Why We Prefer to Link Baptism and Church Membership
One question people often ask us is whether our church can baptize them. Whenever people inquire about this, it always excites us! What a joy it is to hear of a person’s desire to profess faith in Jesus and follow his teachings by being baptized!
At the same time, we desire to honor God and serve people well by approaching baptism in a responsible way. One of the ways we seek to do that is by linking baptism with church membership. In other words, in order to baptize someone, we usually like to see that person taking serious steps toward becoming a church member—specifically, going through our Membership Information Class and verbally indicating their intent to join our church.
We prefer to approach things in this way because administering baptism apart from church membership conveys the idea that church membership is an optional "extra" for the Christian life rather than an integral part of it, as the New Testament teaches (see this message and this message for an explanation of the biblical basis, and indeed the biblical necessity, of church membership).
By linking baptism and church membership, we affirm that someone has been saved not only into a relationship with God but also into a relationship with other Christians. They now have a spiritual family!
In reality, professing to be a part of the universal church but not joining the localized expression of the church is, in essence, saying one thing but doing another. It is communicating two opposite things and, therefore, makes no sense. It's simultaneously saying that you are a part of the Body of Christ and that you are not a part of the Body of Christ. It would be similar to someone claiming that they are a part of the United States military but not a part of any particular branch of the military.
In addition, pursuing church membership is also a part of having a credible profession of faith (which is a requirement for baptism). A true Christian will desire to obey the teachings of the Bible. And, since the Bible teaches that being a part of a church is a core component of the Christian life, it follows that a true Christian who is properly instructed will desire to become a part of a church.
Therefore, although there are extenuating circumstances that require accommodation from time to time, our normal practice is for those who are seeking baptism at our church to be on the path to becoming a member of our church.
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