Church Membership at Eden
Like other Baptist, Congregational and Presbyterian churches, Eden Baptist Church has a formal church membership. Often people have questions about what this means. This leaflet is written to explain church membership at Eden:
Why do you have a formal church membership?
We have a formal church membership because of what the Bible teaches about the nature of the church and of being a Christian. We believe that a formal church membership is the best way of implementing that vision practically so that we can be the kind of church community Jesus wants us to be.
Where is formal church membership in the Bible?Here are some biblical principles and practice on which a church membership system is based.
1. Individual Christians are expected to be part of a local church which is their spiritual home and community. In Acts 2:47 Luke says 'the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.' Becoming a Christian meant joining the church. It is clear that each church knew who part of the church was.
2. The Christian life was to be lived in community. In the New Testament the church is seen as a community of people who are deeply committed to each other, both in principle and in practice.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:2-3)
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel. (Philippians 1:27)
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:25)
3. In some places the church is compared to:
Each of these pictures suggests people who are closely bound together and recognisably committed to each other.
4. The church is led by elders:-
Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?") He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. (1 Timothy. 3:1-7)
5. The practical administration is delegated to the deacons, but all the believers are involved in decisions like the appointment of elders and deacons and in church discipline:-
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6)
Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 3:8-13)
The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. (Titus 1:5)
If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:17)
If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent - not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. (2 Corinthians 2:5-6)
What difference would being a member make to me?
What difference would my being a member make to Eden?
Does it matter whether someone becomes a church member?
We think it does! The New Testament sees the church as a community of people who are committed to each other. We are committed to Christ because he is committed to us. We should be committed to each other as one of the most important expressions of being committed to Christ. Although commitment may seem scary, actually there is something wonderful about being committed to a single local body of believers.
Whether you are a member or not also affects how far you can be involved in Eden and we would like you to be as involved as possible. Leadership positions in church activities are normally limited to members.
Becoming a member is the way you can play your part in the decisions the church takes.
What about students?
We strongly encourage students who are committed to Eden to join the church as members. Undergraduates who are only here during term time become associate members. That means you can retain your membership at your home church. You can come to church meetings but not vote.
What are the expectations for church members?
First, we want to say that as you become a member we are committing ourselves to you! Specifically: to your pastoral care, to helping you to grow spiritually and to use your gifts for the glory of God and the building up of the church. The leaders have a responsibility to care for your soul!
The New Testament teaching on church commitment means that we expect members to:
Why is membership restricted to Christians who have been baptised as believers?
The church is seen as the community of the baptised. We believe that in the New Testament, baptism is the sign of personal faith in Jesus. So only those who have been baptised as believers can be members. However Bible-believing Christians do hold different views and those with such convictions are welcome to come to services, take communion, be part of house groups etc even if they cannot become members.
If you would like to discuss baptism, please contact Julian or one of the staff or elders. Why not read 'Baptism at Eden' or the longer booklet 'Should I be baptised?' written by Peter Comont, a former Associate Pastor at Eden - copies are available on the welcome table.
How can I become a member?
We would love to discuss membership with you and be able to welcome you into membership. Please have a word with me or an elder. Alternatively contact the office on 01223 361250 or fill out a welcome cards and tick the appropriate box. We will arrange for an elder to have a membership interview with you. They will want to hear about how you became a Christian and your subsequent spiritual journey - and also to discuss what being a member means.
Any further questions?
Please have a word with me or one of the elders!
Julian Hardyman Spring 2008