Terms of Membership
This is another topic that has obviously been either confused or muddled. Having no creed but the Bible alone, we look to the Bible to determine our terms of membership. As a result, we do not "vote" a person into the congregation. Neither do we have a probationary period, a special class, or any other such thing to become a member. These things are simply not mentioned or even implied in scripture.
Terms of membership into the Lord's church are the same as those for Salvation. Ephesians 1:1-14 tells us that God has blessed those "In Him" or "In Christ" with every spiritual blessing, with redemption and forgiveness of sins, with an inheritance of Heaven, and with the Holy Spirit. The 2nd chapter of Ephesians tells how all Christians, whether they were a Jew or Gentile (non-Jew) have been brought together in Christ. This happened at the moment one was saved. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). God's part was extending his grace (undeserved mercy), our part is faith. The passage concludes: "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, God's household..." (Ephesians 2:19).
So then, when one is saved, he becomes part of God's household. This example is clearly seen in Acts 2:37-41. The people heard the message, repented (turned their life over to Christ), were Baptized, received the Holy Spirit, and were added to the church (verse 41). There was no other requirement but what was required to become a Christian - Repentance, Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit, which was promised to all those who would be converted to Christ.
I Corinthians 12:13 makes it even more clear: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...". "Body" or "Body of Christ" with Christ as the "head" is a common metaphor used in the New Testament to refer to the church. Salvation, receiving the Holy Spirit, becoming a part of the body of Christ (the church) all happen together at conversion. When one has faith in Christ, and that faith leads him to repent and turn his life over to Christ to make Jesus his Lord and Savior, which leads hims to confess that faith and be Baptized to demonstrate his faith in the death burial and resurrection of Jesus for our sins - that person becomes a child of God and a part of the body of Christ, the church.
The church is simply the "assembly" of those who are saved. We do not and will not impose any man made rules on any Christian to be a member of the Lord's church. After all, it is the church of "Christ", not our church. We take seriously Jesus' saying "In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).
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According to scripture, there is no such thing as a seperate Clergy and Laity in the church as is commonly understood in the religious world. All Christians are called "priests" in the Kingdom of God (I Peter 2:5, 9-10). The Bible teaches that every Christian is a minister. The original Greek word for minister is "Diakonos", which means servant, attendant or minister. This description applies to all Christians. The Greek word for the man who preaches in the pulpit is "kerux", which simply means "Preacher". Another term is "euangelistes", which means preacher of the good news, or "gospel preacher". These are the only words that designate the special ministry of preaching. Based on this, ministry opportunities are available to all members of the church. None of the ministries are strictly placed on our Preacher, including the ministry of preaching. Any Christian man in the congregation with the desire and some training who wishes to preach or teach may do so. Those who did have done a marvelous job preaching the word of God. The congregation is in the process of building its programs and ministries with opportunites for every member to serve. When you see an opportunity, the Bible says grab it and don't bury it in the ground (Matthew 25:14-30). The church as a whole is to do good, but so is each individual Christian.
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