“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” – Luke 14:28
Let’s face it, we live in an age where many people do not really know what church membership is. The message is often conveyed that joining a local church requires almost zero commitment. “Do you want to get to know people better? Do you want to feel like part of a community? Would you like to hear from the Bible every now and then? Join a church.” These ideas, though often well-intended, do not convey Jesus’ teaching on faithfulness. He often told people to count the cost and know beforehand what it means to follow Him and be a part of His body (the church). We too, as a church, want people to know what they are getting into and with whom. It is part of our job to give potential members an opportunity to dialogue with us about our views.
Imagine a person growing up in the Baptist church. At some point, he or she joins the church because that’s what they were told to do. Eventually, this person grows up, gets married to someone with a similar background, has children, and decides the family needs a church home because that, to them, is what families do. This family visits Eastern Hills Baptist on a Sunday morning and love it so much they decide to join right then and there. They come down at the end of the service and make their intentions known. They were already members of another Baptist church, so they should be able to just transfer their membership, right? But there is a problem. They have only experienced a very small portion of Eastern Hills. They don’t know what goes on outside of a Sunday morning. They don’t know our view on missions. They don’t know our doctrinal distinctives. They don’t know what expectations we have for our members. Furthermore, we don’t know anything about them. We don’t know if the Baptist church they came from is liberal or conservative in its theology. We don’t know if they believe the Bible is God’s Word. For that matter, we don’t know if they really understand what it means to belong to Christ. There is no way we would know any of this information without meaningful dialogue.
It’s for these kinds of reasons that a class like First Steps is so necessary. It provides an opportunity for conversation about church membership. It gives people the opportunity to count the cost of joining before actually committing to the church. First Steps also gives Eastern Hills the ability to affirm someone in their decision to join. After getting to know a potential member a little, the church can say, “Yes, this person knows and believes the right things about Jesus and is aware of the privilege and responsibility of church membership.” It is only through something like First Steps that the congregation can confidently proclaim, “Amen!” when asked if someone should be counted among us as a member.
I write all this because I know the First Steps class is a new idea at Eastern Hills. I know it can seem unnecessary or prohibitive, but in a world that is increasingly uninformed of the things of God, it is so important to make sure a person is aware of what we are about at this blessed institution. We are serious here about Christ’s mission for the church. We are thrilled to be a part of it! We want to welcome people in to this mission as well. So, we make sure they know what we are about, and when they join we celebrate together, praising God for bringing us all to Eastern Hills Baptist Church!