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Question and Answer

Church Membership Materials

Question:

I am an elder of an OPC church. Currently, we do not have a pastor, so I want to ask what is the best booklet you know which talks about the necessity of church membership. Secondly, what is a good book to prepare people for church membership in the OPC?

Answer:

One resource is Professing Your Faith (communicant training course) by G. I. Williamson, which is available online here.

See also the article "Is Church Membership Optional?"

Many OPC churches use Calvin Knox Cummings' "Confessing Christ" available from Great Commission Publications, 1-800-695-3387.

On the question of the necessity for church membership, I would add the following:

You should be familiar with the Form of Government (especially chapter XII) and the Directory for Worship (chapter V), both of which are in The Book of Church Order. Also I suggest familiarizing yourself with the Westminster Confession of Faith, chapters VII, XXII, XXV, XXVI and XXVII. I mention these chapters because you are an elder and in many churches you may instruct new members rather than a pastor.

Church membership is covenantal (in terms of the Covenant of Grace), and the marks of those who are in God's covenant fellowship (the church) are the sacraments—baptism and the Lord's supper. When anyone becomes a member of the church he/she is bound by solemn vows, including parents with regard to baptism of covenant children, and communicant members when qualifying for communicant membership.

In other words, members of a particular church are under discipline. And discipline does not pertain merely to judicial discipline (dealing with those delinquent in doctrine or life), but to discipleship. Church members are disciples of Christ, and the rules governing the behavior of church members are a major part of the ongoing ministry of the church. Membership vows are binding on the consciences of all church members.

Now this responsibility of communicant members needs to be impressed on those taking membership vows. It is the plague of the present age that people take all sorts of vows, make all sorts of promises, without any serious sense of responsibility! So whoever teaches candidates for church membership ought to impress upon the candidates that membership in the church brings with it great benefits, but also great responsibilities.

As in all legitimate human affairs, privilege and responsibility are like Siamese twins. Cut them apart and both are likely to die. Read Scripture and you'll find that it pays to be a Christian; but it also costs to be a Christian! That's what church membership is all about.


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

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