At ECC we strongly believe that Christianity is a corporate matter. It is our conviction that the Christian life—membership in the body of Christ—can only be fully realized in loving relationships with others in a local church.

What is Covenant Membership?

Covenant membership is a commitment between an individual Christian and a local church. It is a formal relationship where a local church affirms a Christian’s profession of faith and oversees their discipleship. At the same time, that Christian submits to the oversight and authority of that local church, living out his or her discipleship in the care of the church and her leaders.

The term “membership” comes from the concept of being united to Christ as members of his body (Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:12-27). It is not to be confused with joining a club, where dues are paid and services are expected in return. It is also not merely a record of a statement made, an opportunity to have a voice in church business, or an affection toward a familiar place. Rather, it is a testimony to a believer’s membership in the body of Christ, the universal (catholic) Church. Essentially, it is the result of baptism.

How Does This Relate to Baptism?

When it comes to determining who are the citizens of heaven on earth, Jesus intends for his church to play a vital role (Matt. 16:13-19; 18:15-20; 28:18-20). The Bible teaches that the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are how a local church declares who the members of the body of Christ are. The church brings people into membership through baptism, affirms them as believers on an ongoing basis through the Lord’s Supper, and sees them out through excommunication when necessary.

In baptism, a believer is not only calling on the name of the Lord but also making a public commitment to Christ and his people. Likewise, a church is not only affirming their profession of faith but making a public commitment to their discipleship. And the goal of all of this is to guard the truth of the gospel and preserve the church’s witness to King Jesus in the world. This is precisely what covenant membership is all about.

Why Does Membership Matter?

Covenant membership gives definition and direction to the duties of a Christian. The Bible teaches that attending, loving, serving, and submitting to a local church is the normal expectation for a healthy Christian who desires to obey the commands of Scripture. We are called to assemble together regularly to build one another up in Christ (Heb. 10:23-25), watch over one another (Heb. 3:12-14), bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), protect each other from sin (Jas. 5:19-20), pray for one another (Col. 1:9-10), work together to spread the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20), and guard the church from hypocrisy (Matt. 18:15-18). Membership in a local church puts specific faces to these commands of our King. It provides a setting for citizens of heaven to actually fulfill their commitments to one another.

Covenant membership enables a Christian to formally make himself or herself known to the leadership of a local church. The Bible teaches that Christians are to obey their leaders and submit to them, for they are called to keep watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). But who are your leaders? And for which sheep is a shepherd responsible? If Christians expect pastors to fulfill their biblical responsibilities, to care for their souls, they must make themselves known to them. Shepherds must know their flock; sheep must have shepherds. Membership in a local church provides a way to do this.

Covenant membership also enables a Christian to formally make himself or herself known to the rest of the congregation. In submitting to a particular local church, we are asking the brothers, sisters, and leaders there to hold us accountable to our profession of faith, making ourselves available to be encouraged and challenged in our walk, and covenanting together to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). To faithfully follow these commands, disciples lock arms with other disciples in a local assembly to foster deep, authentic, God-glorifying, sin-fighting relationships.

How to Become a Member of ECC

For those who are interested in being baptized into membership here at Emmanuel Community Church, a class is taught periodically throughout the year covering the biblical evidence for church membership, our Covenant, Statement of Faith, and information about our church. Following this class, prospective members will meet with one of the pastors so we might hear your testimony and your understanding of the gospel, learn about past church involvement, and answer any questions you may have. Upon the recommendation of the pastors and the affirmation of the congregation, candidates will be welcomed into membership pending their baptism. (Note: The amount of time between these steps will vary, based on a variety of factors.)

In the case of those who have already been baptized into Christ’s body, the process is the same, but becoming a member of ECC means the formal recognition of one’s prior baptism and a transfer of membership to our church.

Click here to view ECC’s Membership Covenant.