We strongly believe that Christianity is a corporate matter. It is our conviction that the Christian life— membership in the body of Christ —can only be fully realized in relationships and community with others.
What is Church Membership?
Church membership is a mutually recognized commitment between an individual Christian and a local church. It is a formal relationship “characterized by the church’s affirmation and oversight of a Christian’s discipleship and the Christian’s submission to living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church” (Leeman, Church Membership, 64).
While the term “membership” is not explicitly found in Scripture, the idea is everywhere (just like the terms “Trinity” or “Penal Substitution”). It’s not like joining a club— where you pay dues and expect services in return —but more like a marriage “covenant” where a church takes responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian a takes responsibility for, and submits to, a church. It’s a picture of a Christian’s membership in Christ’s universal body.
Why Become a Member?
The Bible teaches that membership in a local church is the normal expectation for a healthy Christian who desires to be obedient to the commands of Scripture. We are called to assemble together regularly to build one another up in Christ (Heb. 10:23-25), to encourage one another regularly (Heb. 3:12-14), to work together to get the Gospel to lost people around the world (Matt. 28:18-20), to protect each other from sin (Jas. 5:19-20), to guard the church from hypocrisy (Matt. 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5:1-13), and to be built up by the regular teaching of God’s Word through gifted teachers (Heb. 13:17). To faithfully follow these commands, Christians lock arms with other believers in a local assembly to foster deep, authentic, God-glorifying, sin-fighting relationships.
Becoming a member of a local church is not merely a record of a statement made, an opportunity to have a voice in church business, required for salvation, or simply an affection toward a familiar place – it is the reflection of a living commitment, intended to be a testimony to our membership in the universal church. In joining a church, we are asking our brothers, sisters, and leaders to hold us accountable to our profession of faith, making ourselves available to be encouraged and challenged in our walk, and covenanting together to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2).
Our membership covenant details the responsibilities and duties of believers in regards to their relationships with one another and the leadership of the church. It is an affirmation to enter into these duties for God’s glory and for the good of the body, the bride of His Son.
How to Become a Member
Simply put, membership is for Christians; it’s for those who have repented and believed the gospel and have publicly identified with the Lord Jesus Christ through baptism (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:38; cf. Rom 6:4)
For those interested in becoming a covenant member of Elmira Christian Center, a class is taught periodically throughout the year covering the biblical evidence for church membership, our covenant, Statement of Faith, as well as our vision, mission, and values. To learn when the next membership class is being offered, check our upcoming events page.
After each prospective member has completed the class, they will be able to fill out a Membership Application and turn it in to one of our church’s staff members. Once we have received your application, you will need to complete an ‘interview’ with the pastor. This informal meeting gives us the opportunity to get to know you better by hearing your testimony, your understanding of the gospel, your past church involvement, and answering any questions you may have.
Having successfully completed this interview, the next step in the process is for prospective candidates to be recommended to the church body for acceptance into membership, which takes place at one of our members meeting. (Note: The amount of time between these steps will vary, based on a variety of factors.)
For more information, we highly recommend the following resources:
- An Elevator Pitch for Church Membership
- 10 Things You Should Know about Church Membership
- Twelve Reasons Why Membership Matters
- Church Membership: Following the Lord Together, 9Marks Journal
- Church Membership: Holding the Body Together, 9Marks Journal
- Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, Jonathan Leeman
- What is a Healthy Church Member?, Thabiti Anyabwile
- The Compelling Community, Bobbie Jamieson