Church Handbook

Chapter 4 Membership Standards (Responsibilities and Commitments)

Chapter 4 Membership Standards (Responsibilities and Commitments)
 *Profession *Participation *Peace *Purity *Pastoral

 

It is glorious privilege to be a Member of the Church, of which Jesus said:"I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell (death) shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The Church is established by Jesus Christ Himself as His governmental Assembly in the earth. We represent Him both individually and collectively as a Church. We are called to bear witness to Him and His Gospel and be a demonstration of the manifold wisdom of God to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). Therefore we are required to walk worthy of the high calling by which we are called (Eph 4:1).

 Church Members are a group of people who love God and want to unite in love and faith with each other in order to be a shining WITNESSto the world of the love and power of Jesus Christ. After all this is why we are here on the earth!

Individually we are called to be witnesses as lights in a dark world. Even above this as we are called to form a united witness by our commitment and life together in a local Church. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity...for there the Lord commands the blessing-even life forevermore” (Psalm 133). Then we shall be as Jesus desires: “a city on a hill which cannot be hid.”

Therefore in order to protect our united witness of the love of Jesus and make it as effective as possible, it is necessary for us to have Membership Standards of Commitment. 

1. Profession of faith in Christ.
“I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for my sins, was buried and rose again the third day for my salvation. I receive Him as my Saviour and surrender my life to Him as my Lord.”


To become a true believer in Jesus Christ who has received forgiveness and eternal life we must realise:

1. Salvation is offered to man as a free-gift, by God’s grace, and as such it is not earned or deserved.
2. That we are all sinners by nature and therefore cannot save ourselves by our own goodness or efforts.
3. That although God is merciful and does not want to punish us, He is also just and must punish our sin, which would result in our eternal destruction.
4. Therefore to provide our salvation God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. He lived a perfect life and worked many miracles, thus proving himself to be the unique Son of God, fully God and fully human.
5. Jesus died on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sins and purchase a place in heaven for us, with his precious blood. He was buried and on the third day He rose again and is alive forevermore. He now offers salvation (forgiveness and a new life) as a free-gift to all.

6. This gift is received by faith. This means believing the Good-News of Jesus Christ, and trusting in him alone for salvation and eternal life. This involves turning from going my own way and receiving Jesus into my heart as my Saviour, surrendering my whole life to Him as my Lord.
7. This will lead to a life of following Jesus and His teaching in the Bible. This starts by being baptised in water (Appendix 4) and seeking to receive the fullness of His Spirit.

 2. Participation in Church life.
“I commit to serve Christ in this Church by supporting and participating in its worship and work, to the best of my ability as God gives me the grace to do so.”

* Sharing the responsibility of my Church.
1. By praying
 for the Church, its leaders, members, and growth (1Thessalonians 1:1-2).

2. By inviting
 and bringing (if possible) the unchurched to attend (Luke 14:23).

3. By warmly welcoming
 those who visit (Romans 15:7). 

* Supporting the testimony of my Church.
1. By attending regularly
 at least one of our Sunday Services each week (Hebrews 10:25).

2. By living a godly and loving life 
(Philippians 1:27)

3. By giving regularly 
(1Corinthians 16:2, Leviticus 27:30). We are just stewards (managers) of God’s resources. We should give the first fruits of our income to God. 
This is the way we acknowledge that all we have comes from God and belongs to God. This is a major key to walking in God’s financial blessing. We believe that the Tithe (tenth) given to God through the local Church is the Biblical guideline (both in the Old and New Testaments) for our basic giving to God. However, Tithing is not a requirement for Membership. (See the Appendix 5 on Stewardship for more on this). 

*If you pay tax there is a simple way you can greatly increase your giving at no extra cost to yourself. It just involves filling out a simple Gift-Aid form and using our specially provided envelopes to put  your Tithes and Offerings in. This allows 
the Church to reclaim an extra 28% from the Government.

 * Serving in the ministry of my Church.

1. By developing a servant’s heart 
(Philippians 2:3,4,7).

2. By discovering and using my gifts and talents 
(1Pet4:10)

3. By finding a place of service and ministry in the Church, to build up the body of Christ
 (Ephesians 4:11,12)

Every member of a body both receives and gives life to the rest of the members. Every member has a function in the Church body (1Cor 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:12-16; Romans 12:3-10).

- Membership implies a minimum of regular Sunday attendance plus some other involvement in the Church, whether it is in some ministry (spiritual or practical) or some mid-week Home, Prayer or Bible-study group. 

*Regular prayer for the Church and its members, services and outreaches is one of the most important possible ministries.

*We have found from experience that to maintain a stable Christian life and spiritual growth, regular Sunday attendance plus some extra involvement is normally necessary. 

*New Members can discuss with the Pastor possible ways of being involved.

* It is understood that people can have different special situations that can limit their participation. 
Membership is first of all a heart-connection and commitment to the Church, which is shown in a variety of ways. 

* To serve or minister in the Church it is necessary to be a member. The Bible says we should: “Know those who labour among us.” 

3. Peace among the brethren.
“In order that I might support and be a blessing to the Church I will walk in love and forgiveness, pursuing harmony and peace within our Church in every way possible. 

If there are policies or decisions made by the leaders with which I do not agree or may not understand, I will go to them and make my concern known to them rather than going to others with the possibility of sowing seeds of dissension and division. 

Although I may not personally affirm every doctrinal position of the Church, yet I will publicly respect and not undermine the doctrinal standards of the Church.”

I will protect the unity of the Church:

1. By acting in love toward other members 
(Romans 14:19, 1Peter 1:22). Unity is necessary for God’s blessing and anointing to fill the Church (Psalm 133). 

2. By refusing to gossip 
(Ephesians 4:29) 
“An evil report is one that hurts the peace of the Church. It is using words, tone of voice or facial expressions to put another member in a bad light. It is damaging someone else’s reputation with information that does not need to be shared. It 
is encouraging or spreading discontent or discord” - Bill Gothard. It is sharing negative information when it is not part of a problem-solving procedure.

Seek to be positive in speech and remain silent rather than being unnecessarily negative. “A good report makes healthy bones” (Proverbs 15:30). “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends” (Proverbs 17:9).

 

 3. By following the leaders: 
“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” 
(Hebrews 13:17). 

“We urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labour among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. Be at peace among yourselves (1Thessalonians 5:12,13).

Scriptural guidelines for problem situations that guarantee
 peace within a Church (see ‘Church Government’ and Appendix 2: ‘Dealing with Sins and Offenses’ for more on this).

First PRAY about it and then examine your own heart, and correct your own attitudes and actions. Forgive the person from your heart.

If necessary, go directly to those with whom you have a problem (Matthew 18:15) and go directly to those who have a problem with you (Matthew 5:23-24). Make sure your motive is genuine love for them and a desire for reconciliation rather than ‘getting back’ at them. Do not ‘punish’ the person by going to a third party and telling him all about it. “He who sows discord among the brethren is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 6:19). “If any think himself religious and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26).

Ways to stop someone giving a bad report. 
Lovingly ask: “Do you feel I am responsible to know about this? I would rather not hear about this unless I am directly involved. Have you gone to the person involved?... remember our membership commitment...Let’s pray.” If someone is filling your ear with negative talk about a person or situation,
 stop them and turn the conversation to prayer for that person, so that they can be constructive rather than destructive.

If it is a serious situation
 where further action needs to be taken - Matthew 18:15-17 may need to be followed: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that `by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the Church. But if he refuses even to hear the Church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” 

4. Purity of lifestyle.
“I realise the high standard of purity called for by my Lord Jesus Christ and thus by Oxford Bible Church. I seek to do my share by maintaining moral purity and a godly lifestyle.”

This is important for the witness of the Church and for it not to be compromised. In a society of loose morals it is essential that the Church does not compromise its standards. “A little leaven (sin), leavens the whole lump (spreads!)”(1Corinthians 5:6). 

Now we don’t expect non-Christians to behave like Christians. We are to accept newcomers, telling them of God’s grace and love for them, without necessarily approving of what they do. However we expect higher standards of those who would be Church members.

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness (impurity) of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord” (2Corinthians 7:1).

Moral Impurity includes:
(1) Adultery (sex by married persons outside marriage)
(2) Fornication (sex by unmarried persons) (Hebrews 13:4)
(3) Homosexuality (Romans 1:26,27)

Spiritual Impurity
It will be necessary for any member to have repented and renounced any occult involvement from the past.

As Members we represent our Lord Jesus Christ and the Oxford Bible Church. As we show forth the fruit of the Spirit we bring credit upon our Lord and upon the Church, but our sin brings disrepute. Members are responsible and accountable to the Lord and to one another to live a life pleasing to the Lord and that will draw others to want to know Him.

LIFESTYLE GUIDELINES Perfection is not demanded! - in fact we all have to overcome the sinful tendency of the flesh by the power of the Holy-Spirit. But it is expected of every Church Member, no matter the depth of spiritual maturity, that he/she is seeking to live a life of obedience to Christ, seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, willing to become increasingly free from sinful practices in their daily life. (Matthew 6:33, John 8:31-36; Philippians 3:12-16). We can only do this by the power of the Spirit within us and we should call upon His help (Romans 8:4, 1Corinthians 10:13, 2Corinthians 12:9, Galatians 5:16-18). In our areas of special weakness we should receive Pastoral help in counsel and prayer.

Factors which are essential for a life of purity:
1. A daily intake of God’s Word. As well as Bibles, the 
Church provides Christian books, and audio and video tapes.

2. Daily communication with God in prayer. 
Prayerlessness is a form of pride (trusting in self) which will lead to other sins.

3. Regular fellowship with other believers.

4. Witnessing to others of your faith in Christ. Nothing will keep you spiritually alert, alive and joyful like telling others of Jesus. When you are being a blessing you are truly blessed. 

The following guidelines to areas of our life are not given to condemn but to help us focus upon areas of repentance and growth so that Church Members overcome the flesh, the world and the devil, and bear much fruit as Christ’s witnesses.

Fear and Worry is not becoming for those who believe in a loving heavenly Father and Good Shepherd (Matthew 6:25-34, 2Timothy1:7, Hebrews 13:6, 1Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-8,13,19)

Bad attitudes: 
hatred, malice, envy, jealousy, wrath, revenge. 
Integrity and Faithfulness.
 We must be trustworthy men and women, who keep our word, even to our hurt. If in debt, we should seek to repay it as a top priority. We should fulfil our responsibilities in life, honouring every person as valuable and special in God’s sight and respecting authority. We must honour vows, especially our marriage-vows. We should lead diligent and productive lives, not wasting the time God has given us, in laziness. We must not steal from people or organisations, nor mislead them. If our word is good, people will listen when we tell them of Christ. Then God says it will go well for us in life.

Replace greed, lust and covetousness with contentment. 
(Matthew 6:19-24, Hebrews 13:5). Strong addictions like pornography and gambling, require a determined calling upon God’s grace. In these days of lowering standards on the TV, 
we must keep a strong control over what we watch.


Bitterness, unforgiveness and resentment
 are deadly to your spiritual life (Mark 11:25; Hebrews 12:15). Be merciful as God was and is merciful with you.

Pride, superiority, selfish ambition and judgement of others
 comes before a fall (Romans 2:1). God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud (James 4:6; 1Peter 5:5-6; Philippians 2:1-11) Beware especially of spiritual pride that comes from things you do, ministries you know or revelations you have, causing you to look down on those you see as less spiritual. 

Sins of the tongue: cursing, lies, gossip, strife, swearing, coarse jesting (James 3).  Replace these things with the language of heaven - praise and thanksgiving.

Wrong Relationships. 
We must commit our relationships to the will of God. We find it a common trap of the enemy to deceive Christians into romantic attachments with non-Christians. This is expressly forbidden by God’s Word, and usually leads to immorality and backsliding (2Cor 6:14-18). If a member is experiencing temptation in this area they should come to the Pastors for prayer and counsel. Of course if you are already married to an unsaved person, the Bible tells you to win them to Christ by a loving example (1Pet 3:1,2).
 

 

 

 Substance Addiction
Another way our witness is damaged is by a dependence on smoking or alcohol. While the Bible allows us to drink a small amount of alcohol, regular drinking of significant quantities is a substitute for being filled with the Holy-Spirit. It also destroys our spiritual strength and good character (Ephesians 5:18). If a member has a problem in these areas, then they must seek God’s help in that area, as well as help from the Church.

The Law of Love. 
Christians are supremely to govern themselves by the law of love. Even if you have a clear conscience about doing something, if you are with a brother who would be offended, love dictates that you should refrain.“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34,35).

The Fruit of the Spirit 
(Galatians 5:22,23). Most of all we should cultivate the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: “LOVE, JOY, PEACE, LONGSUFFERING, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL.” 
These qualities are essential if we are to be a positive witness of Jesus Christ. They are the ultimate proof of the reality and transforming power of Jesus Christ.

Other passages for self-examination: Matthew 5-7, 10:32,33; 12:33-37; 13:18-23; 18:21-35; Romans 1:24-2:1; 3:10-18; 12:9-13:14; 1Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 4:17-5:6; Colossians 3, 1Thessalonians 4:3-8,11,12; 5:12-22; 2Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1Timothy 3; 6:3-12; Titus 2; Hebrews 10:22-25; 12:1-17; 13:1-17; James 3 and 4.

5. Pastoral Care.
“As a follower of Jesus Christ, I commit myself to grow in the knowledge of Christ and His will, to put what I learn into practice. To help me in this I submit to the Pastoral care and authority of the Church, and if I need help concerning a doubtful issue, relationship or decision, I will call upon a leader for counsel or prayer.”

We are commanded to disciple new believers to maturity. This happens primarily through new believers becoming Members of a local Bible believing Church. Membership is not just attending meetings. It is about being part of a family, a body of believers. This involves us all submitting (giving way) to one another, and to the leadership of the Church. 

At the heart of Membership is a heart-commitment to submit to the Pastoral ministry of the Church. This in turn releases the Pastoral anointing towards you. This commitment does not mean you have to agree with everything said and done. This Pastoral authority is not given to interfere in the details of your life, or to control all your decisions (i.e. heavy shepherding).

 The Bible charges Pastors, elders and leaders to: 
(1) Be an example to the flock.
(2) Feed the flock with the Word of God.
(3) Protect the flock, especially from false teaching.
(4) Prayerfully watch over every church member.
(5) Equip the members for the work of ministry.
See 1Peter 5:1-5, Acts 20:28,29; Hebrews 13:17, 
1Thessalonians 5:12,13; Ephesians 4,5; Matthew 28:18-20 

They are responsible to govern the Church 
and care for the spiritual needs of its members.
 

The authority of the Pastor is for the purpose of Church unity and the spiritual growth of all the members. All believers should be under the shepherding oversight 
of the leadership of a local Church. 

Firstly Pastoral authority extends over the functioning of the Church in its various ministries. 

Secondly
 Members should be willing to receive pastoral correction when they are clearly acting contrary to the Word of God, for leaders are commanded to watch out and protect the souls (spiritual lives) of the members; through prayer and instruction in God’s Word (Hebrews 13:17). 

Thirdly
 God has placed and anointed Pastors and leaders for your benefit in times of need. So do let them know so they can pray for you or advise you. 
Please pray for the Pastor and leaders of the Church for wisdom to know God’s will, boldness to declare God’s will, and strength to do God’s will. Remember they will soon have to give an account to God for their ministry to you as a member. Help make their work enjoyable rather than stressful! 

 

 OUR COMMITMENT: “The Pastor and elders commit by God’s grace to teach, counsel, equip, pray and work for the spiritual health, growth and effectiveness of the Members.”

 1. Teaching We commit to thoroughly teach you God’s Word, and to do so in such submission to the Holy-Spirit, that faith will arise in your heart as you hear the Word of God (Romans 10:17).
  
 2. Wise Counsel We commit ourselves to always endeavour to provide you with wise counsel which is both lovingly shared and faithful to the teaching of Jesus (2Timothy 3:16). Anything private you share with us will be treated with confidentiality. We will not minimise sin, but if you express true repentance for past sins we will think more of you, not less.
 
 3. Prayer We commit ourselves to pray for you, petitioning the Father to perform and perfect the good work which He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6) and that you would prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers (3John 2), and that you would fulfill God’s will and purpose for your life.
 
 4. Support We commit ourselves to stand by you during any time of personal need or crisis, offering help as we are able, and mobilising and encouraging the church family to help you.
 
 5. Love We commit ourselves to love you with the love of Christ, always working and praying for your good and blessing, in accordance with His commandments (1Corinthians 13). We commit to believe the best of you and refuse to believe 
any baseless accusation or evil gossip about you.

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