Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Formal Local Church Membership
Another helpful resource is the sermon: "Why Church Membership?" which you can access at: (http://www.canyonprescott.org/sermons/sermon/2015-01-25/why-church-membership)
Why must there be an application process?
Church membership is meant to identify the believers, old and new, mature and immature, for whose soul-care the elders are responsible. Hebrews 13:17 presumes that a Christian has elders who shepherd them. We, as elders would simply like to know who those Christians are who are submitting themselves to our care and specifically who we are responsible to the Lord for. Church membership is a formal way of stating that I'm part of the universal body of Christ who has joined with other believers in this particular local congregation. The process tells us clearly that we have to answer for our care of you.
Why is it even necessary to identify believers, aren’t we all welcome?
Yes, all are welcome to attend our church on Sunday. However, we do not want to admit an unbeliever into the formal body of Christ as if faith in Christ was optional. We don't want to fool them into thinking they are right with God simply because they go to church (Matt. 7:22). Certainly we love unbelievers to come to our church and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, but when it comes to identifying the body of Christ at Canyon Bible Church of Prescott, we want (to the best of our knowledge) understand who is actually a Christian.
Is this process for “experienced” Christians?
Church membership isn't for some certain level of Christian. The idea of a Christian who isn't committed to a local church is foreign to the New Testament. The Word expects every Christian to be an involved part of the body of believers.
Why are these specific questions on the form?
Certain propositional truths must be understood if one is to be a Christian. Namely, who God is and what He has done in Christ to save us from our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The application asks a person to identify this gospel message, since without it, a person cannot be saved (Rom 10:9). They believe the message about Christ and repent (Acts 2:38). There may be on the application some questions about your life before Christ, so that we generally understand the conversion/new birth that has taken place in your life since coming to Christ (John 3:3). The reason for asking some of them is that they can often illuminate the reality of a saving faith and for no other reason.
Why is there a question about a previous divorce?
The Bible forbids divorce (Matt 5:32, Matt 19:6, Matt 19:9; Mk 10:9, Mk 10:11-12, Lk 16:17-18). That said, the Bible also allows divorce to occur as a last resort in these specific instances (Matthew 5:32, 19:9; 1Corinthians 7:15). Some divorces are allowed by Scripture and some are not. If a person divorced because of a spouse's adultery, or if a spouse decided to leave the marriage, OR if a believer has repented over pursuing an unbiblical divorce, that would never keep us from granting the believer membership. However, if a person pursued an unbiblical divorce and never repented of it, then we would see this as unrepentant sin, which a believer does not hold onto. So we would not admit the person into membership into our body of repentant sinners. As with all of these and would then welcome the opportunity to help resolve that situation. There are many legitimate questions for many situations. Please come talk to an elder if you have a question about how this applies to your specific situation. No unbiblical divorce is outside of the ability to be forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. In this we rejoice. We also teach that forgiveness comes to those who are repentant and acknowledge their sin (1 John 1:8,9).
Why can't anybody who wants to become a member simply join the church without having to complete a form or answer questions?
Paul told the Ephesian elders to protect the flock of God from wolves (Acts 20:28). We believe that by asking a few questions about your eagerness to submit to spiritual leadership, and what you believe about Christ and His gospel is a way to protect the flock from wolves. By asking these questions, which Paul tells us all to ask of ourselves anyway, we are trying to put a process in place where we can identify potential threats to the body in the future. This is not something to apologize for, but hopefully it can be seen as a way to show our love to the local church and a commitment to shepherd the flock of God among us (1 Peter 5:2-4).
What if I don't want to submit to imperfect men?
We understand this. We know that we too, must submit to each other’s direction and input and we are therefore under the exact same kind of authority. By putting in place a formal membership process, the elders of Canyon Bible Church are in no way, claiming to be infallible leaders. We need prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:25) and we need to be ourselves paying attention to our life and doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). The Bible is clear that elders are to lead local congregations (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; Titus 1:5). The Bible also instructs members of the church to submit to and to obey the leaders since the leaders are responsible for their souls before the Lord (Hebrews 13:17). Just as in a wives submission to a husband or an employee's submission to an employer, God has determined that sinful people would submit to other sinners (Colossians 3:18,22). This submission is to be from the heart and so that the leaders would experience joy (Hebrews 13:17). This is not a blank check for the leaders of the church to abuse, lie, cheat, make unnecessary demands, or to fulfill their own selfish agendas. Submission brings order and joy to a group that is united together. No church member should ever submit to a human leader if they are being led into or commanded to sin. Blind submission is not the goal. Order and joy is the goal.
Why do I need to be baptized before joining the church?
Acts 2:41 states, "So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls." The New Testament pattern for a new believer was to first identify with Christ publicly and then to be joined to His church. Baptism is the first act of obedience for a Christian.
What happens if I want to leave Canyon Bible Church of Prescott?
This is not the only God-honoring church in the area. We completely understand that. People sometimes want to switch churches for a variety of reasons. Like most decisions, people can choose to leave churches for good reasons and some choose to leave for bad reasons. If, after becoming a member of Canyon Bible Church of Prescott, you determine that you'd like to leave, we will pray for you and ask the Lord's favor to be upon you. We would love it if you could at least speak to one of the elders to let us know if there was a better way we could have shepherded you. We want to grow. We want to be faithful. If something is broken, please give us your perspective. We also may be able to give you more information about a particular area so that you have our perspective. Our hope is that anybody who commits as a member and decides to leave will be able to join a new local church without any spoken or unspoken conflict remaining. That healthy, God-honoring process is not possible without specific identification as member. As your current spiritual leaders we would love to discuss any questions or concerns that you would have prior to your decision to leave. The reason is simply that the Scriptures prize counsel and warn against isolation (Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 15:22).
Do I have any responsibilities if I become a Member?
Yes, but they are not imposed by the elders or formally demanded by this process. God’s Word tells us repeatedly, among other duties, that we are to love and be involved with one another; forgive one another, use the gifts He has given each in some service to the betterment of the body; to pray; to financially support; to “forsake not the gathering together of yourselves, ” in other words, to do life together.
Does the church have responsibilities to me if I become a Member?
Yes, as noted above, we are tasked with caring for your soul. That is, to faithfully teach and preach God’s Word, to shepherd and to serve you in your sanctification. This is a responsibility which the Lord imposes on the leadership and it demands that we teach, preach and model a humble submission to Christ.
Will Membership mean that I get to vote?
Under the only model given by the New Testament, elder leadership means that there are no congregational votes. Even the elders do not vote amongst themselves, instead, seeking to acknowledge that they are merely under-shepherds led by one Spirit, who will not lead men in different directions at the same time.
What if I have other questions?
If you would like to speak further or ask additional questions, we would love to interact with you on a Sunday morning after church or by appointment at our church offices.