The Parish of Newbattle
"Becoming a member of the church"
1. What the Church believes
The basic creed of the church is called the Apostles' Creed. It has received this title because of its great antiquity; it dates from very early times in the Church, a half century or so from the last writings of the New Testament. The creed is a summery of the main points of Christian belief and doctrine.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
He descended into hell.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,
The Apostles’ Creed is usually said on occasions such as Baptism, Conformation and Communion. Other statements of faith include: The Nicene Creed & The Westminster Confession of Faith. What makes the mainstream Christian churches’ distinctive and different from the various cults such as Mormon’s and Jehovah’s Witnesses and other religions such as Islam and Hinduism is essentially our belief about who Jesus is. For the Christian, Jesus is the Son of God. He is the unique and ultimate revelation of God. It is by his sacrificial death on the cross that we have the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
2. Your experience of church
Think about the story of your own involvement with your Church.
3. How important is it to belong to the Church?
You cannot be a Christian on your own. To be a Christian means to have a special relationship with God and with other people. That relationship must be living and growing. So you need to be part of the Church if you are to grow as a Christian.
Read Luke’s description of the early Church in Acts:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
(Acts 2. 42-47)
4. Pictures of the Church
The early Church had no church buildings. The Church for them was a collection of people, not a place of worship. You did not just ‘go’ to church. You belonged to the Church and you were the Church.
Look at these three New Testament pictures.
In the Creed we say we believe in the ‘One, holy, Catholic and Apostolic church’. The word Catholic means universal. The word apostolic refers to a church built on the foundations of the apostles of Jesus. It also means ‘sent’ by God with a message of love to the world
5. Belonging to the Church
There are four different ways in which we belong to the Church. Each one of them is important.
i. The universal church
ii. The denomination
iii. The congregation
iv. The small group
I. The Universal Church
The whole company of Christian believers all around the world and all through time. We are part of that great fellowship of Christians. We are being watched, prayed for and cheered on by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us (Hebrews 12. 1). We have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world today. We are one body.
II. The Denomination
We are also members of a denomination. Within the universal church we are Anglicans or Baptists, Roman Catholics or part of some other stream. Newbattle Parish Church is part of the Church of Scotland, which is the national church and largest Christian denomination in Scotland. We have a Presbyterian system of government, which means the church is governed by a system presbyteries, located all around Scotland and not by a hierocracy of clergy such as bishops etc. Each year in Edinburgh there is the “General Assembly” in which all the presbyteries are represented by elder’s and ministers.
All the major denominations believe the same on the fundamentals of faith but differ on the interpretation of some things. The denomination gives the Christian a wider sense of belonging. It lays the ground rules of belief and practice, worship, ministry and authority. But it is not enough on its own.
III. The Congregation
We need to be committed members of a local church. That is our Christian family. It is where we worship every week. It is where we learn, where we care, where we move on in ministry, where we give our support financially. Belonging means being there on Sundays, giving and receiving.
IV. The Small Group
Even congregations can be very large and relationships superficial. The quality of Christian life described in Acts 2 can often best be realised in a small group. There are different ways to this in different churches. The important thing is to have a place where people can carry on growing, sharing and giving in a personal way.
6. Joining the Church
All Christian churches are united in recognising baptism in water as central to becoming a member of the Church. Baptism is what the Church calls a sacrament. The word ‘sacrament’ means a pledge. It is a promise from God.
In baptism God promises to forgive our sins. It is a sign of the complete washing and cleansing from sin which we receive when we accept Christ. It is a sign of our old self dying with Christ and a complete new beginning as we rise with him.
The Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer describes a sacrament as an ‘outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’.
The outward sign is something you see and experience physically. In baptism this is the washing with water. The inward spiritual grace is what you receive spiritually. In baptism this is the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit and birth into new life.
Different Beliefs about Baptism
In the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and many other churches children of church members are baptized as infants. Their parents make promises and statements of faith on behalf of the children.
When the children have grown old enough to understand, or often when they come back to the Christian faith as adults, they are received into adult membership of the Church. In the Church of Scotland this takes place through confirmation. In the confirmation service people make their own profession of faith and the Minister lays his hands on each of them and prays that God will confirm (or strengthen) them by his Holy Spirit.
In Baptist, Pentecostal and many other independent churches no one is baptised as an infant. In these churches people can only be baptised as adults upon full profession of faith. Baptism takes place by full immersion.
In the Church of Scotland a minister may baptise either the children of believing parents or adults on profession faith. Baptism may be administered by sprinkling, pouring or immersion.
7. The promises of Membership
Joining the church involves making four promises:
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