Sunday, Sep 24, 2023
Series: Return: The Minor Prophets
The final book of the minor prophets reads like a series of disputes between God and people. But at the heart of it, we hear God's invitation to...
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We believe that church membership is a helpful tool to develop relational accountability and corporate vision for the mission that God has in store for Jericho Ridge. Because of this, we invite everyone who desires to become members of Jericho Ridge Community Church to initiate the covenant membership process.
One of Jericho Ridge’s core values is authentic community. We believe that God models eternal community. God exists in perfect fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that God has created men and women to also live in community with one another. Therefore, we desire to serve one another in authentic community, even when this calls for personal sacrifice. According to the Bible, a byproduct of authentic community is its inherent attraction to unbelievers. Jesus said, "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples" (John 13:35).
Although the word "membership" is not recorded in the Bible itself, we can see evidence of this concept throughout the New Testament. At Pentecost, a numerical record was kept of those who entered into faith (Acts 2:37-47); records were kept of widows (1 Timothy 5:3-16); elections were conducted (Acts 6:1-6); and there was an awareness of who church members were (Romans 16:1-16).
Also, to help facilitate a biblical community that can be held accountable to the precepts that are given throughout Scripture, we believe that God has given elders a special task in the church. Paul's teaching to the elders at Ephesus is evidence of this: "Guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock — his church, purchased with his own blood — over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders" (Acts 20:28).
The writer of Hebrews commands the church to "obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit" (Hebrews 13:17). We believe that covenant membership is one way that elders can more easily fulfill their God-given role in our community and also help others fulfill their role and calling. This is the charge that Paul gives to Timothy: "I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching" (2 Timothy 4:1-2).
By entering into covenant membership with Jericho Ridge, you will not inherit special status among other believers. We use the language of covenant because it is a form of accountability that goes both ways: Jericho Ridge and its leaders are held accountable to you and you are held accountable to them. This covenant is an attempt to allow the elders and leadership of Jericho Ridge to fulfill what God has called them to and to assist you in your own spiritual development and maturity.
The commitments mentioned in this covenant should not be read as contractual obligations. Instead, they should be understood as statements of aspiration and expressions of support for one another as a part of the local family of God. Covenant membership is not designed to keep people in or out. The purpose is to foster a sense of unity and purposeful community among those who willingly submit to God and one another and who thus become a covenanting member at Jericho Ridge Community Church.
For more on Membership and Baptism in an Anabaptist Mennonite perspective, see the pamphlet produced by our National Faith and Life Team on "Baptism and Church Membership"
What is the meaning of baptism?
We believe baptism by water is a sign that a person has repented of their sin, died to their past, been cleansed from sin, and been incorporated into a new community of faith. Romans 6:3 and Galatians 3:27 describe baptism as “into Christ” meaning that when a person is baptised, they are united into the community of which Jesus is the head. Therefore, baptism is also a public declaration of a believer’s incorporation into the local church which is the expression of the body of Christ.
What is the Connection Between Baptism and Membership?
Because baptism is a both a sign of a believer’s decision to follow Jesus and an act that unites the believer with others through Christ, we connect baptism with membership in our tradition. Persons wishing to enter covenant membership must express a clear declaration of their faith and be baptised (if they have not already been baptised). In keeping with our understanding and application of the command for believers to be baptised, our practice is to baptise believers by immersion, however, we also recognize and affirm other modes of believer's baptism.
What About Modes of Baptism?
We recognize that there are various modes of baptism and that each is an expression of God’s grace and Jericho Ridge has welcomed into membership those baptised by other modes. For those who were baptised as infants, we affirm the thoughtful action that their parents took. However, we ask these individuals to consider participating in believer’s baptism (sometimes called rebaptism) as a sign of their faith commitment as well as their incorporation into our membership. Our request is based on our understanding of biblical teaching and the difference that we see between infant baptism and believer’s baptism. However, we also understand that there may be instances when this distinction is misunderstood and therefore received in a hurtful way. Should this be the case, we ask that you speak with our leadership team so that we can better clarify our intentions, you can clarify your experience of baptism and together we can discuss the steps that you can take to honour everyone involved.