The Christian life is a journey that we get to, and need to, walk on together. We are "sojourners", wanderers, travelers. Our citizenship is with the kingdom of God, but we walk here among the nations of this world. The local church is the grouping of people with whom we have chosen to take this walk. Church membership, therefore, is the commitment that is made between believers to uphold one another, encourage one another in the faith, and unite under a particular leadership as a local expression of the universal church of Jesus Christ.
What is church membership?
A question we get often is what church membership is, and whether or not it is necessary. A common assumption is that you are a "member" of a church because you join in the Sunday gathering; there is no distinction between those who attend and those who are members.
Yet the church is called to be a family; it is called to join in deep relationships with one another. Sometimes those are relationships of accountability: we seek to encourage and exhort one another on towards living the life Christ calls us to. Other times the relationship exists simply to remind us of the Gospel and of Jesus unconditional love for us. In all cases, the relationship that we enter into with one another requires something more than just simply being in the same room. It requires commitment. Membership is the process by which we formalize that commitment.
Is membership necessary?
Membership at Restore is not necessary, nor do we believe that it is absolutely necessary for all Christians. At Restore, you will be enfolded into the family, loved as part of the community, you will be ministered to and you will be able to minister to others. Whether you are visiting, or you call Restore your church home, we love you and don't make any distinction in how we treat one another. That said, we do believe that becoming a Covenant Member is a wise and biblically encouraged step.
First, because the New Testament makes no distinction between those who are "Christians" and those who are members of a local church. To be a Christian meant that you were in community with others and that you were united under a local leadership. Practically speaking, our invitation into the new family of God will bring with it difficulties that we will need the church family to help us through, and it will raise questions that we need leaders to help us answer.
Second, we believe that it is a wise and encouraged step because accountability requires permission. In the New Testament, the Apostles often encourage leaders in the church to care for the church of God, or to exercise oversight over the church, as well as for members of the church to hold one another accountable to the ways of God. Two important questions are raised: who is the church?, and, how are they held accountable? "Accountability" and "church" (defined as a gathering of believers) go hand in hand, so that being part of the church is also to be willing to be held accountable. Becoming a covenant member "gives permission" for that type of accountability.
We believe that the best way to identify who the "church" is in our context is to give people the opportunity to affirm their commitment to one another (so they can hold one another accountable) and affirm their commitment to church leadership (so that the leadership can properly exercise oversight). This accountability goes both ways, as well. The church member who has affirmed their commitment is required, biblically, to hold leadership in the church accountable to carrying out their charge. This formal, two-way accountability works best when both parties know who the other one is. It's essential for the leadership to know who has requested their oversight and who will hold them accountable to it; it's essential for the members at large to know who God has given leadership to within the church.
All of this is why Restore practices covenant membership. Covenant membership is the process by which we get to know one another, so that our commitment to one another carry a real significance. We want to make sure that a covenant member knows what they are committing to! And we also want them to know what they can expect from the leadership and other members of the church as far as accountability. Since membership is a covenant (promise) commitment to one another, we want to make sure we know one another well before entering into it, much like you'd make sure you knew your future spouse before marrying them!
Step one is taking the Membership Course. The Membership course is a four-session course designed to introduce you to three aspects of Restore: The Essentials, The Particulars, and the Requirements for Members. This course covers elements such as how we view and articulate the Gospel, our essential doctrines (beliefs), how and why we practice baptism and communion, how we view church leadership, and what we expect from members of Restore.
All four courses are required, but they do not need to be taken in order. You can take two courses during the spring session, and two during the fall if that fits your schedule!
After taking the membership course, potential members will have an interview with a couple of Elders. This "interview" is a time to get to know one another more closely, ask any questions we might have, and ultimately commit to one another by signing a covenant together stating our intentions as brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you are interested in more information regarding covenant membership, please contact us by clicking the link below, or by checking the church calendar for the next scheduled course.