Who Should Join?
Jesus calls His disciples to follow him together in a church community. All believers are members of Christ’s body (1 Cor 12:13) and members of God’s household (Eph 2:18). To follow Jesus obediently, disciples of Jesus need to learn how He wants them to live and relate with each other as fellow members of His body and put into practice.
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body though many are one body, so it is with Christ.”
(1 Cor 12:12)
We live a society which promotes consumerism, personal autonomy, and low commitment. Membership of a club in Hong Kong involves paying a fee to be entitled to certain perks and benefits which are expendable if a better option comes along. This is not what church membership means.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul says that we are members of the body of Christ, and each one of us has a vital part to play. That is, we are intrinsically interconnected just as in the human body. If one part suffers, every part does, if one part rejoices, all rejoice. A disconnected hand will suffer and die, so a disconnected member of the church will also suffer and wilt spiritually. Christians are not consumers but servants, providing God’s love and care to each other. We are not independent, but vitally connected to each other as an eye is to the hand. We don’t keep our options open, but plug in and commit, for it is only here that we express our family identity in Jesus most fully.
“Be devoted to one another in love.” (Rom. 12:10)
Membership is about loving commitment to God’s people out of obedience and love for God. It is the natural fruit of responding to the gospel. After hearing Peter’s sermon, 3000 people repented in faith to Christ, were baptized, and then were added to the church. Belonging to the church is an identity which must be expressed concretely. There was and is no such thing as believing in Jesus apart from a deep commitment to the local church. For us, membership in a low-commitment culture is a way of being counter-cultural and saying visibly, “I’m part of this church.” It’s going from being a “fan” of EEC to becoming a “family member.” From saying “I like EEC” to “I’m committed to EEC.” Though there are many amazing churches in Hong Kong, you are saying “this is where my church home is. I am on board with EEC’s teaching, values, vision, and mission.”
In Scripture, there are clearly well-defined boundaries as to who is “inside” the church and who is “outside” as seen in the lists of widows (1 Tim. 5:9) and putting out a member from the church (1 Cor. 5:3-5). When a believer moved from one church to another, letters of commendation were often written to the new church (Acts 18:27; Rom. 16:1; Col. 4:10; cf. 2 Cor. 3:1-2). In a transient culture, membership is an important way to stop dating the church and settle down to marry her!
Membership is also about commitment to the journey of growing as a disciple of Jesus in community. A disciple is someone who is growing in trusting Jesus as Saviour and joyfully obeying him as Lord in every area of life. God has given church community because Christians cannot grow as disciples independently. The responsibility the church has for one another is expressed in the New Testament in over 50 “one another” sayings (see Rom. 12:6-8; Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). one another One key passage is Hebrews 3:13, which says “Exhort one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Sin is deceitful. It creeps up on us subtly and we are often blind to it. Members therefore see their responsibility not to ignore those who are struggling, absent, or going astray, but to encourage, rebuke, correct, and serve them on that journey of discipleship. In effect, we’re saying, “I want to help you grow in godliness, will you help me do the same?”
Intrinsic to discipleship is the call to make disciples (Matt. 28:19-20). Members see that reaching out to others is not only the job of the pastor or staff, it is the call for every believer to play a part in God’s great redemptive mission in the world. In a world where we’re looking to live purposeful lives, membership states formally, “I am part of something bigger than myself. I want to be involved with the church’s mission.”
“So I exhort the elders among you… shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:1-3)
Following Christ also means submitting to godly elders. The role of elders (pastors) is summed up in the biblical image of shepherds with a flock, feeding them with truth, caring for them, leading them, and protecting them from being led astray. Any sheep that has no shepherd is vulnerable to being eaten by the wolves of sin or false doctrines (Acts 20:28-29).
Pastors’ authority comes not merely from a title but from the Word of God they speak and the character of their lives lived in obedience to that Word (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). As pastors seek to follow Christ, so the flock should seek to follow their leading as it is in line with Scripture. Just like Christ was a servant, pastors in the church are to be servant-leaders not power-hungry (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Where pastors or other members are acting out of line with Scripture, it is the members’ responsibility to seek to graciously correct, rebuke, and encourage them to come back to Christ. (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Where elders or other members are acting out of line with Scripture, it is the members’ responsibility to seek to graciously correct, rebuke, and encourage them to come back to Christ.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Heb. 13:17)
Pastors will be called to account by God for how they have watched over the flock. It is important for them to know who they are accountable for. Membership is important for pastors to know who their sheep are, so they can pray, support, and care for them. Likewise, it is also important that the flock know who their shepherds are so they can submit to them.
Step 1: Attend Membership Matters
Step 2: Meet with Church Pastor or Leader
If you decide to move into membership, a leader will meet with you to talk about:
Our hope is to get to know you better and you us in this process.
Step 3: Get to Know the Church
Step 4: Welcomed as a Member
Fear of Commitment
This is very real in our culture. We fear being tied down, restricted, or missing out on other “better” options. The gospel though challenges us that we find our greatest freedom not in our independence and autonomy, but in a rooted community where we are committed in love.
Fear of Authority
Some people have had bad experiences of leadership which have scarred them. Sadly, authority is often abused to beat people into submission rather than to serve others the way God calls leaders to. It takes time to heal through hurts and conflict. At the same time, part of the healing process from bad leadership is to find godly leadership to encourage and care for you. God has gifted and called leaders in the church to care and lead his people. Their service is an important for you as part of Christ’s body.
At EEC we believe that transparent and mutually accountable relationship between leaders and members is essential for a healthy church. We understand that leaders no matter how godly or experienced will fail. We encourage you to take time to get to know church leaders and the structures in place for members and leaders to work together. As you do so we hope you will find confidence to join a local church trusting the power of the Holy Spirit at work in His people.
Hurt by a Previous Church
We understand that it can be very hard and difficult to open yourself up after having been hurt by a church community. The process of healing and forgiveness takes much time, patience, and prayer. The solution however is not to distance yourself from God’s people, but to join a church that is healthy and that can help encourage, support, and build you up again. We need to be part of a church body to grow, but the church is full of sinners and often ends up hurting each other. This is why there are so many repeated commands in Scripture for Christians to forgive each other, bear with each other, and look to each other’s interests in humility. Don’t feel discouraged! Hold on to the gospel truth that God will finish the work of salvation he started and that in Christ there is healing and forgiveness. This is true for yourself and also for the church community you were hurt by.
Short/Uncertain Length of Stay
Don’t let uncertainty about the future keep you from obedience in the present! We encourage you to join the church, whether you’re here for only 1 year, 2 years, or 20 years! Your commitment to a local church is important for you to keep growing as a disciple. It gives you a chance to serve God where he has placed you right now. People often stay longer than they initially thought, so do not press pause in your discipleship but get involved.
I Am Already a Member of Another Church, Can I Still Be a Member of EEC?
We recognize some people are only in Hong Kong temporarily and will go back to their previous churches in other countries. In such cases, yes, you can be a member of both. However, membership is about investing in one church family, so if you are a member of a church in Hong Kong, we would ask you to transfer your membership to EEC and talk with a pastor about any further issues.
Classes will begin in April. Time and Dates will be confirmed after registration closed.