Requirements Before Local Church Membership

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by saturneptune, Nov 9, 2013.

  1. saturneptune

    saturneptune
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    In another thread discussing when the local New Testament church was established, a verse kept coming up that I believe defines a Baptist distinctive. Here is Acts 2:41-46, NIV:
    41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

    There are many denominations that have requirements for membership that are beyond belief in Jesus Christ and Baptism. The Catholics have a multi-month indoctrination course to learn whatever it is they believe. The Presbyterians have a six week communicant's class that basically memorizes one of the catechisms, questions like "what is the chief end of man/" Other churches require a waiting period. Some require the either reading or memorizing the local church bylaws or Constitution. Some even require signing of documents. This all adds up to man made nonsense.

    In the Baptist faith, each local church sets their own policy, but personally I would never belong to a church that created such a requirement. Verse 41 makes it quite clear the believers were added immediately. If there was learning, growing, or maturing to be accomplished, that took place after joining the local assembly as stated in verse 42. Verse 43 to 46 is how we wished all church members devoted themselves.

    Aside from Scripture, this is how I look at it. Changing church membership is a very profound and serious decision. It should be rare and well thought out. It is the responsibility of the INDIVIDUAL to investigate every aspect of the local church before belonging. That would mean understanding their doctrine, bylaws and Constitution. It would mean being devoted to the ministries of that church in time, talent and money. One should even be aware of things like cliques and the local church gossip. The perspective member who fails to do this is probably the one that switches churches every year because of carpet color or not enough pot lucks. There is a direct proportion between the service the new member will put out to how well they investigated the church. I have changed churches once in 61 years.

    The new member investigates the church, the church does not put entrance requirements on the new member, other than believing and Baptism. A local church cannot create a devoted church member by a series of silly hoops to jump through. It reminds me of a frat hazing. Besides that, it is contrary to the model in Acts.
     
  2. agedman

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    SN, I am assuming that you are making a distinction between a new believer and one who is changing churches.

    New believers certainly should be involved with the assembly from the start.

    Transferring membership is a different matter. There is association with the former church that needs checked (for good standing) and also (like you posted) the need for the person to look over the statement of faith and even the constitution to make sure there is agreement to submit.
     
  3. Revmitchell

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    Why is it called jumping through hoops? People should be informed about the church and what it believes. They also need to be informed about what is expected from church members.
     
  4. Tom Butler

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    A new convert or a new member enters into a covenant relationship with the congregation he joins. The covenant entails commitments made by both parties.

    Does the church have a right to say to the member, here's what that covenant relationship involves? On your part certain things. On the church's part certain things. Both sides should agree on what they are, and to uphold their part of the covenant.

    That covenant may vary from church to church.

    When I was a child, our church had posted on the wall what was called The Church Covenant. Our hymnbooks also had a copy pasted inside the front cover. Remember this?
    -


    I guess I'm asking if these are too much to ask new members to agree to? I'm sure the part on alcoholic beverages will be a problem for some, but otherwise, are these burdens too heavy?
     
    #4 Tom Butler, Nov 9, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2013
  5. saturneptune

    saturneptune
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    That is up to the policy of each local church as they are autonomous. Secondly, any responsible church member investigates the church themselves. Finally, how does a church adding requirements to membership beyond baptism and believing follow verses 41 and 42?
     
  6. saturneptune

    saturneptune
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    It really is a matter for the local church to decide. In the short 36 years I have attended our church, a motion has been brought forth twice to delay membership until that perspective member studied the bylaws and Constitution, and once, to have an interview with a deacon, or deacon and pastor. Both times they were soundly defeated, not because that it is a bad idea for a new church member to know every aspect of church doctrine and life, but because it does not follow the Biblical model. If the new member needs discipleship and further training, it is conducted after acceptance.

    The added requirements are the pattern the Catholic Church, Church of Christ, and some Presbyterian churches follow. No doubt here are others, closely tied to their hierarchy.

    It is not a matter of putting too much on new members by the church, the point is, it is the responsibility of the new member to investigate the church himself or herself. Anything less implies that new member is too lazy or takes the decision of switching membership like which restaurant to attend. There are few decisions in life more important than where to worship.

    As far as being concerned about consuming alcohol, that is no more or less important than attendance, financial support, and being involved in the ministries. In our case, when we substituted Article 5 of our Constitution with the BFM 2000, we voted to eliminate the specific language of alcohol use, and substituted a general statement of living a life pleasing to the Lord. If that bothers some members, that should have been thought of before the vote during discussion time for the motion.
     
    #6 saturneptune, Nov 10, 2013
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2013
  7. Reformed

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    Believe, be baptized, add to the membership. For those who have already believed and been baptized and are joining a new church a credible profession of faith is required. The only addition would be if they were not scripturally baptized, (ı.e. believer's baptism). In that case they would have to be baptized. Such would be the case with those baptized as infants.
     
  8. saturneptune

    saturneptune
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    Good post. I was immersed when leaving the Presbyterian church and joined the Baptist church, which was one of the major reasons I decided to switch. I took almost two years after starting to attend Baptist churches to change. Aside from the mode of baptism, my main reasons for changing was hierarchy, form of government and creeds.
     
  9. Earth Wind and Fire

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    Why should anything be expected of Church Members? Isnt that between them & God?
     

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