Become a Member | 21st Century Church of Christ

Become a Member

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What is Church Membership?

Many churches have official membership with guidelines on what is required to become a member. Some Christians object to formal membership because the true Church as the Body of Christ is made up of everyone who professes faith in Christ. There is no specific place in Scripture where believers are commanded to become formal members of a local church. However, believers are instructed in the New Testament to fellowship with other believers, to participate in the mission of the Church, to emulate the faith of their leaders, and to submit to the authority of the leaders of their church (Rom 12:3–21; 1 Cor 12:12–31; 16:15–16; Eph 4:11–16; 1 Thess 5:12; 1 Tim 5:17–19; Heb 13:7, 17; 1 Pet 5:1–5). Membership is a way for believers to formally identify a specific local church as the one they have aligned with to meet those aspects of Christian living.

Churches have different requirements for membership, but the basic requirements tend to be that you profess your faith in Christ, that you have been baptized (or you will be baptized before being accepted as a member), and that no one in the church community has any reason to object to your membership. If someone does object, that does not automatically disqualify you from membership. Generally, the church leadership will discuss the objection privately with the person making the objection to determine its validity and relevance to your membership.

For churches organized in a way that requires members to vote on certain issues of church business (e.g., a decision to hire a new staff member or appoint an elder or deacon), having an official membership is necessary for determining who is permitted to vote. Certain volunteer leadership positions in the church are also only open to members (e.g., elder or deacon). Even for churches where a board of elders or a denominational hierarchy (rather than the members themselves) makes decisions related to the operation of the church, membership is still a way for believers to formally indicate their association with a local body of believers. When prospective members sign a church membership agreement (sometimes called a “church covenant”), they are making a promise to others in the church to be part of their church community.

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What is Baptism?

Baptism is an ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ in the New Testament (Matt 28:19) for those who confess faith in him (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 8:12). Baptism is done by immersing the whole body in water (Matt 3:16; Acts 8:38�39), in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19).

When you are baptized, it serves as a sign of your fellowship with Christ and your identification with him in his death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:3�5). Baptism marks that you have now put on Christ (Gal 3:27) and received forgiveness for your sins (Acts 22:16). It is the public declaration of your repentance and your belief in Christ (Acts 2:38), symbolizing that you have committed to live and walk in newness of life through Christ (Rom 6:4).

When you decide to be baptized, you are acting in obedience with Christ�s command in Matt 28:19�20. At the moment you decided to place your faith in Christ, you were saved (Acts 2:21; 4:12). When you are baptized in water, you are acting out, in the physical realm, what has already happened to you in the spiritual realm�your death, burial, and resurrection through Christ (Gal 2:20; Rom 6:3�5; Col 2:12). Baptism by immersion best illustrates the symbolism of our shared death (crucifixion), burial, and resurrection with Christ. Going into the water symbolizes death and burial. Coming up out of the water symbolizes being raised with Christ to walk in newness of life.

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