How Do I Become a Member?
1. The Welcome to Harbor Seminar - Your first step is attendance at the four-hour Welcome to Harbor class. Attendance at the class in no way obligates you to become a member. You may simply find out more about Harbor's vision, goals and what position we take on certain Christian doctrines. Contact the church office at 619.699.5952, or to find out when and where the next Welcome to Harbor Seminar is taking place.
2. The Membership Interview - When you have decided you want to belong to the Harbor family and have completed the above seminar, call the church office at 619-793-6781 and schedule your membership interview. Generally, these meetings last about 45 minutes.
3. The interviews are designed for several purposes: First, it gives us a chance to get to know you better, to hear your experience in coming to know God in Christ and what is happening presently in your spiritual life. Second, you have an opportunity to ask any questions you might have — about the church, its position on certain issues and how the church operates. This is your opportunity to interact, to make sure you are comfortable with your decision to join Harbor.
4. The pastor you meet with will read to you the public promises you will be asked to make before the congregation to make sure you are clear about what you are promising and to determine whether you can affirm these promises.
5. Public Vows - After the your interview a staff member will call to confirm the date of the worship service when you will make your public promises. When the time is called, you will go forward and affirm the promises after a pastor reads them.
6. Baptism - If you have never been baptized, we would be delighted to baptize you when you make your membership promises. Let the pastor know during your interview and we will schedule your baptism (or for parents, a child baptism). On the date of your baptism, please arrive 15 minutes before the service to meet with a pastor.
What if I choose not to become a formal member?
If you decide to stay involved with Harbor without membership, there will be no effort to pressure you into joining. Do not join unless you are ready to be committed! A broken promise is worse than no promise at all.
We believe that membership in Harbor is a privilege. It is not required for full participation in church activities. We encourage you to join our covenant family, but we do not intend to exclude anyone from family activities if they have chosen not to pursue formal membership. Non-members may worship with us, attend meetings on the church's future, be active in a home group or other ministry, go on the church retreats, etc. Many regular attenders have been quite active with our church without a membership commitment — but let us say again that we would prefer to have you inside the family.
What Does Membership in the Church Community Mean?
To be a member of a church is to make a public promise to live according to the Word and to support the work of the congregation. In the Bible this is called “a covenant”. Every believer is part of the church as organism (the Spiritual Body of Christ), but only by a public promise can you be part of the church as organization, as gathered. A public promise, or covenant, is the basis for all society, according to the Bible: marriage, employment, citizenship, church membership, etc. are all relationships of accountability.
Membership in a church is not like membership in a social club or other organizations. Most organizations see their members as consumers, the ones whom the organization serves. The Church of Christ is a completely different community — membership means ministry and service, means going from being a consumer to becoming a provider of God’s love and care to others. At Harbor, we take seriously that we are a church not for ourselves, but for others.
Why Formal Membership in a Church?
Of course, many of the benefits of a vital congregation are available to anyone who becomes involved, whether they are members or not. But there is a rationale for formal membership.
“Church” in the NT usually meant the specific local church like that at Ephesus or Corinth. Did people actually join local churches formally, or was it an informal association? Five indications:
1. The instructions for church discipline
Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5 talk about putting a person out of the church (“remove” NASB, “expel” NIV) and treating him like an unbeliever. Since unbelievers were welcome at worship, removal must have indicated a distinct formal association.
2. The meaning of the word “join”
After the fiery end of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:13, no nonChristians “dared join them [the church], but the people esteemed them highly.” The Greek word for “join” has strong connotations of commitment. The same word is used to speak of sexual relationships (1Cor 6:16) and joining to the Lord (1Cor 6:17).
3. The meaning of “the whole church”
In 1Cor 14:23, Paul says “if the whole church comes together in one place...” How would the leaders know if the “whole church” was there if no formal relationship was established?
4. The instructions for pastoral oversight and spiritual leadership
Pastors/overseers/shepherds were to care for “all the flock” (Acts 20:28. cf. 1Tim 3, Acts 20, Phil 1:1, Titus 1). Leaders of the citywide churches must have had some listing of believers. Since leaders were accountable for the souls of the flock under their care (Heb 13:17), they must have had some commitment for care.
5. The biblical metaphors used to describe local churches
Flock, temple, body, and household are used specifically of local churches (Acts 20, Eph 2, 1Cor 12, 1Tim 3). Each of these metaphors has a clear distinction of who is part of the church, and who isn’t.
“In the New Testament there is no such person as a Christian who is not a church member. Conversion was described as ‘the Lord adding to the church’ (Acts 2:47). There was no spiritual drifting.” (Douglas Millar).
Biblical Reasons for Joining a Church
1. You have the benefit of accountability to spiritual leaders. Every believer must “obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls” (Hebrews 13:17). This command assumes that you have a covenant with certain spiritual leaders. They are responsible for you and you to them. Some people may say, “I am accountable only to God”. Ultimately, only God has authority over you. But the doctrine of sin should sober us about making ourselves the sole judges over our own hearts, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). Hebrews 3:13 says we need others to exhort us “daily” lest we become hardened by sin.
2. You have the benefits of church power to shape the ministry of the congregation. Members choose officers and guide the direction of the congregation. Officers are elected (Acts 6:1-6), by “the people”. Formal membership entitles you to voting rights within the government of our church. While congregational meetings are open to anyone who wishes to attend, only members may pass resolutions, vote for changes to the by-laws or nominate and elect the officers. Members officially “call” the pastors to the work of the church and recommend the annual budget to the Elders.
3. You are not ashamed to identify with Christ or his people (Mark 8:38)
4. You stop being an independent Christian (Matt 18:15-17, Heb 13:17)
5. You participate in a stronger, more unified effort of God’s people
6. You have greater opportunities to use spiritual gifts (1Cor 12, Eph 4)
7. You openly demonstrate the reality of the Body of Christ (1Cor 12:27)
8. You encourage new believers to commitment to the local body (Heb 10:24f)
9. Informal membership privileges may include priority in pastoral and private counseling (#7), church ceremonies such as marriage (#3), and opportunities to lead church ministries or serve as church officers (#4). Members may baptize their infant children into the covenant family as well (#2).
What are the Formal Membership Promises?
Harbor belongs to a wider family —the Presbyterian Church in America (“PCA”), a denomination with roots in the Reformation and the Calvinist tradition (more on that later). Membership at Harbor means that you have committed yourself to our family of believers — that you have agreed to participate as fully as you are able in the life, ministry and government of our church. Therefore, Harbor members must affirm the following promises as a vow unto the Lord:
1. Do you believe that you are made in the image of God, created to worship, serve, and enjoy him in all of life?
2. Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope except through his sovereign mercy?
3. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
4. Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes a follower of Christ?
5. Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
6. Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the Church, and promise to strive for its purity and peace?
What are the “Expectations” of Active Membership?
How do you grow into active membership at Harbor, fleshing out your promise to “support the Church” (4th promise)? What does God intend for his people to do as a part of his Church?
We encourage all of our members to live out their membership in the context of Scripture’s expectation for their life as a Christian.
There is a proper balance between active involvement and over commitment. Therefore, for many people, this ought to be a limit to your activity to keep you from ‘burnout.’ Our ministry activity should not become a barrier to living a God-honoring life. Your Christian walk ought to be lived out in the following specific, practical ways:
1. Daily walk with God
Regular, daily use of the “means of grace” - Bible reading and prayer - methodically for your own spiritual growth. See Mark 1:35
2. Weekly worship with the people of God
Worship even when you are away from your home congregation. See Hebrews 10:24-25.
3. Membership in a Community Group
Community groups are the main way that pastoral care occurs at Harbor. For your own spiritual growth as well as others, you need to belong to a group. See Eph 4:15-16.
4. Ministry involvement
Besides attending worship and a community group each member should find one way to minister to others. Use your gifts! See I Peter 4:10-11.
5. Stewardship of finances through tithes and gifts
See Malachi 3:8-10; I Corinthians 16:1-2.
6. Bring and include new people
Let the gospel overflow from your life into the lives of those around you - at home, at work, in your circle of friends. Help those whom you bring to Harbor to be able to connect into the life of the church. See Acts 2:41-47.