Why does Trinity West have church membership?
The Church lies at the centre of God’s purpose in the world. This means that the local church isn’t a building, or a denomination, but it is a gathering of Christians who, through faith in Jesus Christ, have been brought both to God and to one another. The Bible uses a range of metaphors to depict a mutual dependence and unity in the church, including a body (1 Corinthians 10:17; Ephesians 5:23), a building (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:5), and a family (2 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 2:19). The Bible doesn’t envisage Christians apart from the local church, and so the recognition and accountability provided by church membership better helps us live the Christian life, and so reflect God’s glory to the world.
Is membership biblical?
The word ‘membership’ isn’t explicitly used in the New Testament. However we do get a clear sense in Paul’s letters that the churches to whom he wrote definitely knew who was part of the church and who was not. When he writes to Timothy he mentions a list of widows supported by the church (1Timothy 5); he tells the church at Corinth to exclude someone from their number because of their open immorality (1 Corinthians 5); and he asks that same church to reinstate someone (2 Corinthians 2) to their fellowship. Indeed, speaking of this individual, Paul also says that it was ‘the majority’ who punished them. All of this language would suggest the church knew itself to be a clearly defined group of people.
So what is membership?
Church membership is a commitment to identify with a particular group of Christians. It is how we recognise those to whom we are mutually obligated through the ‘one another’ passages in the Bible (e.g. John 13:34-5; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 5:19). And a way of formally linking arms with them to serve and be served in the disciple-making mission of the church. Trinity West members covenant together to attend, pray, give and serve and we also assemble to make some of the key decisions about our life together as a church. We are, in that sense a ‘congregational’ church.
Who can be a member?
At Trinity West we welcome into membership anyone who demonstrates repentance for sin and faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, who has been baptised, and who will make the necessary commitment to be part of our church family. This involves happily committing to one another (see our membership covenant), our vision as a church and our statement of faith, as well as assenting to our doctrinal distinctives. These distinctives are issues where we recognise that Bible-believing Christians can hold different views. But where a member might hold a differing view, whilst not needing to agree, we do require them to respect these distinctives of the church. At Trinity West we only teach and practise believer’s baptism but this position is not a requirement for membership. Membership is open to all who have been baptised, whether as an infant or as a believer.