The elders in their pastoral care ought to ensure that none joins the church lightly or unaware of their sacred privileges and responsibilities. Members ought to consider themselves bound by the laws of Christ and by their mutual covenant together, in his holy Name to love one another and to be faithful towards each other in word and deed. The members will enjoy spiritual joys and growth in grace will be seen in the responsible discharge of certain obligations, which include:
The Promotion of true Christian Fellowship
The New Testament shows us the church as a company of believers bound to one another in Christ, and pledged to seek together the advancement of spiritual life, and the spread of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. When a believer joins a church, then his responsibility is to promote such fellowship. Membership involves giving ourselves to one another. We are to hide each other’s faults, bear each other’s burdens, uphold each other in prayer. When church membership is seen in these terms of fellowship it will cease to appear forbidding and will be seen rather as something delightful and desirable for every child of God.
Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 10; 12:25-27; Phil. 1:27; Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35.
Regular Attendance at the Gatherings of the Church
Clearly, fellowship is not possible apart from regular meetings together. Church members are under obligation to gather together for worship as far as is possible. Consequently, those who move from the district are not in a position to fulfil the duties of membership. Such persons should be encouraged to join another New Testament local church, where they are able to be actively involved in fellowship. Churches should arrange their meetings so that it is possible for all to meet together on some occasions.
Financial Support of the Church
The work of the church requires finance. The scriptures indicate that members have a responsibility to contribute regularly to the support of the ministry and the maintenance of the witness as a whole. Where membership is taken seriously, money will be freely given by members under the glad constraint of a knowledge of biblical principles and a love of the Lord and his work.
2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Luke, 12:16-21; 1 Cor. 9:14.
Sharing in Decision-making
Church members should be prayerfully involved directly or indirectly in every decision of the church including the setting apart of elders and deacons, the sending out of missionaries and the practice of discipline.
Acts 1 :23-26; 6:3-5; 13:1-3; 1 Cor. 5:4, 5, 13; 2 Cor. 2:6, 7; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14, 15.
Women in the Church
Scripture clearly teaches the headship of man and relates this to the place of women in the church (1 Cor. 11 :1-16; 14:34, 35; 1 Tim. 2:11-15). This headship is based on man’s prior creation and woman’s prior fall into sin. From 1 Cor. 14:34; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12; Eph. 5:21-24 we learn that women are to take a place of submission which excludes the possibility of their ruling in the church. At the same time, womenhave an important scriptural function in the life of the church. Abundant evidence is provided by the passages cited below, in the first five of which the reference is not to wives but to women working alongside the elders and deacons. It is clear that the gifts of women are to be recognised and used, and that those with special qualifications are to be brought actively and officially into cooperation with the elders.
Acts 2:17, 18; 18:1, 2; Rom. 16:1-12; Phil. 4:2, 3; 1 Tim. 3:11; Titus 2:3.
Cessation of Membership
There are three ways in which membership of a Gospel church can be terminated: – by dismissal, by exclusion or by death. Personal resignation from a church is a mistaken concept. The Church is Christ’s own institution — indeed, his Body on earth — and its proper dignity requires each local church to proceed on the principle that the individual cannot withdraw from the Body, but the Body must if necessary, cut off the individual. While office can be resigned, membership cannot. A member may be dismissed by means of a letter of commendation and dismissal from his church, so that he may unite with another local church provided that his motives are proper. Exclusion is the church’s exercise of its lawful authority and discipline, by which it withdraws fellowship from a person proved to be an unworthymember. His connection with the the body is dissolved, and therefore ceases. Death severs the bond of local church membership, and transfers the believer from the church on earth to that above.
Members who cannot be traced because of removal should be deleted from the church roll automatically without discussion or comment, as a matter of church business. The church roll should regularly revised so as to represent faithfully the living fellowship of the church.
2 Cor. 3:1; 1 Cor. 5:13.