When a person is baptised in a Baptist church, they normally become a church member. Church members are called to prayerfully discern God’s will for their shared life. Final authority does not rest with the ministers, deacons or any other local, national or international body, but with the members meeting together under God’s guidance. Church meetings will make significant appointments including ministers, and agree financial policy and mission.
What does it mean to be a Church Member?
We should never view church membership as joining a club or organisation: Church membership is a biblical and practical outworking of commitment to Jesus, so the first thing we should say is that church membership is for Christians, those who have entered into a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. And to know God in this way means we belong to his worldwide family – the church.
So as long as I am baptised – isn’t that all that matters?
The most important thing for all of us is that we are confident of our personal relationship with God in Jesus Christ. In baptism, we testify to the change that has taken place in our lives, and our new direction – following Jesus. So baptism is of primary importance. However, being a Christian is not just an individual thing. We need other Christians, and they need us in committed relationships which are to be found in the local church.
Church membership is not found in the Bible.
No, but the principles behind it most certainly are. What we see in the Bible are Christians intentionally gathering together, pledging themselves to one another in living out their Christian lives. We, like they, express our love for God and one another in a covenant agreement – church membership – which effectively seals our solidarity as brothers and sisters within the Christian family.
I serve the church and give to the church – what difference would it make becoming a member?
All the difference in the world! It is an important and public declaration of our intention to be committed to following Jesus, along with others, in a particular place. Like the signing of the register at a Wedding service, it confirms what we have already decided to do, in a concrete and unmistakable way. And, because we are being obedient, God blesses us!
Is it not possible to be a responsible part of a local Baptist church without formally becoming a church member?
Yes and no! Of course anyone is welcome at our services, and we hope many will find themselves at home in our church family. Everyone is valued and important! Nevertheless our membership of the worldwide church is only truly expressed by becoming committed to a local church. Just as it is impossible to be a member of the British Army without being part of a particular unit, so our membership of the worldwide church is only made a reality by our membership of the local church.