The fourth and final aspect of the assimilation process is the prospective member (I will launch into the membership process next). Membership in a local church may be a difficult thing for some attenders, especially if they think that it is not required or feel that they are being forced to sign a contract. But membership in a covenant community of local believers is vitally important. To assist our attenders in understanding membership better, I have compiled these excellent Q&A links from IX Marks and printed them off for their reading pleasure. Also here is an excellent four minute response from John Piper on the importance and necessity of church membership:
I don’t want to jump ahead into the details of the membership process just yet, so let me just say a few things in general at this point in the membership process. As a Baptist church, we at Grace strongly believe in regenerate church membership which simply says that the church should be comprised of born-again, baptized believers. We also believe that a church ought to be pre-committed in what we believe (church confession) and how we agree to live together (church covenant). During the assimilation process, regular attenders ought to be exposed to the nature and constitution of your church, including how intentional and careful you are when it comes to membership.
If your approach to church membership is fickle or flimsy, it is likely that you will experience nominal church members, a wide back door open, increasing need for corrective church discipline, and greater potential of disunity in the body of Christ. Obviously, none of these things can ultimately be eliminated, but if you are careful and intentional with how you handle membership on the front end, you communicate to the congregation that you genuinely care for the sheep and you communicate to the prospective member the privilege and responsibility of membership from the beginning. In a way, a healthy and robust approach to church membership serves as a form of church discipline and an expression of devotion to Christ, the church’s Head, in pursuit of a pure church who embrace the gospel and are unified with a common purpose to glorify Jesus in word and deed.
So who are those that are prospective members? People who have come to understand/embrace the gospel and have also come to understand/embrace your church. In the next series of posts, I will explain the membership process that we have laid out here at Grace. Till then, let me hear your thoughts on you approach membership. As a learning community, I believe we can strengthen and encourage one another’s efforts to serve the body of Christ!