From the August 1996 Immanuel Home Messenger, the monthly Newsletter of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Mankato, Minn. Pastor L. D. Redlin is the writer. In the original the Scripture passages were written out in full. — Ed.)
Church membership in our church is making a confession of faith. By joining a congregation, a family of believers in Christ, in the Church of the Lutheran Confession, one is confessing that the beliefs, teachings and practices of that congregation and that church body is in accord with Holy Scripture. Contrariwise, one will not join a congregation and a church body which teaches and/or practices in a way which opposes God’s Word.
It is for that reason that a period of instruction, discussion, and study precedes church membership. (1) The individual will want to know what a church believes, teaches, and practices. Their spiritual life and their relationship with God here in time and forever in eternity is at stake. Nothing in this entire world is more important than that. (2) The congregation needs to have the assurance that an individual has been moved by the Spirit through the Word to freely and willingly confess complete agreement with the congregation in its confession of faith. When this has happened such a person is welcomed into our Christian family with thankfulness to our Lord.
It is fully recognized that none of us will have a perfect knowledge of everything in Holy Scripture. By God’s grace we are learning and growing all of our lives. Therefore,
We gladly receive those who, though weak in understanding and as yet in part uninformed, profess faith in their Savior and gladly hear, learn, and receive the Truth, continuing therein and renouncing all error. (Statement of Faith and Purpose of the CLC); (1 John 1:17, Romans 16:17-18).
As a member of a Christian congregation our purpose in membership, first of all, is related to our own spiritual needs. Secondly, we desire to do our share to provide for the spiritual needs of others.
We are body and spirit. We have physical needs and we have spiritual needs. Church membership places before us the Means of God’s Grace for our spiritual well-being. God’s grace is fully supplied in the Gospel, the Good News of God’s forgiving love for all in Jesus Christ. It is this Good News which the Holy Spirit uses to convert hearts and draw souls into God’s kingdom of mercy and love. It is also this Good News which continues to strengthen and preserve one in the faith unto life everlasting.
Church membership, therefore, results in the privilege of participating with fellow believers in the spiritual blessings which God has given to His people in Christ. It is in regularly using His Means of Grace in Word and Sacrament that we remain firm in the faith and avoid all error (John 8:31-32).
Since God has made it clear that the spiritual needs of people cannot be supplied in any other way than through His Means of Grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, we as members of a Christian congregation wish to do everything we can to share these blessings of God with others.
Therefore we state in our Statement of Faith and Purpose of the CLC:
It is our single purpose to be a Christian church which strives to proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, by which alone man can know the true God and the way to eternal life. This our purpose and commitment rests upon the following statements of the Bible: Matthew 28:18-20, John 17:3, Acts 4:12.
Sometimes our responsibilities as members of a Christian congregation are referred to with the word stewardship. A steward is one who takes good care of his master’s possessions and uses them honestly and faithfully. This honest and faithful service brings about blessed results.
Each, as a member of a Christian congregation, is a steward of our Lord’s possessions given to us to use in thankful love. Firstly, we recognize our own spiritual needs and, therefore, take advantage of God’s Means of Grace at every opportunity. To neglect the Means of Grace which God has provided through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord is very serious. Neglect is not far from reject. Secondly, we recognize that God’s love is for everyone and it is free. Nevertheless, the dispersing of this love to people here and abroad may require providing for various facilities and servants to labor on our behalf. As one person put it, “The water of life is free, but the plumbing costs a little!”
As members of a Christian congregation we will want to do our share in supporting and dispensing the Means of Grace by giving not only our offerings but ourselves (Romans 12:1).
How can this be done? Well, it is done when the Spirit moves us to first give our heart to the Lord (Matthew 6:21).
When this has happened we will find ways to offer our time and talents to the service of our Lord and meet our financial responsibilities with worshipful and thankful hearts as the Lord has blessed us (1 Peter 1:24-25).