Written by Glyn Norman
I've been asked recently by a couple of people why baptism is a requirement for membership of Central Christian Church, so I thought I'd write a brief article to explain.
The first reason, though not the most important, is that historically this has always been a requirement of Central. From its very beginnings in 1939, the church required that if you wanted to be a member, you had to have been baptized by immersion, according to the pattern in the New Testament. If you examine the pattern of the New Testament church, a decision to follow Jesus was immediately followed by the person being baptized by immersion. These two events were so entwined that they were often seen as part of the same package. It would have been inconceivable to a New Testament church that a person could decide to follow Jesus, but then not get baptized.
We are never fully able to judge the spiritual state of a person, but there are some pretty good indicators. If a person has chosen to be obedient to Christ by being baptized, this implies that they take the Christian life seriously, and intend to be obedient to the commands of Jesus. If they hesitate or balk) at this first step of obedience, a church might legitimately wonder why they are holding back. Is this a sign of pride, rebellion, resistance, a "pick and choose" attitude to the commands of Christ? If the church suspected this to be the case, I would understand why they would be hesitant to accept such a person into membership.
Secondly, a member of Central Christian Church is afforded certain privileges and responsibilities that non-members do not enjoy. A member can:
- vote on the appointment of a new Lead Pastor (no hurry on this one :)
- vote on any proposed changes to the Bylaws
- be recommended and voted onto the Elder Board, with significant responsibility for the leadership and direction of the church
- vote on candidates that are recommended for an Elder position
- take a leadership role in the church (Life Group Leader, deacon, Youth Leader etc.)
- take a teaching role in the church (Sunday school, Children's Ministry etc.)
- be part of the counseling ministry of the church
These are important ministries of the church, and the Elders, as leaders, want to be as sure as we can about some things. As previously stated, though we can never know the spiritual state and level of commitment of a person for sure, there are some markers or indicators that give us a good sense. For example, if a person has made a decision to follow Christ, and been baptized, this demonstrates an understanding of obedience to Christ, and the importance of baptism. Secondly, if a person has been through the Membership Class (another requirement for membership since 2014), then we know that they have been exposed to information about the doctrine of the church, and the ministry methodology ("playbook") or to say it another way, how we do ministry here (for example, the high value we place on being in a Life Group).
When a person has done these two steps, we know at a minimum that they appear to be committed to Christ, and they understand the doctrine and ministry approach of Central. That's a pretty good starting point.
Being a member of a church implies a level of seriousness and commitment to this body. Are there people who attend the church, who are not members, but who are serious and committed? Of course. But I wish for every one of them to experience the joy that comes from obedience to Christ in baptism (if they haven't been baptized) and the excitement that derivesfrom a deeper understanding of the ministry and vision of the church that comes from attending a Membership Class.
For myself, I remember my own baptism that happened about a year after I decided to follow Christ, and for me, it really was a sense of deepening my commitment to Jesus. When I was then made a member, it gave me a sense of "ownership" of the church. Now it was "my church" and I cared about it and wanted to make a contribution to it. It wasn't just a place I visited. It was now a family I was a part of.
My hope is that this church is full of people committed and obedient to Christ, and who say to God, "For as long as you have called me here, I will be committed and contribute to this family." From my perspective, baptism and membership are not hoops to be jumped through, but adventures to be entered into.
For those of you that wish to be baptized, our next opportunity will be on Sunday June 4 when we have Baptism services. Please contact me or Gary if you want to get baptized on that day.
Our next Membership Class will be scheduled soon. Email Janessa to be added to the list, and you receive a reminder email a couple of weeks before.
Thank you church. Glyn