In our church, we do membership interviews with everyone seeking to be considered for membership into the church. This interview process involves going through the church’s articles of faith and expectations of membership. And the candidates for membership have to share their testimony. Specifically, they are asked to share their life before Christ, circumstances surrounding coming to Christ, what specifically they believed when they trusted in Christ, and their life since trusting Christ.
But why? Why do we put people through this?
In Acts 19, we see Paul traveling to Ephesus. Why is Paul traveling? Because, Paul’s life mission is to have people grow in relationship to Christ. He longs to see people take that next step of coming closer to choosing Christ, choosing Christ, or growing in Christ.
Paul exhausts himself and orchestrates his entire life around this one symphony of discipleship. He is literally pouring himself out as a drink offering into others. This is why Paul is traveling, but we see that even when he is not traveling, he is doing the same thing. He is looking to make disciples, and something interesting happens in Ephesus.
Acts 19:1–10: 1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.
Upon arrival in Ephesus, Paul finds religious people. These people are already professing disciples, but, Paul is not content with mere religiousity. What does he do?
He asks them questions.
And, what does he find out? Paul finds that they are disciples of John the Baptist, but not Jesus. They have not heard the full gospel. They have heard of repentance, but not grace. They have heard of God without the clarity of Jesus. They have heard in part, but not in full. They have not received the Spirit of God without whom no one can rightly claim to be a child of God (Rom 8:9).
Had Paul stopped with their mere religious title, who knows when or if they would have heard and received the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, here are a three reasons we do membership interviews with everyone seeking to join the church.
1. Not everyone who wants to join is a believer.
Some people believe that joining a church will get them to heaven. Some people claim the title of “Christian” with little to know understanding of that term. Some people are very good and believe in the mission of the church without having surrendered their life to Jesus Christ.
Our culture values diversity and tolerance. Many believe that specific belief isn’t important. As a result, it should not be surprising when some come forward to “join” a church without a clear understanding or acceptance of the gospel.
2. Every member is called to make disciples.
Making disciples involves bringing people to Christ through the gospel and helping people mature in Christ as a result of the gospel (Matt 28:19-20).
If prospective members cannot articulate the gospel they claim to have experienced in a warm cozy environment surrounded by people who care deeply for them, then how will they ever be able to faithfully, boldly, confidently, and accurately communicate the gospel to a lost and rebellious world?
3. Not every “believer” believes the same thing.
As it relates to the “fundamentals” of the faith, many variant views exist. Paul repeatedly emphasizes theological unity around the gospel for the church (Eph 4) and demonstrates many false beliefs trying to infiltrate the church distorting the true gospel and the use of the law (1 Tim 1). As a result, those who profess Christ must be unified on the core principle, meaning, and purpose of the gospel since that is the very belief that unites them.