Why a Membership Class?August 8, 2023
We are about to start a membership class this fall. We have these classes occasionally to allow people who have been attending our church to learn more about our church, understand why membership in a church matters, and have the opportunity to pursue membership at the end of the class. It’s just one of a few steps in joining our church family.
Here are five reasons we have a membership class at FBA.
1. We believe in regenerate church membership.
As Baptists, we affirm that local churches should be made up of “baptized believers” (see Article VI of the Baptist Faith & Message of 2000). They aren’t social clubs or community centers. We want our members to be social and have a good sense of community, but that’s not the point of the church. We are a people called out by God to bring him glory together, to make disciples together, and to care for our neighbors together. We want our membership to best reflect the true membership of God’s universal church in heaven. Therefore, we want people to know the gospel well before joining our church so that we can have confidence that they are making a genuine profession of faith and have followed it with baptism.
2. We believe in congregational governance.
Those who are regenerate and join our church actually govern the church on Christ’s behalf. As our statement of faith says in Article VI on The Church, “Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.” Although our church identifies two biblical offices—(1) pastor/elder/overseer, and (2) deacon—those recognized by the church for these roles only have authority insofar as they represent the congregation on behalf of Christ through their leading and teaching (for elders) and serving (for deacons). We want people to possess a true conversion and regeneration, but we also want them to possess an understanding of their responsibility as church members. Because of this awesome authority, every member has the ability to influence the church for good or ill. Therefore, we want to make sure every member understands the gospel, agrees with our statement of faith, and accepts our constitution and bylaws. They won’t be able to function as effective, unifying church members unless they do.
3. We believe that every member is a missionary.
“It is the duty and privilege of every follower of Christ and of every church of the Lord Jesus Christ to endeavor to make disciples of all nations” (Article XI of the Baptist Faith & Message of 2000). We are commanded to make disciples, and as those saved by sheer grace, we ought to tell everyone about the amazing, transforming power of Christ’s Spirit. If we are going to be good witnesses outside the church, then we need to do our best to make sure our members know the gospel, know the Trinitarian God revealed fully in Jesus Christ, and know that Jesus is the only way to salvation. In the class, these truths will be clearly taught, but we will also give people opportunity to think about how they can accomplish the church’s mission in their lives.
4. We believe that every member is a minister.
Jesus Christ gave us the example of service with his life and his death. He said that he came not to be served by others but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). When Jesus calls us into his redeemed family, we are called to be servants. A minister is a servant. Our Membership Class gives participants time to consider how they might use their gifts, their experiences, their time to serve God’s kingdom in and through and for his church.
5. We believe that every member should love the church they join.
In our Membership Class, we aim to be clear about what members can expect at our church. What are the benefits of church membership? What are the challenges of church membership? Should I join the church even though it’s not perfect? Should I join the church even if I disagree with some things? We want to help every potential member navigate these questions before they join. Once they’re a member, they should love their church. If there are clear roadblocks to you loving the church, then you probably shouldn’t join. So, our Membership Class makes a real effort to be honest about who we are and where we are going.
Our fall membership class will run for lunch after our Sunday service on August 27, September 3, and September 10.