The Elders of Blue Valley Baptist Church take seriously their responsibility to "pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God" (Acts 20:27). This is especially true in matters of doctrinal faithfulness. To stay sharp in doctrinal matters, the elders participate in two theological retreats each church year. The purpose of these retreats is to conduct an in-depth study of a particular doctrine pertinent to life in the church. After these retreats, the elders craft a statement for the church family outlining the application of what they believe Scripture teaches on a particular doctrinal matter. It is their prayer that the members of Blue Valley will use the statements to further their study and understanding.
Read the current Elder Statements by clicking the links below.
Elder Statement on Church Membership
“…Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her…” (Eph. 4:25-26).
To love Christ is to love His body, the church, and give ourselves up in like fashion for her sanctification. Church membership is the front door by which we enter into covenant community with like-minded believers. Far from being a man-made, arbitrary requirement, formal church membership is how we identify with Christ and His body. Joining a church identifies us with the beliefs and practices of a local congregation. It is a natural expression of a vital and vibrant commitment to live out the “one another’s” of Scripture.
In an attempt to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the subject of church membership and clarify the importance thereof, the BVBC elder body respectfully submits the following:
The local church is an expression of the universal church. Part of what it means to belong to the body of Christ is to belong to a body of local believers. The universal Church, which is the Body of Christ (Rom. 12:5), is composed of all true believers in Christ. Local churches are to be microcosms of the universal Church. As believers, our names have been written in the Lamb’s book of life and that is what is most important. However, it is also important to commit to a local church where we can submit to the lordship of Christ by meeting regularly for worship, serving and encouraging one another, giving of our resources and being held accountable for what we believe and how we live.
As we consider the importance of church membership, we reflect upon the words of Christ in John 13: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for another” (vv. 34-35). The New Testament is constructed with this understanding of covenant relationship among local believers whose lives are sacrificially knit together to build the body and advance the mission.
Most of the epistles are written directly to a local body of believers or with regards to matters of governance within the local body of believers. It is through the words of Christ and the emergence of local bodies of believers that we discover a true gift from God in the local church where we are encouraged and equipped for ministry and mission utilizing the five habits of a Jesus follower.
As we work together for the sake of the Gospel, we encourage each other in our pursuit of and submission to Jesus Christ. Through local church membership, we declare together that we are united in surrendering to the lordship of Christ, sacrificing our lives and resources for the building of His kingdom, practicing spiritual disciplines that we might be sustained in the faith, sharing our hope in Christ’s resurrection and return, and shining as lights that the world might see Jesus.
Although the Bible does not directly address the concept of formal church membership, there are several passages that strongly imply its existence in the early church. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). This verse indicates that salvation was a prerequisite for being “added” to the church. In Acts 2:41 it seems that someone was keeping a numerical record of those who were saved and thus joining the church. Churches that require a profession of faith before membership are simply following the biblical model (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-18).
There are other places in the New Testament that show the local church as a well-defined group. In Acts 6:3 the church in Jerusalem is told to hold elections of some kind: “Choose seven men from among you...” The phrase among you suggests a group of people distinct from others who were not “among” them. Simply put, the deacons were to be church members.
Church membership is important because it helps define the elder’s responsibility. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Whom will the elders give an account for except the members of their own church? They are not responsible for all the Christians in the world, only for those under their care. Likewise, they are not responsible for all the people in their community, only for believers under their leadership i.e., church members. Membership in a local church is a way of voluntarily placing oneself under the spiritual authority of the elders. Submission to leadership cannot happen apart from membership.
Church membership is also important because, without it, there can be no accountability or church discipline. 1 Cor. 5:1-13 teaches a church how to deal with blatant, unrepentant sin in its midst. In verses 12–13, the words inside and outside are used in reference to the church body. We only judge those who are “inside” the church i.e., members. How can we know who is “inside” or “outside” the church without an official membership roll? (cf. Mt. 18:17)
The early church was structured in such a way that people clearly knew if someone was “in” or “out” of the church. Church membership is a way of identifying oneself with a local body of believers and of making oneself accountable to proper spiritual leadership. Membership is also valuable for organizational purposes. It’s a good way of determining who is allowed to vote on important church decisions and who is eligible for official church positions e.g., elders, deacons, teachers, ministry leaders, etc…
We find in Paul’s letters to the church at Corinth that they were putting people out of the body. So Scripture teaches that we can be a part of the body, and we can be apart from the body. It is difficult to get around Scripture when it talks about being brought into the body and also being put out of it. And yet for many churches there’s no way to put somebody out because they are not even in to begin with. There is no such thing in the New Testament as a church without some recognition of belonging.
Finally, we recognize biblical membership matters because people need it. People need to make a commitment to membership because they need to be connected to Christ’s community in a meaningful way (as opposed to relating to Christ’s community on their own terms). This is not just for the sake of the faith community, but also for the sake of the individual.
God makes us a part of His larger family when we are born again. But then we should covenant together in a local body and live in community with one another, agreeing to live by certain established godly principles and standards. Church membership unifies us by uniting us with those who have repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus for salvation.
Having been brought into covenant community with God, we are called to live in covenant community with one another. In joining a church we make our commitment to Christ and His purposes in the world visible. The greatest evangelistic witness in the world is a unified, well-taught church, walking together in love.
In Acts 9, Jesus so closely identifies with the church that He refers to the congregation of Christians as “Me.” If Jesus Himself so completely identifies with the church how could we do anything less? We trust that our efforts to shed some light on the nature of biblical church membership will help us minimize confusion and strengthen our relationships going forward for the glory of God.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Blue Valley Baptist Church Elders
In this statement, we outline the importance of baptism and address six key questions that existing and prospective Blue Valley Baptist Church members often carry about the ordinance. Through Scripture, we discover that God has directed followers of Jesus to submit to this rich and symbolic act as a means of identifying with Christ's death and resurrection. Baptism is a beautiful expression and self-identification of the old life's passing and the new life's birth, representing a tangible declaration of one's adoption into the family of God. For current and prospective members of Blue Valley Baptist, we hope this statement outlines the biblical practice of baptism and clarifies our administration of the act. For those who have not been baptized, we pray your hearts are moved by the knowledge of Jesus Christ's great love for you and hope you will consider being baptized as soon as possible.
1. What is baptism?
At Blue Valley Baptist Church, we hold to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 in our view of baptism:
Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his [or her] faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord's Supper.
Furthermore, regarding the privileges of church membership, we accept the prior act of baptism from individuals requesting membership at Blue Valley Baptist Church from other Baptist churches and from churches of similar doctrinal belief, as long as that baptism was in accordance with this statement on baptism.
Matthew 3:13-17; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12.
2. Who must be baptized?
We believe that baptism is a volitional act performed by a follower of Jesus in obedience to one’s faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. While this act does not add to the grace provided through faith in Jesus Christ, we believe that all followers of Jesus should be baptized as an obedient symbol of faith and as a public celebration of unification into the Body of Christ. Also, because the decision to follow Jesus and to request baptism is an individual and personal decision, we do not baptize infants. Blue Valley Baptist Church presents the Gospel in all of its ministries across all ages and abilities. We will accept as a candidate for baptism any individual who desires to do so and who professes a testimony of following Jesus.
3. Why do we baptize?
We believe in a baptized church membership, and so we baptize at Blue Valley Baptist Church because of:
a. the example Jesus Christ set by being baptized,
b. His command to “make disciples and baptize” (Matthew 28:18),
c. the continuation of this practice by the apostles and the churches in the book of Acts.
4. When should someone be baptized?
Scripture is not prescriptive about the timing of baptism; however, Scripture has a sense of immediacy relative to baptism upon confession of faith. We see this in John the Baptist’s call for repentance (Mark 1), at Pentecost (Acts 2:41), with Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:18), and in other accounts in the book of Acts. Repentance and baptism go hand-in-hand with baptism being the outward and public symbol of internal regeneration. Therefore, upon profession of faith as a follower of Jesus, we are to follow immediately and obediently in baptism. To delay baptism is to disconnect the outward act from the saving work of Jesus Christ and to diminish the impact of one’s personal testimony of both.
We understand that our members desire to share their baptism with friends and family members who may not attend Blue Valley Baptist Church and who may have to travel to be a part of this important celebration. Therefore, some time may be needed to allow scheduling for such logistics. At Blue Valley Baptist Church, we encourage Followers of Jesus to be baptized as soon as possible after their professions of faith in Jesus Christ.
We also recognize that there are numerous circumstances that may have delayed baptism for individuals who have been followers of Jesus for months, years, or even decades. As part of our ministry, we seek to shepherd all individuals in their journey with Christ and encourage them to take the step of obedience in baptism, and we rejoice with them when they do so.
5. Who can baptize?
In Scripture, baptisms are performed by John the Baptist, the disciples (John 4:2, Matthew 28), Philip (Acts 8:38), Peter, and Paul. There are also many references to groups of converts being baptized, but there is no direct record of who performed the baptisms. Scripture is not prescriptive about who is authorized to perform the ordinance of baptism; however, it stands to reason that baptism should be performed by an individual who is a follower of Jesus and who been baptized. Furthermore, we place the ordinance of baptism on the same level of importance as the other ordinance of the church, the Lord’s Supper, and of the ministry of preaching.
At Blue Valley Baptist Church, men ordained by the church perform these activities. Therefore, at Blue Valley Baptist Church, elders, ministers, and deacons who are actively serving in those roles in the church will administer baptism. This stance on who will administer is not a condition for the acceptance of a prior baptism from an individual seeking membership at Blue Valley Baptist Church.
6. How must we baptize?
The word “baptize” is a direct transliteration used in the Greek manuscripts of Scripture, “baptize,” meaning “to immerse” or “dip under.” For this reason, we believe that this was the understanding of this word held by the original authors of Scripture and those performing the act of baptism in the early church. The examples of John the Baptist baptizing in the Jordan River and Philip “going down into the water” (Acts 8:38) suggest baptism by immersion. Based upon this understanding of Scripture, at Blue Valley Baptist Church we believe that baptism by immersion is the only acceptable manner of baptism. It is the manner in which we administer the ordinance and is a criterion for the acceptance of prior baptism from an individual seeking membership at Blue Valley Baptist Church. Blue Valley Baptist Church desires to glorify our Savior by celebrating this act with any Follower of Jesus coming in obedience to be baptized, and we understand that baptism by immersion may be a challenge for some individuals because of advanced age, health, or other conditions. We will address these cases on an individual basis and make the necessary accommodations.
Our conviction is that as a testimony to both non-believers and followers of Jesus, and as a part of identification with the Body of Christ, that baptism will be performed publicly in front of the church body as part of a regular worship service or other special church event.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Blue Valley Baptist Church Elders
Today has been a tragic day for our country. We condemn violence and are grieved by its presence in American life. That this violence has reached the very heart of our democracy should serve as a wake-up call to us all. Our elders call on the members of Blue Valley Baptist Church to join us in doing the following:
- Pray for our leaders, citizens, and Followers of Jesus to deescalate the rhetoric that has led to today’s tragic events.
- A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1 ESV)
- Pray for a peaceful transition of power in the coming weeks.
- But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7 ESV)
- Repent of the sin of placing partisanship over the person of Jesus.
- Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” (1 Corinthians 10:7 ESV)