Sunday School for all ages
Parable #25: The Good Samaritan
Singspiration At Hiawatha Bible Church, No Service at FBC
2017 Bible Guide
Requirements for Membership
In our constitution, we list the following requirements for membership. A person must be:
- Conducting himself as a Christian.
- In agreement with the constitution and doctrinal statement.
To say those another way, when you apply for membership to the church, you are helping us to ascertain whether you have been born again by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; whether you have been baptized by immersion subsequent to personal faith; whether you are conducting yourself as a Christian; and whether you subscribe to the constitution and doctrinal statement.
The first two are the main requirements, and the other two naturally follow. We do not let someone into membership, to the best of our ability, who does not give satisfactory evidence of conversion, since the church is, by definition, made up of regenerate people. True regenerate people will also be baptized. In the NT, it would be unheard of for a person professing faith to refuse baptism. In some Baptist churches, water baptism is the point of entrance to the local church, i.e. membership is more assumed and automatic than we may think of it. We augment this required step with some instruction so that we can pause and consciously highlight the four items mentioned above.
Is one's Christian conduct going to be perfect? Absolutely not. But the question is this—are you dealing properly with things when your conduct is out of line? You need to be confessing sins to God, repenting of them, making things right with your spouse, children, parents, fellow believers, acquaintances, etc. That's what Christian conduct looks like when a momentary non-Christian action/attitude happens.
What about your agreement with the constitution and doctrinal statement? We have not left any room for so-called "scruples" or "footnotes." I have always said that you must be in agreement with these things, and if you do not understand them all to the nth degree, that is fine. However, if you come to a point later where something becomes untenable for you to believe, then on your honor you will make that known and either seek more instruction to clarify your beliefs, or resign your membership.
These strictures and doctrinal fences are those that our church has voluntarily placed around itself to say "this is who we are." Further, the method of membership is how we've decided to practically implement the "list" idea in the NT to know who is really part of the church and who is not.
There is a great debate today as to whether adding more requirements than just fundamental gospel doctrine is appropriate. An argument can be made in that direction to avoid dividing up the body; however an argument can made in favor of more specificity. Here it is, in brief: bare-bones doctrinal statements can be believed even by some cults. When you are more particular, you are making very clear who you are and what you believe. Bare-bones statements can also imply that it really does not matter what you believe beyond those fundamental doctrines. When you are more particular, you are in agreement with the apostolic emphasis on sound doctrine and the inclusion of seemingly "small matters" (in today's parlance) such as specifics of eschatology and teachings of man's depravity and so on. On the practical side, being more specific helps you avoid potential problems in the future. For instance, if you specify that you believe in baptism by immersion, then you avoid the whole problem of having a pedo-baptist come in and stir up division in the church.