What is church membership, and why does it matter? For the people of Grace Life, our partnership covenant is birthed out of our love for the church body and her individual members whom we hope will experience the fullness of joy which is found in the presence of the Lord. This helps us with three things:
- To clarify the biblical obligations and expectations for both the elders of Grace Life Church and the individual members of Grace Life Church body.
- To establish teaching and doctrinal parameters for Grace Life Church body.
- To serve as a tool for reflection and growth toward holiness.
Each of these functions is in accordance with our overall vision to provide an accessible explanation of the Scriptures in hopes that Grace Life Church would grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.
But first, we must answer a few questions. What is the church?
The church is an embassy that represents the kingdom of God on this earth.
An embassy is an institution that represents one nation inside another nation. It declares its home nation’s interests to the host nation. And it protects the citizens of the home nation living in the host nation. The embassy does not make us a citizen, but it officially affirms it. In this case, the church represents the heavenly kingdom of God while we are here on earth. Like an embassy, the church must approve those who are a part of the Kingdom.
The church exists to display the glory of God because all things exist for His glory. Those of us who trust in and follow Jesus are caught up in something much bigger than ourselves. We have graciously been invited into God’s redemptive purposes in the world.
Since the beginning, God has been creating and calling forth His people for the display of His glory in a grand narrative of redemption and reconciliation. Though creation now suffers the curse of Genesis 3, the gospel is the means by which the world is being made right. The gospel also carries with it the promise of ultimate renewal, a restoration even more glorious than Eden, and thus believers eagerly anticipate the return of Christ. The Church universal (i.e., all believers, everywhere) is the means by which God is fulfilling His purposes in the world (2 Cor. 5:17-20). The Church universal is being used to write God’s beautiful and dramatic story of redemption and reconciliation. In light of this reality, the opportunity to join a local church body (i.e., a particular group of believers in a particular locale) is much more than a commitment to consistent attendance or active involvement in community. It is also a sacred call to be involved in the redemptive work of our sovereign God to push back the darkness of a fallen world through the power of the Holy Spirit with the light of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So then, what is a church member?
A church member is someone who is formally recognized as a Christian and a part of Christ’s universal body.
There are two qualifications for being a church member in the New Testament: salvation and baptism. There is freedom to pursue ways to determine if someone has been redeemed. At Grace Life Church, we believe that baptism is a symbol of what Jesus has done for us and that it is a baptism by water immersion after a person has placed their faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
Church membership matters because God calls His people into covenant, not only to Himself but also to each other.
He calls us to a life of sacrifice, generosity, service, and radical commitment to the good of the body. This happy obligation is most readily pursued within the context of a particular body—a local church. In light of this reality, membership is not merely a responsibility but a blessed opportunity to covenant with a particular people to live out the gospel together.
Membership is not about privilege or prestige. It is not some elevated level of access with secret insider benefits. It is not a legal document or means of control. Membership recognizes and responds to the call of discipleship in the context of gospel-centered community. It is an affirmation and agreement to contribute to the good of the body rather than consume from it. It is a formalization of that which already implicitly exists. It is an obligation to sacrificially seek the good of others in the body of Christ by taking the general call toward service and incarnating it within a particular people.
Christians commit themselves to each other in the context of the local church in countless ways. At Grace Life, the current process for partnership involves participating in a class, reading a book, and completing a questionnaire. Far from mere formality, these expressions are important representations of the formal commitment that members make. So if you have not yet committed yourself to the local body of Grace Life Church, plan to attend The Intro on June 26th after the morning gathering to learn what the next steps are towards becoming a member.