Question and Answer
Church Membership Materials
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?
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 sacramentsbaptism 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.
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