Baptists > Distinctives > Saved & Baptized Church Membership
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Although, salvation by faith (internally spiritual) and being immersed in water (externally symbolic) are two different things, both are necessary to become a member of a Baptist church.
   Being able to provide an account of one's salvation is essential to become a member of a Baptist church.  There are still some churches who stipulate that such a testimony be verbal and public.  However, most Baptist churches are comfortable with an individual telling of the moment when they were born-again to one of their pastors, a deacon, or a "personal worker" during an invitation (usually at the conclusion of the sermon when individuals are invited to come to the front where a designated person will read appropriate Scriptures and pray with you).  Having provided a testimony of salvation, the next step is to be baptized (see below) to become a church member.
   Should a believer already hold membership in another Baptist church, it may be transferred by letter.  Using this approach, the receiving church sends a request for a transfer of letter to the previous church.  Most Baptist churches, regardless of whatever differences they may share regarding the finer aspects of doctrine, will honor the transfer of letter.  The only time they may not do so is if the requesting member has been a serious problem in the church where they had been previously attending.  In fact, this method of receiving members benefits local churches who may not be aware that the person requesting membership has been an issue.
   Conversely, there are Baptists who are proud of the fact that they have an unbroken chain of letters from one church to another as they have moved to various communities or sensed the leading of God to bring whatever they can contribute to another church where they are needed.
   Another method of receiving members is by statement.  There are those circumstances where a believer had been a member of a church that is no longer in existence or it has been a very long time since being a church member.  Since churches do not always hold names on their membership roles for indefinite periods of time, there may be no record of someone having been a member.  Since Baptists do not baptize a person more than one time, accepting a believer by statement is a normal and accepted practice.  Those who request membership using this method will have to share more of their salvation testimony and baptism by immersion but, in view of this way of joining the church, sharing such information would only be reasonable.
   The bottom line is that those who are granted membership in a Baptist church must provide a clear testimony of their having been born-again/saved.
    "...And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."  ~ Acts 2:47b
   Trusting in Jesus as your personal Saviour will give one the assurance of Heaven as your home.  However, it is being immersed in water as a testimony to the church when it has gathered that qualifies a believer for membership.
   Baptists do not confuse water baptism with salvation by faith.  Being born-again is purely a spiritual matter.  Baptizing someone in water cannot save a lost soul from Hell.  However, it does provide a beautiful symbolic picture of death (going under the water), burial (being under the water), and resurrection (coming out of the water).  When a believer is immersed (from the Greek word "baptidzo" that was transliterated into English as "baptism"), he/she is testifying to the church that salvation by faith has already taken place and now membership in the church is being granted.  It is also considered to be a Biblical command and not an option for a Christian.
   Baptists do not sprinkle infants.  Accepting that ignorance of the knowledge of sin protects infants and small children until they come to understand their own sin guilt, they are not yet accountable.  Therefore, they cannot comprehend salvation by faith, let alone being baptized into the membership of a local church.  The misconception that babies need to be sprinkled into some kind of invisible universal body to protect them should they die before reaching the age of accountablity is not to be found in the Scriptures.
   Some Baptist churches still use a nearby lake or river to baptize.  Most employ large walk-in tanks that are incorporated into their church auditoriums.  Those to be baptized are instructed beforehand as to the purpose and meaning of baptism.  Changing rooms are provided in close proximity to the baptistry.  The pastor is authorized to perform the baptisms for the congregation.  Usually, there is no set date for when baptisms are to occur.  Since baptism is not necessary for salvation, the church may wait until several believers are ready to be baptized and then plan a service to include this
   Baptists love to see new believers come up out of the water.  Don't be surprised if there is loud appluause or at least a chorus of amens.
   "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."   ~ Act 2:41 
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Slippage Questions:
Saved & Baptized Church Membership

   "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip."   ~ Hebrews 2:1

Do you associate water baptism with salvation by faith or do you understand that they are two different things?
Does the church you attend baptize infants or small children before they come to faith in Jesus Christ?
If so, what Scriptural support does your church use to show that infants or any unsaved person should be baptized by water?
Does the church you attend grant membership without requiring Scriptural baptism to do so?
Do you feel that baptism is an option or is it something that Christ commanded us to do once we have been saved by faith?
Does the church you attend play down water baptism or ignore it altogether?
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