While formal membership at Grace Bible Church is not required to attend worship services, enjoy community groups, or to serve at Grace in many different ministry capacities, we do require membership as a prerequisite for a small number of ministry roles.
First of all, let us acknowledge that membership does not make a believer a different kind of Christian. It does not infuse greater qualifications for ministry, make a believer more spiritual, or in any way add to what Jesus Christ has already accomplished. Nevertheless, The pastors of GBC have determined that a formal process of membership does assist in establishing a few important things.
The formal commitment of membership encourages the believer in their covenant to care for and serve the local church body, and to affirm to submit to the leadership and oversight of the eldership of GBC. It establishes accountability between members for the mutual edification, growth and love of one another. In addition, each applicant for membership is asked to review our By-Laws and Doctrinal Statement, and to provide “an account for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), that is, a Christian testimony of their salvation. They must also be personally interviewed by a member of the pastoral staff.
As such, the membership process provides the pastors of GBC with the opportunity to ascertain some measure of each applicant’s beliefs, doctrine, personal history and their essential understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
All of this provides a measure of knowledge and familiarity with members, which is of great advantage when considering specific ministry roles. For instance, we take very seriously the trust that parents place in us for the care of their children. The sinful society in which we live poses particular threats to children which were not widespread in other generations. The depravity of the times mandates a high degree of caution, especially with regard to the safety of the children entrusted to our care, as those who may endanger or seek to harm may try to disguise themselves as harmless and defenseless, as “wolves in sheep’s clothing”, as it were.
As the membership application process provides an initial opportunity to discuss a believer’s personal testimony, as well as the applicant’s personal background and history, we maintain membership as a prerequisite for continuing service in ministry to children. This is a primary precaution, but by no means the only precaution, we maintain to protect the safety and well-being of the children we seek to care and serve.
We hope this provides some measure of explanation and encouragement regarding the requirement of membership for a small number of ministry opportunities here at Grace Bible Church. Our goal is not to arbitrarily restrict or frustrate the ministry and giftedness of believers, but rather to provide reasonable pastoral oversight to maximize the care, growth, maturity and protection of the saints.