Why Formal Church Membership?
We believe the New Testament assumes that those who have repented and put their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation automatically have an informal membership commitment to the local church they are a part of. We see in Acts 2:41 that “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.” This means those who professed Jesus as savior and were baptized became informal members of the local gathering of believers. This is repeated over and over again in scripture (Acts 2:47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 9:31; 11:21; 16:5). The word informal, by the way, does not necessarily convey shallowness of commitment. Believers for centuries were deeply committed to the gospel ministry of their local churches without ever going through some type of process that formally identified them as members of that church body. It is still possible today for churches to have an informal membership that expresses deep commitment to that church. As Christianity spread in the first century church and believers moved from town to town, churches would send a letter of confirmation of faith along with or before them to the church to which they were headed (Acts 18:27; 1 Cor. 16:3).
We believe a body of believers is comprised of all those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, have put their trust in Him for salvation and regularly attend this church’s services or call this church their home church. This indicates an individual’s desire to minister to, and be ministered to, by this body of believers. As members of the universal Body of Christ, these believers are regarded as part of the Grace Bible Church family.
We also believe that the New Testament is silent when it comes to formal membership (no formalized process of identifying and expressing membership in a local body exists in the New Testament).
The elders of GBC are not appealing to scripture to justify a formal process that identifies the church’s membership. Rather, the elders simply believe a more formalized approach to church membership for this body is wise, allowing us to be faithful to New Testament principles regarding the church. There are two biblical principles that lead us to believe that formal church membership will aid us in accomplishing what scripture has identified as biblical membership.
- The elders are called to give an account to God for the souls in the church, exercising spiritual oversight for the protection and purity of the body (Heb. 13:17; Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2).
- The first century church, by virtue of being present at the new believer’s profession of faith and baptism, could conclude with great certainty that they were true followers of Christ. This is not as easy today, for the following reasons: Today we have many professing Christians moving from town to town or church to church. As a result, neither the elders nor the body has had the opportunity to witness their profession of faith. Although in the first century church not many false believers would have attended a church for fear of great persecution, this is not the case today in America. Thus, church attendance should not be considered a conclusive sign that someone is a true believer in Jesus Christ.
Formal church membership gives the elders and the local body the opportunity to be assured that those who call GBC their home and wish to fellowship in this body are true believers in the complete work of Jesus, in His life, death and resurrection according to the scriptures (see our Statement of Faith document concerning God the Son). This being the primary spiritual foundation of those being members of a local body makes it the primary spiritual responsibility of the elders of the local body. This will help to keep the body pure in truth and in deed. Also, formal church membership gives the opportunity for one to profess faith in Jesus Christ before those with whom they wish to fellowship, grow and serve.
Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Church Membership
What does it mean for me to be a member of a local church?
In short it means you are “fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6) and therefore have joined yourself with a local group of believers for the “building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). Romans 12:5 describes it this way: “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another”. Each of us belongs to the mystical Body of Christ and needs the other members of that body to grow in the maturity and “fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). The Christian faith is therefore, in its essence, a corporate experience, and although each member has come to faith by a separate and individual act of faith, the believing community lives out its Christian experience in fellowship with one another.
“Members one of another” is beautifully explained in 1 Corinthians 12:26 where Paul instructs us that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” It is also beautifully expressed in the “one another” references in scripture.
Things we shouldn’t do
Judge one another:
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
Bite and devour one another:
Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.
Provoke or envy one another:
Galatians 5:26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
Lie to one another:
Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
Speak evil of one another:
James 4:11a Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.
Grumble against one another:
James 5:9 Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.
Things we should do
Love one another (mentioned 15 times with an emphasis to abound in it):
1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another
1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart
Have peace with one another:
Mark 9:50 Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.
Be affectionate one to another:
Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Be of the same mind one to another:
Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
1 Corinthians 12:25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.
Edify one another:
Romans 14:19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
Receive one another:
Romans 15:7 Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.
Admonish one another:
Romans 15:14 And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Greet one another:
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
Wait for one another:
1 Corinthians 11:33 So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
Serve one another:
Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
John 13:14-16 If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.
Bear with one another:
Galatians 6:2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.
Ephesians 4:2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love,
Submit yourselves one to another:
Ephesians 5:21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
1 Peter 5:5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
Esteem each other better than yourselves:
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
Forgive one another:
Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
Comfort one another:
1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.
Consider one another:
Hebrews 10:24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
Confess your faults one to another:
James 5:16a Therefore, confess your sins to one another
Pray one for another:
James 5:16b pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
Show hospitality to one another:
1 Peter 4:9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.
Have fellowship one with another:
1 John 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Scripture also makes it clear that being members of one another includes:
- The responsibility to hold each other in the church accountable for their profession of faith. First, responsibility given to elders and pastors (1 Pet. 5:1-4; Heb.13:17). Second, to each other in the body (Gal. 6:1)
- The giving of my time, talents possessions, and tithes as God leads me, to build up this local body. (2 Cor. 9:6-7)
- That God has equiped me specifically for the building up of the body of Christ, the church. (Eph. 4:11-12)
What does it mean to “be added to the church as members of one another” (Acts 2:47; 4:4; 5:14; 6:1, 7; 9:31; 11:21; 16:5)?
“I want to be recognized as a follower of Jesus Christ in this local body.”
“I will be here faithfully, to worship and to serve in this local body.”
“I will pray that Jesus Christ will be glorified in this local body.”
“I will give of my time, talents, and possessions, as God leads me, to guild up this local body.”
“As God equips and leads me, I will be used of Him for the building up of this local body.”
Our commitment to the local church, to the Lord’s work, and to one another is only as strong as our commitment to Jesus Christ. Therefore, our commitment to the Lord’s work within the local church body is not a new commitment, but an extension of our commitment to Christ.
Does formal membership qualify me to serve at GBC?
Yes and no. Yes, there are many areas of service that formal church membership qualifies you to serve in, along with any opportunity where a vote or congregational ratification is needed, such as in the yearly budget or selection of church elders. On the other hand, formal church membership is only a beginning point for those wishing to teach or hold positions of leadership. The next step is a process that assures our Statement of Faith, form of church government, and important doctrines are understood and supported by those in teaching and leadership positions. This process can be completed at the same time as membership by filling out the Volunteer Ministry Information form and returning it to the church office or an elder.
Am I too new to become a member?
Have you entered into a relationship with God because of Jesus and what He did for you in His death and resurrection? Have you committed yourself to follow Him, learn about Him from His Word, grow closer to Him through prayer, and worship Him with your life? Do you desire to be a part of one of God’s local churches? Then you are ready to become a member of this local body regardless of how long you have been a Christian or how long you have been attending GBC.
How does someone become a member of Grace Bible Church?
- Obtain a church membership application, either from the information table in the church foyer or from the church office.
- Complete the application fully and return it to the church office or an elder of the church.
- An elder will contact you and make an appointment to address any questions you may have concerning our church doctrine, government, philosophy, etc. The elder(s) will also inquire about your faith in Christ and your desire to become a member.
- The elder(s) will then report back to the elder board and give a recommendation for membership.
- You will be contacted and introduced in the service as a new member of Grace Bible Church.