What Is Church Membership?
In American culture, we become members of many different organizations (wholesale grocery stores, gyms, country clubs, etc.). Perhaps, through experience, you think of church membership in this way—the church is somewhere you go with occasional regularity and loyalty, but it is really just an organization that exists to meet your needs and desires.
But the picture of church membership in the New Testament is far different than membership at an exclusive country club. Church membership is a voluntary and mutual covenant relationship between an individual and a church congregation. Both individual and church promise to care for each other’s spiritual health and well-being as they work together for the advancement of the gospel.
The world needs to know who represents Christ. Trent Hunter says:
Your membership says to God, “I belong to your people.”
Your membership says to God’s under-shepherds, “I am under your care.”
Your membership says to your church, “I’m a part of you. I need, want, and expect your help to stay faithful.”
Is Membership in the Bible?
If you’re looking for the word “membership” in the Bible, you won’t find it. But just like you won’t find the word “Trinity” in the Bible, you will nevertheless find the footprints of these two important issues all over the New Testament.
Church membership is an application of several realities. These include, but are not limited to:
In the forming of the early church in Acts, we read of specific numbers of believers being “added to their numbers” – 3,000 that day in Acts 2 and 5,000 in Acts 4. Who were they and how do we know? It seems someone was keeping track.
There are many different biblical metaphors for the church (a flock, a body, a building, a family). The reality is that God doesn’t save merely individuals, but a corporate people made up of individuals. And just like bricks and body parts, individual Christians are meant to function as part of something larger than themselves.
Hebrews 13:17 tells us that pastors will one day give an account for the souls who are under their care. Pastors ought to know those souls for whom they must account—surely, they will not give an account for every person who has ever visited that church. The Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name, and his under-shepherds should know theirs.
What's Difference Between a Member of Christ Church and Someone Who Attends Services?
Marriage is drastically different and more meaningful than mere co-habitation. Co-habitation supposedly offers the benefits of marriage without any of the commitment, but the covenant relationship of church membership is much like the covenant relationship of marriage. Like a healthy marriage, church membership offers long-term growth and deepening relationship that can only come through longevity, struggle, and difficult times.
A member at Christ Church is someone who formally says that he/she desires accountability, care, and instruction from the church, and they are likewise committing to care for and protect other members. To use a business metaphor, they desire to become shareholders rather than mere consumers, which means they will give of their time, talent, and treasure. They are also committing to join this particular group of Christians in the mission of God in Albuquerque and beyond.
How Do I Become a Member?
If you desire to become a member, first attend Sunday services and a Gospel Community for a season of time. Different local churches exist for good reasons, having important theological and philosophical distinctives. It would be good to get to know us before entering into a mutual covenant relationship. If not at Christ Church, however, we would hope that you would pursue membership somewhere, and we would love to help you find a good church in town.
If you’d like to further pursue membership, we offer a four-week Membership Class each quarter. By signing up for the class you are not necessarily deciding to become a member, as the class itself is a great way to get to know the church and the pastors. If you have not yet been baptized, a one-week Baptism Class will follow the week after the Membership Class concludes.
Do Members Have to Be Baptized?
Yes. Before a person can publicly identify with a particular church, that person must first identify with Christ’s universal Church. Bobby Jamieson says, “The new covenant is more than an invisible, spiritual reality. It has a visible, public shape, and baptism draws the edges of that shape. . . . Since the new covenant creates a public people, entrance into the covenant requires a public promise, namely baptism.”
Because there is such an intimate tie between membership and baptism (Ephesians 4:1-16), being baptized in a local church means that you would pursue membership in a local church. If a person has been been born-again by the Holy Spirit, then that person has also been given all of the priestly duties of the Kingdom of God. So if you desire to be baptized, please first sign up for the Membership Class.