A Correspondence with a visitor to Gaston Community Church:
While we are writing about this, I have a question for you. Why is it that you would like us to join? My question really is: "What is there in being a ‘member’ that you (the church) gets from us that is not received by being a ‘non-member’?"
I appreciate your thoroughness in thinking through church membership. I knew you probably needed more time, but I just didn't want to leave you out of this coming Sunday in case you were ready to join.
Regarding the idea of 'why join a church?': that is the exact question I asked my homiletics professor in Seminary, and in the end, he had no answer for me because it was just always assumed as the right thing to do. Therefore, I spent some time thinking through the church membership question my first couple of years in pastoral ministry. I came to a few conclusions, and then I am attaching a link to an article that I became aware of recently that will have a more thorough analysis.
Here are some of the conclusions that I personally arrived at:
1. Commitment to love and work together (church membership gives the opportunity to make a verbal commitment/vow to serve the Lord together with a group of people).
2. Specific 'place in time' to use God-given talents, spiritual gifts. We can say we love one another, but it is important to have a place where we can put specific abilities in to practice.
3. Mutual encouragement. It is hard to give yourself to someone unless there has been some kind of commitment to be of mutual encouragement (not unlike a marriage vow, though not exactly the same).
4. Accountability. Churches are expected to exercise church discipline. That is almost non-existent in modern churches, and it can be difficult to do with grace. However, the absence of church discipline has helped lead to superficiality and rampant immorality in modern churches. You cannot hold someone accountable if they haven't joined a church. Also, church members can vote on issues that arise in a local church, and that should help hold leaders accountable. Non-members cannot vote in congregational meetings. Accountability via some kind of connection seems to be part of what is going on in 1 Cor. 5. You cannot remove someone who is not a part of the church family. Also 1 Cor. 11 had to be to a group of people who had some kind of vow to be together.
5. Engaging ourselves to do God’s will: Our tendency in our human nature is to not really be connected to something if we remain as visitors. A visitor is still on the outside looking in because there has not yet been a willful commitment to make a church family their place to serve God. A visitor is still in the kingdom of God of course by the grace of God. But until we say “I do” we probably will always live under the banner of “maybe” rather than under the banner of “let’s do this.” Jesus said, ‘follow me’ and that implies some kind of willful commitment.
6. Assurance of Salvation: Being a visitor or even an inactive member for any length of time can also lead one to lose their assurance of salvation, because as we disconnect from a bond, we begin to develop excuses of why we are not serving the Lord by serving other people. It is in our doing good deeds a result of salvation that we come together and glorify the Father and find satisfaction in this life and assurance of our relationship to the Father:
Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify yourFather in heaven.
I have highlighted the "your" because they are all PLURAL in the Greek. In other words, following Jesus and doing good works is meant to be TOGETHER. The "you" in the NT is
almost always plural (it is hard to capture this in the English). We are in this together! Following Christ Jesus has never meant to do so in isolation.
Anyway, those are some of the conclusions I came to when I researched for myself the very question you asked.
Here is the link to an article about this subject on "why join a church" ...
Am always glad to talk with you about these things. I hope the Lord enables us to serve Jesus together in and through Gaston Community Church. We are grateful for your family!
Pastor Mark Tankersley
QUESTIONS FOR CHURCH MEMBERSHIP AT GASTON COMMUNITY CHURCH:
C. PROCEDURES FOR INDIVIDUALS BEING RECEIVED INTO COMMUNICANT CHURCH MEMBERSHIP
1. By profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
a. Applicants for communicant church membership shall be examined by the session in private with regard to a knowledge of their spiritual need, their faith in Jesus Christ, and their intention to be obedient to Him. The applicants shall give assent to the following or similar questions, by which
they enter a solemn covenant with God and His Church:
(1) Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His love and mercy?
(2) Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of sinners, and do you receive Him and trust in Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
(3) Do you believe the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be the written Word of God, the only perfect rule of faith and practice?
(4) Do you now promise, in humble reliance upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
(5) Do you accept the doctrines and principles of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, so far as you understand them, as agreeable to and founded on the Word of God?
(6) Do you promise, with the Lord’s help, to be faithful in the performance of your Christian duties, both in private life and in the work of the Church?
(7) Do you submit yourself in the spirit of love to the government and discipline of this Church, and seek the peace, purity and prosperity of this congregation so long as you are a member of it?
Upon affirmative action by the session, applicants shall then be received into communicant membership. The session shall not impose additional conditions for membership.