NextSteps Church Membership: "Why are we starting this new ministry?" "Are we really trying to reach those 'kind' of people?" "You mean the church really believes THAT?" "Do I have to be baptized to be saved?" "Why doesn't this church observe Communion every Sunday?" "Do you baptize babies?"
These are just a few of the questions I have been asked by members and prospective members alike. A lot of people have various answers to these questions; some have the right answers and some have the wrong answers. Without a clear communication of what membership means at Fort Caroline Baptist Church confusion invariably ensues.
Fort Caroline Baptist Church desires to make church membership meaningful. This requires that people truly understand and accept who we are as a church. Without a membership class people become full-fledged members possibly without knowing the basic doctrines and distinctive ministry objectives of our church. Pastor Ricky teaches NextSteps new member's class because it helps unify our members around four qualities of a healthy church. This class is a requirement for membership at Fort Caroline Baptist Church. It is also open to those who are considering membership but want to learn more before making a decision.
1. A Common Salvation (A Regenerate Membership)
Our church will never have unity of purpose until we have unity of faith. We must make sure our members start their journey of faith on the same starting mark – faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. This first segment of NextStepsMembership helps people understand the basics of what the Bible teaches concerning salvation. After focusing on how sin has disrupted God's original design for humanity – perfect communion with him – the class then shifts to the only possible solution to the sin problem: the death of God's own son, Jesus Christ. Many of the people who attend this class have never trusted Christ as their Lord and Savior. This class enables me to lead people to make this important commitment to Christ. Several people who have attended the class over the years have trusted Christ and followed Him in believer's baptism! We follow the lesson on salvation with the meaning of the two biblical symbols of salvation – baptism and the Lord's Supper.
2. A Common Statement
Next, the attention of the class turns to the basic beliefs of the church, starting with the congregation's mission statement to "Love God, Love Others, and Serve the World." For many who are new to our congregation this will be their first introduction to what it means to be a part of a church with a clear mission. The class goes through all five purposes of the church (worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism) and explains how they impact our church's ministry. The class then focuses on the essential theological beliefs of our church, including what we believe about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, eternity, and more. Each participant receives a copy of The Baptist Faith and Message of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is the official doctrinal statement of our church. Each person who desires membership at FCBC should read and agree with the statement. Finally, we take a look at the lifestyle expectations of church members, including their responsibility to be regular in worship attendance, to tithe, to join a Life Group, to serve in a ministry, and to share their faith.
3. A Common Strategy
If our church members agree on a common salvation and common belief statements but not on a strategy, we will still be climbing uphill on our journey to fulfill our mission in our context. The NextSteps Membership class helps us explain our church's strategy for reaching our community and world. Included in this session is information on the concentric circles of commitment (Community, Crowd, Congregation, Committed, Core). Explaining our strategy to help people move in their commitment to Christ and His church helps members understand why we do the things we do as a church (and why we don't do other things).
4. A Common Structure
This section helps unpack different metaphors the New Testament uses for the church, including the church as a family, as the Body of Christ, and as a flock. It then helps show how these truths shape how our church structures itself with Pastors, Deacons, Small Groups, and ministries. As a prelude to what attendees will learn in NextSteps (Discovering My Ministry) the class also teaches the biblical role of pastors as administers of the church and members as the ministers. This will help prepare our members for learning their spiritual gifts and abilities and using them to serve others in the church. Few other biblical truths can have such a transformative effect on the life of our congregation and free our church to reach its ministry potential.
We also include information on our denominational affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention, the Florida Baptist Convention, and the Jacksonville Baptist Association. Class members receive information about our church's history, staff, and ministry opportunities. We conclude with a discussion of membership expectations.
Finally, those attending the class are urged to join our team as church members. Best of all, new church members will be on the same page and will be ready to go to the next stage of their spiritual journey with us!
Please call the church office at 904-642-2288 if you would like to attend NextSteps Membership
. The class is open to everyone and there is no obligation or pressure to join the church. The class is 21/2
hours long and child-care is available. It is informal and fun!
God created us to know Him, to have fellowship with Him, and to serve Him. Many great books have been written on how to know God and how He has gifted us for service. However, a resource to aid each believer in discovering how God has SHAPED each one of us uniquely for a ministry in our church is in short supply. It is our prayer that you will not only discover your SHAPE, but that you will also develop and deploy your gift through ministry opportunities at Fort Caroline. This is an instrumental part of Fort Caroline's strategy to connect every person to a place of service.
The purpose of this class is to help you discover that God's desire is for you to commit the rest of your life in being a messenger of His Good News to other people, and using your time, talents, and treasure for His kingdom, regardless of where it leads, and what it costs. You will also discover that it is God's desire for you to reproduce yourself in others to achieve the greatest ministry impact. We must strive to reach and disciple as many as we can in our lifetime.