s meetings running each week – chai to boil and seats to put out! A church should have no “passengers” who are sitting waiting for someone to drive them to heaven. Every church should be a “working church” where we find ways to love and serve the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58, Ephesians 4:11-16).
  • We commit to support the church with our money. The church needs money to pay its bills and to outreach and send others to preach the gospel. Sometimes this is called the “tithe”, which means “tenth”. The Bible does not say that New Testament believers must give exactly a tenth, though it is a useful rule. We are taught to give a share of what we earn. We should give each week. When our earning goes up, our giving should go up. But each one should give from the heart, and cheerfully. It is wrong to expect people outside the church to pay for the church; we must take responsibility. Every church member can read the church’s record book to see how money is being used, and take part in decisions (1 Corinthians 9:1-15, 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Galatians 6:6).

Church membership is a great responsibility and a great blessing; is the Lord calling you to it? Please feel free to come and ask us further questions.

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