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  • Writer's pictureLeanne Swift

Baptist church membership – what and why?

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

by Leanne Swift

You may have been coming to church for some time, or you have only just joined, but you keep hearing about Church membership. Whether it would members' meetings, welcoming new members, or only members getting to vote on matters, odds are the idea of there being members and non-members at the church has cropped up at least once. For those not brought up in the church it can seem like quite a curious, even an elitist idea, but what is it about?

The idea of being a member of a Baptist church is rooted in the early church; Acts 2:42-47 talks about the community of believers being committed to one another, being devoted to teaching, helping those in need, breaking bread together – in short living their lives together and supporting each other in their faith.

As Baptists we also hold to the idea of being a priesthood of believers, simply put, we all have direct access to God, we do not need to go through a minister to speak to or hear from God. It is not just Jade and Rob that have a special connection to God or some magic power that enables them to support others or know what God is leading the church to do! We are all commissioned by God, filled with the Spirit, and called to minister to one another and seek God’s will in our lives and communities. (The concept of all being equal in the church comes from 1 Peter 2:9)

It is on these two key foundations that membership was born, when we become a member of our church we are committing to be a part of that family, to seek God together, to serve God in and through the church and to be accountable to one another. It is us publicly acknowledging that God has called us to be a part of the family in our local church and to care for one another, quite beautiful when you think about it. But how do you become a member?

There is only one “requirement” of membership as a Baptist, and that is that you have been baptised by full immersion, a wonderful and symbolic act and if you have not been then you will get to discuss if you would like to be baptised. For those that have attended another church and have been confirmed as an adult, or made another public declaration of faith other than by full immersion, are also welcomed at Hope and BOSBAP as members, but the offer of baptism by full immersion is open to all who have faith in Jesus as our Saviour, and would like to make a declaration of their faith in this way.

Each church may have slightly different procedures for welcoming new members, but this normally goes along the following lines:

Once you have started attending a church and have prayerfully considered if that church is where you feel you belong and where God is calling you, have a chat with one of your deacons or your minister. (I promise they will be thrilled to chat to you about it!) They will usually arrange for you to meet up for a chat with 2 of the leadership/themselves/existing members, one thing to note is It is not an interview! When you meet it is a chance to share your faith story and why you feel called to journey with the church and most importantly pray together. It is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions about the church you may have.

After you have met together, you will normally be asked to give a short testimony of your faith and why you feel called to the church in the Sunday service or next members meeting, it is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate God’s work in your life and chance for people to get to know a little about you. After this those who are members will be asked to prayerfully seek God on whether he is calling you to the church, at which point they will “vote” on your being a member. (You may be asked to wait outside or close your eyes – as charities we must follow some rules we do not like!) After this (and the chances of it not happening are super slim) you will be a member of the church.

Great news, you are now in a covenant relationship with your church family, but as with all families we all have a role to keep the family functioning and doing the work we are called to do. The specifics may vary in each church (you can look at the constitution for the specifics – ask a leader for a copy If you do not have one).

As members we should be ensuring we meet regularly with one another, that we care for each other, that we serve our church with our time and skills, that we give financially as we are able and that we prayerfully seek God’s will together. Whether it is serving tea and coffee, helping at foodbank or tiny tots or other church events, leading prayer meetings or services, preaching or serving through leadership as a deacon (there will be certain criteria to be a deacon – speak to Jade or Rob) we all have gifts that will bless the church and community, and all are equally important in showing God’s love to those around us. Of course, you do not have to be a member to serve and take part in church life – membership may not be for everyone.

As a side note, for those who are curious – voting at meetings may seem like we are democracy, however this is not the case. As a priesthood of believers, we hold firm that we all have a responsibility to seek God’s will and leading and to hear God's response, when we ask people to vote we are asking them to pray and respond with God’s leading, and so people are voting as God leads, not according to their own views or ideas. We express God’s answer by placing our vote for or against an idea in line with how God has spoken to us, the hope is that the majority have heard God correctly and therefore we act on the result in obedience to God’s leading. (We acknowledge that as humans we are not perfect and sometimes, we may get it wrong)

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