Making this your home
Commitment and Structure:
In order to ensure every member is engaged in discipleship, we ask of our membership three commitments: accountability, fellowship and participation.
Accountability: Every member commits to be in at least one, regularly meeting, accountability relationship where they pray for each other, encourage each other and confess to each other so that they can spur each other on in their walks with Christ. We recommend a partner within your local church, though others can be accepted with the approval of our church leadership so long as they are a believer in good standing with their own church and we are given their contact information.
Fellowship: We strive to be a gathering of groups in our expression of low ratio fellowship. We believe discipleship happens in small, intimate groups, so every member must be a part of a group under the leadership of an approved group leader. The group is the primary environment where discipleship and outreach happen in our church. While we respect and encourage our member’s involvement in groups outside our local church, we would still require them to join and give regular attendance, involvement and priority to a group within our church as a criteria for actually being discipled.
Participation: Discipleship is always hands-on. Group attendance and accountability talks, in and of themselves can only create the support and environment for discipleship to happen. To be discipled, you must actively serve alongside the body of believers so that real life experience is molded into Christlikeness. Therefore, every member must have at least one role or responsibility they carry out within the corporate church gathering or their group. Most members will have more than one role or responsibility over time.
Membership as a Process:
Since we define our membership as discipleship, Christ House has two requirements logically required from the above section that we ask of those who would become members of our church: personal faith in Jesus as defined above and baptism by a Christian church. We recognize that a person may have experienced either of these events prior to coming to our church and we do not require that they be repeated, but a person cannot be considered in full membership until they are both baptized and expressing personal faith in Jesus and His Gospel.
A person interested in becoming a full member of our local church should meet with our pastor or the leader of one of our groups to begin the process. In most cases, there will be a process of discernment to ensure that the person understands the Gospel and is sincerely committed to following Jesus with their life. Once a process is determined, a sponsor must be selected who will mentor and coach the person on their church membership journey as a disciple of Jesus in our assembly.
Upon completion of the discernment phase, and with the recommendation of their sponsor, the member will be publicly presented to the church on a Sunday gathering to give testimony to their faith and be welcomed into fuller participation in the Church. At this point they are eligible and expected to enter into an accountability relationship, group membership and take on roles or responsibilities within the church.
As a disciple grows and matures, there comes a point where we believe it is the duty of the church to mark those whose maturity merits imitation. This is a matter of discernment on the part of our church leadership but culminates in a commissioning service where our leadership lays their hands on such a one and prays over them in the presence of the church assembly. Only those who are so commissioned will be allowed to participate in the leadership of the church.
An Overview of Membership in our Context:
Bringing everything written so far together, those who attended Christ House should see themselves somewhere along a spectrum of three stages as described in the following paragraphs. Membership will begin in the first stage (with baptism), come into its fullness in the second stage and bear the intended fruit in the third stage. For simplicity, we call these stages: called, confirmed and commissioned.
This group includes all those coming to our churches who we do not fully know whether they have yet to put their faith in Jesus or been baptized. Guests, those who have not engaged relationally with us such that we know their faith and also the children of our membership are all considered to be in this stage. For those who we know to have been baptized, we recognize their membership in the universal church, but they are still considered Called or until such a time as they have confirmed their personal faith in Jesus in our local context. The goal of this stage is to nurture them in the Gospel so that they will be able to entrust themselves to Jesus as disciples and to make that profession clear.
Focus for this stage: Understanding and embracing biblical and living faith in Jesus Christ.
To be completed before Confirmation:
· Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
· Basic Christian Teaching1
· Public profession of faith
· Approval of a sponsor regarding Christian life2
This group consists of those who have placed their faith in Jesus, been baptized and through a process of discernment been confirmed into our local assembly as sincerely intending to follow Jesus in our context. The goal of this stage is to engage the member in accountability, fellowship, and participation for the purpose of discipling them into a lifestyle of Christlike worship.
Focus for this stage: Discipleship within the church community.
To be practiced for growth in this stage:
· Participation in a small group3
· Regular meetings with an accountability partner4
· Hands-on involvement in church life (helping groups apply scripture together, taking on responsibilities in the church, etc.)
These are those who demonstrate a consistency of character representative of a mature relationship with Jesus. They are particularly those who have been discipled to such a point that it is appropriate for them to engage in a primary role of disciple making. The goal of this stage is to mobilize and release them to multiply Christian disciples. Believers that represent such a life worthy of imitation will be recognized in the public church gathering and commissioned, by the laying on of hands, to make themselves available and active in the discipleship of our church. We consider these mature believers the “elders” or “presbytery” of our local church in a relational sense: believers who are older in the faith pouring themselves out as models to those younger (Titus 1).
Focus at this stage: serving as spiritual parents to the local church.
· Mentoring younger believers (e.g. premarital counseling, directive teaching roles in other believer’s lives)
· Serving in leadership roles within the church (oversight of group leaders, church governance, etc.)
The three membership levels discussed so far pertain only to the local context of Christ House. They express how we will embrace discipleship together. Christ House, however, is part of a larger Christian community known as the Evangelical Congregational Church. Membership in the EC Church is not required for being a part of the discipleship at Christ House. However, there are some roles locally and nationally that can only be fulfilled by members of our national denomination (Pastor, Missionary, Pastoral Relations Committee and Congregational Representative to National Conference). As such, any Confirmed or Commissioned member of Christ House is welcome to add National Membership to their status by attending classes on EC History and Doctrine and giving a public commitment of support and general agreement with our denomination. Those interested in this should talk to our pastor to make arrangements.
Sources, definitions and resources:
1. Basic Christian Teaching materials can be developed by a sponsor or provided by out pastor, but will emphasize essential Christianity as expressed in the Apostle’s Creed and conversion by grace through faith in the Gospel.
2. Sponsors will be given guidance on assessing in light of the Matthew Model of Discipleship.
3. Only participation in a small group led by appointed group leaders and designated as for the discipleship life of the church is considered for this purpose. Other groups (Men’s Workshop, Rooted Women’s Fellowship, etc.) are considered supplemental.
4. Accountability partners do not need to be members of Christ House, but outside accountability partners should be approved by a group leader or the pastor.