It is often observed that there is no clear imperative in the pages of Scripture for individual Christians to formally affiliate themselves to a local congregation, or “church.” The flexibility of the word “church,” which is used to describe the body of Christ in local, regional, and universal contexts sometimes causes believers to assume that the Bible seeks no further commitment from individual Christians than that they “are part of the Church at large” by virtue of their personal and private profession of faith.
However, Christ has ordained that his people would indeed have a formal relationship to a local expression of his body – in other words, to a local church. Although the terms of local church membership are not laid out explicitly in the New Testament, Scripture clearly presupposes an ordered arrangement for membership in a local congregation. For instance, the author of Hebrews writes the following instruction to a local church – “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they watch over your souls as those who must give an account” (Heb. 13:17). Church leaders, of course, can’t give an account for someone whom they aren’t leading – and this is why church membership is an official matter. We always show hospitality in the name of Christ to anyone who darkens our door, whether they profess faith or not, but occasional attendance and “church hopping” don’t meet the biblical standard for church membership.
Potential members sometimes bristle at words like “submit” and “obey,” perhaps even suspecting that they will be pressured to do things that are unbiblical once they become members of the church. Regrettably, we have witnessed cases elsewhere in which leaders of churches exceeded the bounds of their authority in this way. These tragic cases grieve the hearts of ministers who carry out their callings in godly fear, knowing that we will indeed be judged more strictly (James 3:1), that God disdains self-seeking leaders who neglect his people (Ezekiel 34:1-10), and realize that we will, in fact, give an account to God himself for the way we treat his sheep (Heb. 13:17). One of the benefits of being Presbyterian – for members and leaders alike – is that pastors and elders are held accountable by multiple layers of governing bodies, called courts, who have authority over them as well. While no system that involves sinners will ever be perfect, we have found that Presbyterianism, which we believe to be the Bible’s prescribed form of church government, excellently serves the purpose of keeping everyone accountable – ministers, elders, and members alike.
The decision to become a member of a local church is (obviously!) a voluntary one, and becoming a member of our church is relatively easy. We ask that those considering membership at Lakewood visit for a few months, mainly so that you can get to know us, and we can get to know you! If you desire to become a member, the elders of the church will speak with you privately to discuss the membership vows that we will ask our members to publicly affirm. These membership vows are used throughout our denomination and are taken from our church constitution, the Book of Church Order.
1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
2. 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?
3. 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 followers of Christ?
4. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
5. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to study its purity and peace?
These are the standard vows which every other church in our denomination asks its respective members to affirm as well. If applicable, the sacrament of Baptism would be celebrated upon your reception as a new member. See our page The Sacraments [link] for more information.