Our Vision for Membership
At the heart of the Gospel is the fact that we have been undeservedly adopted by God and welcomed into His family. We believe that membership in a local church is God's desire for all who have been adopted by Him through Christ. God calls His children to commit to live the Christian life with one another in the local church. So due to the premium that the Bible places on the local church we want to be faithful to that by putting an emphasis on calling people to become official members of a local church. We believe that local church membership is a formal relationship between a church and a Christian whereby a church affirms and oversees a Christian’s discipleship and a Christian commits to being an active participant in the life and mission of the church. Below is the process that we have put in place to establish that formal relationship between a Christian and a local church.
Our Membership Process
Step 1: Membership Class
Step 2: Elder Interview
Step 3: Baptism (if not previously baptized) or Letter of Transfer (if transferring membership)
Step 4: Publicly Affirm Membership Vows
Purpose of a Membership Class
This is a Pastor-led class that is designed to help prospective members learn more about who we are and what we're about at Sand Harbor. One goal of the class is to help someone make an informed decision about formally joining Sand Harbor. We don't think formal church membership should be taken lightly so we require this class for those who want to join. Another goal of the class is to overview the 'why' and 'what' of local church membership so that you might be informed as to the biblical basis and expectations of joining a local church. Finally, our last goal for the class is to cover the distinctive priorities, practices, and beliefs of Sand Harbor and the PCA that we are denominationally affiliated with.
Purpose of an Elder Interview
The purpose of the elder interview is to hear your testimony about how God has worked and rejoice with you regarding how God has worked in your life, to confirm a right understanding of the gospel, to confirm a right understanding of church membership, to confirm that there are no biblically warranted concerns with your joining Sand Harbor as a covenant member, and to answer any questions and/or help you further integrate into the community of Sand Harbor.
Purpose of Baptism
Why do we practice baptism? We practice baptism because it was instituted by Christ and he commanded it to be applied by those who are part of his covenant family.
What does baptism mean? Baptism essentially means three things: (1) Identification, (2) Declaration, and (3) Confirmation. First, through baptism we are identified as part of the Triune God's family. In baptism the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is pronounced over the one being baptized declaring that God has set His name upon them and publicly identified them as part of His family. Second, through baptism the Gospel is visibly declared. The element of water declares that God alone washes us white as snow. The mode of pouring water on the head declares that God pours out His life-giving Spirit on us. Third, through baptism the promise of the Gospel is also visibly confirmed. Baptism is God's seal of truth confirming to us that all who trust in Christ will receive the blessings that this sign points to.
Who should be baptized? As a church in the Reformed & Presbyterian tradition we believe that the Scriptures teach that all who make a credible profession of faith and their children should be baptized. We believe that God not only deals with us individually but familially. This is how he dealt with His people in the Old Testament as noted to Abraham in Genesis 17:7: "I will establish my covenant between me and you and your children after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your children after you." This same way of dealing with His people was reiterated at the inauguration of the New Covenant by Peter in Acts 2:38-39: "And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.'" Since God's covenant includes not only believers but also their children, we believe that the sign should be applied to both.
Purpose of a Letter of Transfer
If you are desiring to come into membership at Sand Harbor but currently hold membership in another church we require that you get a "Letter of Transfer" from the church where your membership is currently held. We do this to ensure that you are in good standing with the church you are coming from and that there are no unresolved conflicts or issues that you are seeking to avoid. As a courtesy, we also want to help the church you are coming from know that they are released from being your primary spiritual shepherds.
Purpose of Publicly Affirming Membership Vows
During a corporate worship service a potential new member publicly pledges to uphold the Membership Vows by voicing their hearty “I do” as the vows are read (like wedding vows). This affirmation is designed to be solemn, celebratory and instructive. Solemn, in the sense that commitment is serious. Celebratory, in that God has sent more laborers to link arms in the mission he has given to us. Instructive in that through these moments of affirming the vows, we will be continually reminded of our vows and, by God’s grace, be stirred afresh to live them out faithfully and sincerely.
What are the membership vows that we require you to take? There are five questions that we ask prospective members to affirm and they are as follows:
This question concerns your conviction of sin: Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving his displeasure, and without hope, save in his sovereign mercy?
This question concerns your trust in Christ alone as your Savior: Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon him alone for salvation as he is offered in the gospel?
This question concerns your commitment to live a life that honors Christ: Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the follower of Christ?
This question concerns your pledge to support the local church: Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
This question concerns your respect for the church's government and health: Do you submit yourself to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to pursue its purity and peace?