In the article last week I defined the general purpose for each of the three documents of the church. Each serves a role and should be important to the members, though none ever take the place of the scriptures as the rule for faith and practice.
This week I will examine how two of these documents should be used by potential new members or those that have joined the church within the last year. This article is driven by the question, “If we do not use these documents as a church, why do we have them?” My hope is that this article will help us as churches use these documents in a better fashion.
Should we hand them out at the door?
The obvious question arises, when does the church give these documents to potential new members. Should we hand them out the first time a person visits? The clear answer to this question is a resounding “No!” These documents should never be what a visitor sees about the church. The thing they should observe is the love between members, the simpleness of the worship service, and the clear Love of God expressed through the preaching. These documents should not surface until a visitor begins asking questions about membership in the church. Even then they should not overrule love and counsel, but should be used as a tool of communication.
The Importance of the Articles of Faith
In presenting the Articles of Faith to new members the document should not become a “citizenship test”. In other words, it should not reach a point that the potential new member has to be 100% comfortable with each and every element of the Articles of Faith. However, if they are not comfortable with the majority of the articles or key articles regarding the nature of God and the method of baptism then membership is not a good fit as of yet. However, even then a continued study of the articles of faith should happen and hopefully more agreement can be reached. If the new member does express a belief in the truth of Jesus Christ and a willingness to be baptized by immersion then the process of membership should move forward.
“And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.”
What about the church covenant?
If the Articles of Faith express the beliefs of the church and the new member accepts and believes those things, then what role should the church covenant take?
In the day and age we live many churches have blended into the world to the point that there are no standards of conduct. The role of the church covenant should be to let the new member or potential new member know that the Primitive Baptist church is not a loose connection of people, but a tightly knit family of believers. They should understand their role in the family and how important they are and will continue to be to the other members of the church.
It is truly a blessing from the Lord when a pastor and church have the opportunity to welcome new members to the church. These two documents should be used to help welcome the new member into the congregation and make them fully a part of the congregation.
May the Lord bless you this week!