Recently I was asked by someone about membership in our congregation and I thought this a great opportunity to share a few words about membership in the church for those interested in this step, as well as for those who are members already.
We believe that the church is the assembly of believers among whom the gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel (AC VII). Yes, the Church is that invisible and visible collection of all God’s people throughout time and around the world, but the Holy Spirit also makes the church tangible by calling and gathering people into Christian communities like Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. Just as God sent His only Son in the flesh to save us, so also we need this flesh and blood community as God’s means of supporting us in the faith.
Yes, it is theoretically possible to be part of the Church without belonging to a local congregation, but Scripture witnesses over and over again that this God’s will goes further than this. Consider all the congregations that the New Testament speaks about. Just as we have been created for relationship in marriage and family, so also God has brought into existence through the power of the Holy Spirit the local church for the good of His people.
We become “members” of the local church and the Church (catholic/universal) primarily through baptism. However, every local church is responsible for preparing people for membership in their congregation, whether they have been baptized or not. Why is that? Most people today, whether inside or outside the church, have very little understanding of the Christian faith. One of the primary baptismal callings of the church is to teach (Matthew 28:20) and likewise, it is the calling of those to be baptized and the baptized to continue to learn (John 15:1-11) as part of Christ’s body.
In fact, the way we describe membership in our Christian community is in this way (C4.02):
Membership in this congregation, as part of the body of Christ, is God’s call to each baptized person inviting him or her to follow Jesus Christ into:
a. Christian community,
b. a common confession of faith,
c. a life of discipleship and spiritual formation, and
d. participation in God’s mission.
So when a person is called by the Holy Spirit to join our congregation these are the steps that are taken:
1. Make application
2. Be prepared for membership/discipleship through Christian instruction
3. Submit to this congregation’s Confession of Faith.
4. Be approved by the Council of Elders
5. Be received through the appropriate rite (Baptism or Affirmation of Baptism).
If you are a member I encourage you to continued growth and participation in those things mentioned above. If you are not a member, I invite you to consider what God may be calling you to within the life of His people.
Please contact the office if you are interested and fill out an application. Classes are starting soon!
– Pastor Tim