What about Membership?

How does someone become a member of a church?

They need to be "born" into it!

We'll explain that in detail in a moment...

(...but briefly...) Those interested in joining the membership of Communion Presbyterian should simply meet with our Elders. They would be pleased to share the goals, values, and vision of our church. Beyond this, we'd like for inquirers to become familiar with our overall mission and theology. The following is a little flavor of both...

Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3

This is what Jesus said to a religious teacher who was inquiring about the "mission" of Jesus. From this verse, Jesus came to proclaim the “kingdom of God” and to help people “see” it after being, “born again.” Let’s clarify some terms.

The Kingdom of God = this is the place where Jesus Christ not only rules (because he does, in fact, rule EVERYWHERE...) but also provides "salvation" for those who trust in him. This place is “not of this world” (John 18:36); and yet, to his own, he said, it is “within you” (Luke 17:21). Christ’s Kingdom, despite a long history of human attempts, has never been marked out by any human boundaries, because the influence of Christ’s Kingdom is primarily spiritual – transforming hearts and minds to obey the truth and Lordship of Jesus. The result of these transformed lives is the profound influence that Christ's disciples have upon every earthly relationship! The homes, neighborhoods, industry, and governments of this world, through obedience to the Gospel will fulfill the command of Jesus -- loving God and our neighbor. Therefore, what do the hearts of "born again" people long? They long for a demonstration of God’s rule upon the earth – and they desire it first in their own personal lives, in their families, in their churches, and in every realm of life. The Church should be the best expression of Christ’s Kingdom here on earth! It's the reason why we pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." By God's grace, and with our devotion, Christ’s Kingdom will grow and have a profound influence upon our world.

Born Again = Jesus’ term for spiritual conversion (one of many terms to describe “regeneration”). When a person is called, convicted, and converted by the Holy Spirit, they will begin a "new life” of following Jesus. They will abandon their self-glorifying pursuits, and fully embrace the mission and attitudes of Jesus, their Savior. When a person is “born again,” they will “see” (recognize and identify) the importance of nourishing their faith by seeking membership in a Bible teaching church, they will want to be baptized, and they will desire to participate as a member of Christ’s body; which is the Church.

At Communion Presbyterian, we proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord and King of all. He is king over all creation and Lord over every person he chooses to redeem. Those "born of God" will be drawn by the word and the Spirit to affirm standards of doctrine and church government outlined in the Scriptures. And who do we find teaching and ruling the church, even from the Old Testament? Elders (Exodus 19:7; 1 Peter 5:1,2). Our Elders shepherd this ministry! They pray for the church, assist with teaching, provide counseling, and give oversight to this kingdom work (When they meet together to pray and make decisions, they are called “The Session”*).

We invite those who are interested in the ministry of our church, to attend a Session meeting (normally scheduled for the second Tuesday evening of each month), to witness first hand, how our elders lead the flock entrusted to their care!

The Session represents the leadership of the church, and therefore, under their authority, they are the ones who officially welcome everyone into “full communion” = church membership. The ARPC, the denomination to which we belong, has determined that an inquirer may become a member of our churches by publicly affirming the following questions:**

  1. Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His love and mercy?
  2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior of sinners, and do you receive Him and trust in Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
  3. Do you believe the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be the written Word of God, the only perfect rule of faith and practice?
  4. Do you now promise, in humble reliance upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
  5. Do you accept the doctrines and principles of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, so far as you understand them, as agreeable to and founded on the Word of God?
  6. Do you promise, with the Lord's help, to be faithful in the performance of your Christian duties, both in private life and in the work of the Church?
  7. Do you submit yourself in the spirit of love to the government and discipline of this Church, and seek the peace, purity and prosperity of this congregation so long as you are a member of it?

Upon affirmative action by the session, applicants shall then be received into communicant membership. The session shall not impose additional conditions for membership.***

Now although we do not impose "additional conditions for membership," we do encourage those who are new to our fellowship, and especially to the Reformed Faith, to attend a six week Inquirer's Course. These classes provide the inquirer an open forum to learn why we believe what we believe and why we do what we do! This course is also an excellent series of classes to assist any Christian with the tools to articulate and defend their faith (AND YES, all questions about the faith and our practice are welcomed -- vigorous debate encouraged -- we want to get God's Kingdom right!!)

What about my children?
Well, they get born into the kingdom in a slightly different way!

We believe that the Scriptures teach that in saving people, God does so on the basis of a “covenant.” This term carries a lot of theological implications; but the term "covenant" has a specific application related to "church membership." For example: When the head of a household comes into the membership of a "covenant community," the children of that household share in the blessings of that commitment. We see this played out in the Old Testament when God reveals himself as, “The God of our Fathers” (stressing familial connection - Ex. 3:15), and by the New Testament Apostles who announce "salvation" to entire “households.” (Acts 11:14). Children in the homes of believers become 'members' of the kingdom because the rule of Christ has come over the head of their own family. To demonstrate that they are also included in the promises of that rule, they receive the sign and seal of salvation in their baptism. They are marked out as disciples of Christ and must live according to kingdom rules. Children should know from childhood the reality of the covenant promise, "I will be your God and you will be my people." Therefore, observing God’s moral law and the regulations for His church is the expectation for all the baptized, since they are no longer "outsiders" to the covenant promises of God. The Westminster Confession of Faith expresses this in the following way:

Chapter 25; Article 2 -- The visible Church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before in the Old Testament), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.

Our children, raised in the church, are set apart as disciples – possessing childlike faith. One day, they will mature and establish their own household, and according to God’s grace, will raise another generation to know, love and honor God.

But what if these baptized children don’t believe or follow? What happens to any member of the kingdom who denies their allegiance by a heretical or hypocritical lifestyle? As a loving family, a certain type of discipline would be applied! Both parents and children are subject to discipline by God their Father (Hebrews 12:9). God disciplines each member of His family because He, “disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.” This type of discipline is a mark of a Christian church that desires to see God’s standard upheld for the edification of His church.

You must be “born” into the church! By regeneration and by baptism – for adults and children. This is God’s will expressed throughout the entire Bible, and our goal for applying God’s standard to the church -- Christ’s Kingdom.

Please write us with your comments and questions!

* As a Church Plant, we are ruled by a Provisional Session. These men are dedicated to overseeing the spiritual life of our congregation. But since these men were appointed rather than elected by the members of the congregation, they only serve “provisionally” during our start up phase. When our church body organizes as an “official church,” no longer requiring denominational and presbytery oversight & support, the members of our congregation will elect their own officers to rule as their Session.

** Available at: http://www.arpsynod.org/pdf/Standards/Form%20of%20Government.pdf

*** More ARP Standards found at: http://web.mac.com/arpsynod/Site/Resources.html