Membership

i. WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?

Without a doubt, the most important thing we can help you to understand in this class is the Good News (Gospel) of Jesus Christ. We believe it can be summarized with four main points:

1) GOD.

There is only one God (Deut 6:4), the Creator who spoke the world into existence, sustains everything by His power, and sovereignly rules and reigns over all aspects of His creation. Not only is God all-powerful, but He is totally and completely holy. As such, He cannot tolerate and must punish sin.

2) MAN.

God originally created mankind to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. Mankind rebelled from God's plan and incurred the curse of sin (Is 53:6). All human beings are born into sin, choose to sin and are under God's fierce wrath (Rom 1:18ff; 3:23). The punishment that all human beings deserve is eternal separation from the presence of God and agonizing eternal torment in hell (Rom 6:23).

3) CHRIST.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only person who has ever lived a sinless life, fulfilling the demands of God's law perfectly (Gal 4:4). Therefore, He is the only One who can be a Savior. In His great mercy and love, God has chosen to punish His Son in the place of guilty sinners (Rom 5:6,8). In His death on the cross, Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, became sin (2 Cor 5:21) so His righteousness could be credited to all who believe. In His resurrection from the dead, Jesus visibly demonstrated His Father's acceptance of His sacrifice on behalf of sinners.

4) OUR RESPONSE.

In order for the sinless, righteous life of Christ to be credited to us, we must repent (turn, change our minds/attitudes) from our sins and place faith in Christ for salvation (Rom 10:9,10). The gospel, then, is the exchange of one life for another. The sinner yields his sinful, dirty life over to Christ by repentance and faith; Christ then credits His own righteous, perfect life to the believing sinner. This is the greatest news anyone can ever hear! This exchange of one life for another (conversion, salvation) will evidence itself by consistent good works. In other words, the converted sinner, although never reaching sinless perfection in this life, will continue in the Word of Christ, displaying a continually transforming life (John 8:31).

II. WHAT IS CHURCH MEMBERSHIP?

Why Join a Church?

It seems like such an unusual topic doesn't it? Perhaps for a number of reasons:
* Many people today don't think about church membership.
* Maybe they just take it for granted.
* Maybe they just spend a lot of time looking and hopping around.
* Maybe people ignore it, or simply are opposed to the idea.

But perhaps we have gotten off track in our churches today. With so many choices in our lives, from the things we purchase to the places we go to eat to how we are going to spend a Saturday afternoon, we definitely have gotten used to making our choices based on which one will bring us the most benefit. This mindset is especially dangerous in the church, as we are called to serve one another, not look out for our own best interests.

Christians cannot see themselves as consumers when it comes to their Christian lives, but as providers. We are to provide real help and service and blessing to our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as to those outside the church. If you are a Christian, you ought to join a church to live out your Christian life. There is no other conclusion we can come to from reading the New Testament. EVERY Christian there was a part of a local church. There are NO exceptions. Briefly, then, why join a church?

1) JOIN A CHURCH FOR THE BENEFIT OF NON-CHRISTIANS

Those who do not know Christ will be able to better understand the Gospel if they can see how it has changed your life. And they may just help to be awakened to their unsaved state if they can see a real difference in your life as compared to theirs. They may say, Oh, I see how a Christian is supposed to live. I must not be one, then. Joining and participating in the life a church makes the Gospel clear to non-Christians.

2) JOIN A CHURCH FOR THE BENEFIT OF WEAKER CHRISTIANS

It is quite dangerous for a genuine believer to live out his Christian life in isolation from other believers in God's ordained institution, the church. There are plenty, it seems, who attempt to do that. By joining a church, you can contribute to putting an end to that kind of thinking. And part of God's plan for you is to commit yourself wholeheartedly to a group of believers (a local church) so that those weaker in the faith than you can be strengthened and grow in their walk with Christ by your ministry to them.

3) JOIN A CHURCH FOR THE BENEFIT OF CHURCH LEADERS

If you are not a member of this church, the pastor, deacons and other leaders may not know your name. We may not remember it, and therefore may not pray for you regularly. We don' even know if you are a Christian. We've not heard your testimony. We cannot minister effectively to you, or help you grow in your faith if you are simply an attender, have not committed yourself to the life of the church, and may or may not stick around. To effectively minister to people, we need individuals and families to say, Okay, this church is not perfect, but I agree with what they teach, I am on board with what they are trying to do (be faithful to the Bible), and so I will plant myself here and live for Christ with these people. That is the kind of commitment that will help the church leaders serve you well, which we long to do.

4) JOIN A CHURCH FOR GOD

The church is referred to as the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and the New Testament says that Christ actually purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Christ so strongly identifies with His church that He told Saul (before he became Paul on the road to Damascus that in persecuting the church, he was actually persecuting Christ Himself (Acts 9:4)! As a Christian, you ought to love what Jesus loves. You ought to love what God loves. And it is clear that Christ loves the church so much that He gave His life for her (Eph 5:25-32). Committing yourself to membership in a local church seems to be the only logical option you have if you are to live a Christian life that honors God and displays His glorious Gospel.


What Are Members Expected to Do?

Basically, someone who commits to Liberty Baptist Church as a member is expected to be involved in the life of the church. This is because the Church is the Body of Christ, and we are individually members of it (1 Cor 12:27). When we become Christians, we are baptized into the family of God, the church (1 Cor 12:13), and therefore ought to demonstrate a manner of living that is different from those that do not know God. The Bible is clear that the Christian life should be lived out not in isolation, but in a community of other Christians. This is what the church is all about. When Liberty grants membership to someone, we are saying that this person gives evidence of being genuinely converted by the Spirit of God (John 3). When a church member is not involved in the life the church of which he is member, both that person and the church as a whole is giving a false impression to the world of what it means to be a Christian. In effect, they are lying about the very character of God. So what does involvement look like?

1) Attendance at worship services.

This is the easiest responsibility you will have as a member. It ought to be your priority to attend Sunday morning worship every week, engage yourself in the worship of God with His people, have conversations with others, and listen to and be shaped by the Word of God as it is preached. Members should make a special effort to attend worship services that include baptism and Communion (Communion is observed the first Sunday of each month in the morning service).

2) Attendance at business meetings.

This is where individuals are voted on and received into membership and matters of financial and spiritual importance are discussed and decided upon. Business meetings are held on a Wednesday night (usually about the third Wednesday) during the months of March, June, September, and December.

3) Contributing your gifts and talents.

There are plenty of ways to be involved in helping Liberty carry out its ministries, from serving in the kitchen, helping set up/take down tables and chairs to teaching to serving on a committee or helping with our nursery and children's ministries. Each member should seek to contribute his or her abilities in order to benefit others (1 Pet 4:10).

4) Giving financially.

Part of our understanding of what it means to be a Christian is that we are now owned by God Himself (1 Cor 6:19-20). Therefore, everything we have belongs to Him (Ps 24:1). Each member ought to prayerfully, joyfully, and faithfully give money to Liberty (and therefore to God Himself) in order to help the church carry out the tasks God places before it.

5) Sharing the Gospel with lost people.

No one is going to be saved without hearing the Gospel, and no one will hear unless someone tells them (Rom 10:9-14). Christians ought to be intentionally forming friendships and acquaintances with non-Christians, and take the opportunity to give them the Good News of Jesus Christ, both with their words and actions.

Besides all this, as a member you should be continually committed to getting to know people, making new friendships, and seeking to serve and meet people's needs. This demonstration of love is what gives credibility to our witness of the Gospel (John 13:35).


III. WHY BAPTIST?

Liberty is a Baptist church because we believe that the Bible teaches what those Christians called Baptists have historically believed:
1) All believers should be baptized.
2) This baptism should occur after genuine conversion.
3) This baptism should be by immersion.
4) The church is to be composed only of baptized believers.


V. IN CONCLUSION

Membership is absolutely important. We are to love and be committed to one another in the Body of Christ because of how God loved us and was committed to us in the Gospel.

If you would like to join Liberty Baptist Church, or just have questions, please see me to arrange a meeting or call the church office later in the week.