Our experience has been that many in our congregation have some misunderstanding of what it means to be a “member.” We regularly encounter those in our congregation who are surprised to find out they are not actually members of the church, even though they have been attending, serving, and even giving their tithes and offerings for many years. So what does being a member really mean, and what’s the importance of “signing on the dotted line,” if you’re already “plugged in?”There are at least three important aspect of membership.
First, and most importantly, being a member of the church means that you are a redeemed believer in Jesus Christ. When you join the church, you have gone through a process whereby trained individuals have affirmed, to the greatest degree possible short of seeing inside your heart or having the mind of God, that you have genuinely received Christ as your Savior and Lord. Sure, you can be saved without being a member of the church, but membership is one way of stating publicly, with the church’s affirmation, that you are a child of God.
In our church, that process includes a one-time membership class and joining by one of five defined methods:
- by profession of faith, a first-time public decision for Christ followed by baptism by immersion;
- by baptism, meaning you have come to faith in Christ previously but have not been baptized by immersion;
- by statement of believer’s baptism, meaning you are saved and have already been biblically baptized by immersion in another denomination; or
- by transfer of letter, meaning you are transferring your membership from another Southern Baptist Church, in which case we trust that the same process we have in place was carried out for membership in that previous Baptist church.
Secondly, church membership is important because it means you are committed. If someone regularly attends and is even involved in serving in the church but has never joined, the commitment and motivation of that individual could be in question. In a culture that sees commitment as passé, how important is it for us to be committed to the church of the living God?
Finally, church membership is practical. If you have indeed determined this is the place God had called you to live out your faith and walk with Him, then it sure helps to be “on the roster” for purposes of communication and connection.