Teaching believers the difference between fellowship and membership in the local church is not an easy work! Many church leaders don’t understand the differences, and some assemblies have ceased to practice Biblical reception altogether. Here is a letter designed to inform those new to the local assembly in our town. It may give you some ideas…………….
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Dear Christian Friend(s);
We are delighted to see you attending Waterbury Christian Fellowship; glad to be getting to know you better, and to know that you desire to grow in the Lord. We count it a privileged to encourage you in that process.
As you continue to attend WCF, you will probably notice that some things are done differently from churches you may have attended in the past. Also, you may hear mention of a “fellowship list,” or perhaps you may even hear someone being ” received into fellowship” at WCF on a Sunday morning. We want to explain why we do this.
The Scripture instructs us to receive one another in the same way that Christ received us (Romans 15:7), and Paul goes on to exhort his readers to receive into their fellowship a sister who is traveling to their area on business (Romans 16:1-2). Many Bible passages describe the responsibilities and privileges of fellowship (e.g. Hebrews 13:17; James 5:14). In order for the elders to distinguish between people who merely wish to visit the assembly, and those who want to consider WCF their church home, a list of names called a fellowship list is maintained. People are added to that list as the church grows.
Anyone who would like to be received into fellowship at WCF should understand that being in fellowship is not “church membership.” According to the Bible, membership in the church begins automatically at the new birth, and always refers to one’s place in the whole body of Christ. It has nothing to do with church membership as a legal term giving a place in a corporation, with voting rights etc. as often used in churches in our country today.
Fellowship in the assembly by contrast, has no legal implications whatsoever. It is a spiritual matter of grace whereby the person desires to be under the watchful care and accountability of the elders to God, and agrees to live in peace with brothers and sisters in the fellowship. All believers should know that while leaders at WCF are always happy to examine our beliefs and practices in the light of Scripture, those things that may seem new, such as the absence of an official “Pastor,” the plurality of elders, the honoring of Biblical teaching about the different roles of men and women, the order in worship, etc. are not held because of convenience or tradition, but are matters of conviction from the Scriptures. Those in fellowship are expected to accept these things, and refrain from sowing discord within the church. We do understand that some may not agree, and may be happier in gatherings where traditional church practices are observed.
Finally, we desire that both reception into fellowship and leaving the fellowship (should you ever find it necessary) be handled in a Christ honoring manner. if you desire to be received into fellowship at WCF, please speak to an elder and a visit will be set up. That’s a good time for questions and answers! If you must leave the fellowship, please let us know in advance so that we may pray for you and make the transition to your new church home a happy one and a pleasing testimony to the Lord.