Something funny happened after church last Sunday. We had a great morning of worship. At the end of the service a handful of people came forward to pray and a new family expressed their intent to join our church membership. After introducing the new family, instead of praying the final prayer myself, I asked the dad in this family if he would close the service in prayer. You see, I had spent time with this person and prayed with him on a handful of occasions. I knew he would be fine with praying in that environment. The thought to ask him to pray popped into my head and I went with it.
At the back door, I got teased about this immediately. A couple of people said to me, “You know that no one else is ever going to join the church now, right?” I instantly realized that I had just messed with one of many people’s greatest fears: speaking in front of a group of people. Likely I made it worse, because for some, the idea of praying spontaneously in front of a couple hundred people would be nearly their worst nightmare.
So I thought it would take this opportunity to explain the membership requirements for joining Bethany Place Baptist Church:
- To have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus. I don’t like to write in the passive voice, but in this case we are more dependent on what God does in salvation, than on what we do in expressing faith in Jesus. I love these verses to describe what it means to be saved: Ephesians 2:4–5 (ESV) 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— All believers have a great responsibility to know and to share the gospel so that unbelievers have a chance to hear it and trust Jesus.
- Attend a Membership Matters class. In this class, we explain how a person is saved as well as talk about the purposes of the church, our leadership structure, and we spend a lot of time answering questions about the church in general and Bethany Place in specific. Attenders of this class receive a membership application and a church covenant. The application provides an opportunity for a person to describe her or his salvation experience and asks a few other questions. The application and the covenant need to be signed and returned to the church office to complete the membership process.
- All new members are formally accepted into the church body at the next business meeting. This seems like a formality, but there is real meaning behind it and we should take this seriously. As a church body, we are saying to new members, “we see evidence in you of genuine salvation.” That is what a church is supposed to do. If we accept people into membership who have not been saved, we give them false assurance that they are eternally safe.
- Not on the list of membership requirements: You will not be asked to pray publicly. That is, unless you have made it obvious that you would be happy to do such a thing, then we might.
Anyone can start the process of membership by coming forward during the invitation time near the end of our service, or by marking your desire to discuss membership on a communication card and handing it to an usher or elders, or by emailing the elders at email@example.com.
Tomorrow I continue the series, "What Do We Need to Endure?" Through the series we will explore how conviction is developed. The series comes from the first 5 chapters of the book of Exodus, containing some of the most well known stories in the Bible but which also contain uncanny insights into current struggles. You can listen to the first message in the series here.