Why Church Membership?
The Cross Church exists to glorify God by making disciples who enjoy Jesus together. That last word "together" is important. Enjoying Christ is not just something we do alone, but together as a church. Although the Bible gives no (explicit) "commands" to become a "member" of a local church, the Bible does (implicitly) assume we will be a member of a local church; put simply, there are simply no categories for living the Christian life outside of commitment to the local church. In scripture, every follower of Christ (upon being baptized) moves into direct relationship with God's church. There are many biblical arguments one could give to establish the necessity of local church membership, and its importance for our growth in Christ. The biggest argument may be, Jesus didn't just die for "you" he died for "us". We matter to Jesus! And if we want to grow as Christians we will do so leaning into one another, not away from one another. Jesus is the head of the church, the church is his body, and indispensable members of it. This is why The Cross takes church membership serious, agreeing on a 5-fold process for church membership.
Our 5-fold Church Membership Process
1. Baptized believer is the first criteria for membership, which is not our idea but what scripture repeated teaches as the first way we identify with God's people after being transformed by the gospel. (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 2:38-41; Acts 8:30-40)
2. Attend membership class. These classes happen a few times a year and are immediately after the Sunday service (lunch provided.) Attending the class doesn't not obligate you to pursue membership they are only informational. See one of the pastors regarding the dates for these meetings.
3. Schedule a meeting with one of the pastors. The pastors take their responsibility seriously knowing they will give an account for their care for the church; therefore, we desire to serve you and know those entrusted to our care. Don’t be intimidated, we desire for this time to be enjoyable and encouraging. We don’t believe the church is like a family, we believe the church is a family. So we want to ensure that everyone desiring to join has the opportunity to have a touchpoint with one of our pastors. Our pastors want to serve The Cross Church, and we want that to be evident from before you join. These meets are a great time to ask any questions you still have regarding the church, and also for the pastors to get to know you a little better.
4. Affirm our Doctrinal Statement. We understand that while all truth matters there are some truths every Christian must believe in the local church and others we have more freedom to disagree on. We have a "close-handed" (Doctrinal Statement) and "open-handed" (Doctrinal Distinctive). Our Doctrine Statement must be affirmed for membership, our Doctrinal Distinctives do not have to be affirmed for membership put are important doctrines we hold.
5. Church publicly affirms membership, and new members signing our Church Covenant. Because membership to the local church is membership to the local church, we want to celebrate this commitment together. Finally, as a sign of our congregation’s commitment to love and care for new additions to our church family, we (as a church) affirm each new member. The reason why we do things this way (as opposed to just having a pastor grant membership) is because when you join a church, you’re not merely committing to a pastor. You’re committing to love, care for and serve the whole church. And the church is making the same commitment to you. This is a powerful reminder of our responsibility to care of one another. We sign the Church Covenant to formalize that commitment: shared beliefs and shared lives.
When we expect nothing of each other as God's people, it not only hurts the church, but each of us. We are the blood bought people of God, indwelt with the Spirit of God, each given gifts to use for the edification and building up of the church. Therefore, every member is indispensable to the body. If we are going to be a healthy God-glorifying church every church member shows their commitment through service.
1. Love one another
All the one another commands given to the church could be summed up in the command "love one another". (Hebrews 10:25) commands Christians not to forsake assembling together. When the church assembles together the primarily goal is to love one another. Faithfully loving the church is step one of the Christian life, and also the last step. Love is not "a thing" in the church, its "the thing"; if we have not love, we have nothing. Members are expected to love one another demonstrated not only in word and talk, but also in deed and truth. Although, we're usually not very good at this, we commit to faithfully try. And we cannot say "I'm trying to love God's people" if we're never around God's people, true love will be demonstrated in actual commitment to be with one another. Who wouldn't want to be a part of a people where love is the aim? It's the only way the world will know us, by our love for one another.
2. Commitment to Gather & Scatter
The normal rhythms of church life is gathering for worship and equipping, and then scattering into our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, etc, to honor Christ through our joyful obedience, sacrificial love, and Lord willing, bold gospel witness. We must weekly gather to refocus and be revived, and we must intentionally go out "making disciples" that Christ be known and enjoyed by more. 3. Prayer
Jesus said, "My church shall be a house of prayer for the nations." Our prayers should reach as far as the nations, but start in our own church family. We expect our members to pray for one another. This may be the greatest way any of us can serve one another throughout the week -prayer. Many times prayer is the highest form of love and service to the church.4. Financial Generously
If the great commission is the aim of the church, the great majority of our money must go toward that end. We've been blessed with a very small overhead, which enables the vast majority of our budget to go directly to supporting pastors and missionaries preaching the gospel and planting churches. Members are expected to faithfully and generously give to advancement the kingdom of God. Members give in our Sunday service or online (here)
.5. Join a City Group
This is where we can be the church to each other and the city. City Groups
meet at various homes around Pensacola. These groups consist of about 15-40 people who gather weekly as a community for prayer, fellowship, Word & mission, as well as a meal together. Currently 95% of the church are committed to a City Group. We take CG's seriously because realistically we know it's very hard to truly love and serve people you only see for a few minutes on Sunday. Building relationships with others happens most naturally and effectively in City Groups. And since we think of these groups more as family time, than a formal Bible study, we welcome and rejoice in all ages being a part. CG's are where we can most effectively use our gifts, disciple, and lean into one another for acts of love and personal care. Through CG's we join together to take the gospel to our city, and pray for and encourage one another as we minister the gospel to those in our lives. Join a city group6. Commitment to Membership Covenant
Our Membership Covenant
is simply our agreement of what we think the Bible says commitment to the local church should look like. We initially sign the membership covenant publicly upon joining the church, and then annually we re-sign and re-commit to these shared beliefs and practices that bind us together in love.7. Stay Informed
Get on the email list where members are sent out monthly email updates. Download the "Group Me" app where members are daily interacting and staying up to date on the life of the church. Also stay up to date with weekly sermons through the "Sermon Audio" APP (search for The Cross Church).