Mr. Smith, we appreciate your interest in joining our church. You just need to fill out our five page membership application and if we’re interested, someone will call you back within a week or so to schedule your interview.
Interesting. Should there be requirements to join a church? If so, what should they be? Did Jesus have any requirements for being a part of his original “church” plant? He just seemed to randomly pick people as He walked along to be part of His group.
Jesus: Hey, you two there, messing with the fishing nets, follow me!
Peter & Andrew: ok (Mark 1:17)
Jesus: Hey, you there, collecting taxes, follow me!
Matthew: ok (Matthew 9:9)
Jesus: Hey, you there, sitting under the fig tree, follow me!
Nathanael: aight (John 1:48)
Did Jesus have rules or requirements for His followers?
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’(ESV)
23 Then Jesus said to all the people:
If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me. 24 If you want to save your life, you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me, you will save it.(CEV)
2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”(ESV)
7 Jesus answered, “You don’t really know what I am doing, but later you will understand.”8 “You will never wash my feet!” Peter replied.“If I don’t wash you,”Jesus told him, “you don’t really belong to me.”9 Peter said, “Lord, don’t wash just my feet. Wash my hands and my head.”
34 But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. 35 If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.(CEV)
Yes, Jesus did appear to have standards for discipleship. So logically one would have to think it reasonable that there should be some rules or requirements for being a member of His earthly church today. What should the requirements be for being a member of a local church fellowship?
Amos 3: 3Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?(NKJV)
As a church, we need to hold to the same common beliefs and if your church aligns itself with a particular denomination, it would be wise to review the corresponding beliefs to ensure you are in agreement. So a good starting point for church membership would be to require all members to acknowledge agreement to a belief statement of some sort.
So the next question immediately becomes, what things should be included on the belief statement? Since we are talking about a Christian church, the most important thing to agree upon is Jesus. Who is Jesus? What was His purpose? What did He do? Did He accomplish His goals? Where is He today? Is He coming back? What does He require of me?
15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.(ESV)
67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”(ESV)
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(ESV)
The most important thing to agree upon the person of Jesus Christ, who He is – the only begotten Son of God, the circumstances surrounding His birth – born of a virgin, life – perfect and sinless, death – crucified as an atoning sacrifice to God the Father, and resurrection – rose from the grave after three days just as He foretold, and desire believers baptism (or already have been baptized).
Early Church in Acts
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.(NKJV)
Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch
34 So the eunuch answered Philip and said, “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”
And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. 39 Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went on his way rejoicing.(NKJV)
In addition to believing upon the person of Jesus, it is necessary to agree upon scripture. After all the majority of the revelation we have of Jesus comes from the Bible. Is it the perfect, inerrant Word of God or some man-made fairy tale? In order to maintain harmony and effectively preach the Gospel agreement on the Holy Scriptures is essential.
Members are ALL going to need to agree on some basic foundational truths. I’m not sure how the various denominations declare or define their beliefs but the Southern Baptists have a document called The Baptist Faith and Message which articulates the Baptist’s commonly held beliefs concerning the Christian faith. Things discussed include Scripture, God, Man, Salvation, The Church, Baptism, The Family, etc.