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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15


How to be a Baptist

Norman H. Wells

From The Church That Jesus Loved, 1973 (Chapter 16)

How does one become a Baptist? This question is often asked ... particularly by those who belong to different churches and desire to become a Baptist. The question might be better stated by asking, how does one become a member of a Baptist church?


There are two requisites to becoming a member of a Baptist Church.


FIRST, TO BECOME A MEMBER OF A BAPTIST CHURCH ONE MUST PROFESS TO HAVE AN ASSURANCE OF SALVATION.


Baptists believe that only those who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour and have been born-again are to be received as members in a Baptist church.


It is not our purpose in this lesson to discuss the essentials to salvation but simply to state that only those who have professed faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and have an assurance of eternal salvation are received into a Baptist church. Something of the following order occurs in a sinner's salvation:


1. The sinner hears the gospel story and recognizes that he is lost and that Jesus Christ is the Saviour.


2. The sinner turns in repentance and by faith accepts Jesus Christ as his own personal Saviour.


3. In a public confession of this faith the sinner expresses the fact that he has an assurance of eternal salvation.


A public confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is the first requisite for membership in a Baptist church.


SECOND, A BELIEVER MUST BE BAPTIZED TO BECOME A MEMBER OF A BAPTIST CHURCH.


It is not our purpose in this lesson to give a thorough discussion of baptism. It is our purpose here simply to state that baptism is essential to church membership. In baptism the believer is publicly demonstrating his salvation.


SALVATION AND BAPTISM ARE THE ONLY TWO REQUISITES TO MEMBERSHIP IN A BAPTIST CHURCH.


In the entire New Testament these are the only two essentials to church membership that are named.


THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT!


There is a trend in Baptist churches to add to these requirements. The only things that a church is to determine concerning an individual who presents himself for membership is that he has been saved and scripturally baptized. Now to our question. How does one become a member of a Baptist church?


THERE ARE THREE WAYS THAT A BAPTIST CHURCH RECEIVES MEMBERS:


1. An individual can come for membership in a Baptist church on a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and as a candidate for baptism.


This simply means that in response to the invitation given in one of the services of the church that the individual comes forward and professes that he has accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour and that he wants to be baptized. This one is then presented to the church and they express their acceptance of his profession of faith and he is received as a candidate for baptism. This is usually done by a vote. The only thing the church is to be satisfied on in this case is that the individual has truly been saved. There are no other conditions to be required. The candidate becomes a member of the church upon his baptism.


2. An individual can present himself for membership in a Baptist church by "letter."


An individual who is already a member of a Baptist church and wishes to transfer his membership to another Baptist church does so by "letter." This means that in response to an invitation given in one of the services of the church the individual comes forward and states that he is a member of a Baptist church and that he wishes to transfer his membership.


The church then notifies his former church of his decision and requests his "letter." His former church sends a "letter" stating that he is a member in good standing and has been removed from their rolls and is recommended to his new church home.


These "letters" are exchanged for the purpose of keeping church records straight and to verify the status of the applicant. "Church letters" are just a convenience for good record keeping. Actually the individual is stating, and his former church is verifying, that he has been saved and baptized. In reality the only requirements are still his salvation and baptism.


3. An individual can present himself for membership in a Baptist church by "statement."


Sometimes it is impossible, due to loss of records, fires, etc. for an individual to get a "church letter." If an individual has been saved and baptized but cannot get a "church letter" he presents himself on his own "statement." This means that he states to the church that he has been saved and baptized. If the church is satisfied he is received on this "statement."


In these three ways that a Baptist church receives members it will be noticed that salvation and baptism are the only requisites.