Join Grace Pointe
Join Grace Pointe
The handbook (available at the church) has been designed to guide you through the membership process at Grace Pointe. This online portion will provide you with some of the information to understand the why and how of our membership process.
The process is self-paced. You will read the materials and complete all of the studies on your own.
Study materials include the workbook and your Bible. The workbook is divided into five chapters:
The amount of time required to complete this process varies from person to person. When you complete all five chapters you will be ready for the Confirmation Step of the membership process. At that time, if you attend the Naperville campus, you will need to contact Kristi in the church office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 630.637.2069 to schedule an interview session. If you attend the Plainfield campus, you will need to contact Dan Painter at email@example.com or 815.556.8364.
Be sure to pray before you begin your study. Ask the Lord for:
If you have any questions or concerns during this journey, please feel free to contact an elder or a member of the pastoral staff.
Why Church Membership?
You might assume that as long as you profess Christ, there is no need for any further identification with a local church. Isn’t it enough simply to call yourself a Christian and attend services somewhere regularly? What is the point of formal membership? What does God’s Word say about being a part of the body of Christ?
Three Reasons for Formal Membership
First, we believe the concept of membership is a biblical one. While the term “church member” is never used, the concept of individual commitment to the local body is present throughout the New Testament. Believers identified themselves with the local body and were challenged to become devoted participants.
Second, formal membership is valuable to the leaders of the church as they seek to fulfill their God-given task of shepherding. It is important to identify those who truly comprise the “flock” at Grace Pointe – the core that can be counted on to build and sustain the ministry of the church.
Finally, membership benefits the individual. In a culture where commitment is no longer highly valued or encouraged, recognizable membership is an important step that moves each of us out of the vague clouds of our good intentions and into the clear light of committed participation. Church membership also gives the believer a solid support structure for growth. The church member no longer struggles or grows in isolation. Instead, everything that affects the individual affects the church as a whole. The church is the God-ordained support structure for the believer.
For some more thoughts on why you should take the step of membership, read this PDF: WhyJoin?
“Member” vs. “Membership”
At the moment of your conversion, you became a member of the body of Christ and the universal church of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Ephesians 2:13-22, 4:3-6; Colossians 1:13-22). This was solely accomplished by God’s grace and is eternal and unchanging. The Bible also urges us to continue to grow by becoming active parts of the church body (Romans 12:4-8; Hebrews 10:24-25).
Although you are a permanent member of the universal church of Jesus Christ, you may have membership in several local churches during the course of a lifetime. We do not see the invisible bond of being a member of the body of Christ, but we can identify those who are committed to membership at Grace Pointe.
We believe that there are three essential biblical characteristics that describe a person who is devoted to Christ and His Church. As such, we believe that these characteristics and their outworking are essential to membership at Grace Pointe and for personal growth of the individual believer.
Devoted to Christ
The individual has experienced the saving work of Christ followed by appropriate public testimony (Ephesians 2:8-9) and is continuing to progress in sanctification and grow in obedience (2 Peter 3:18).
Devoted to His church
The Christian life is not meant to be lived alone, but in community with other believers. We should find joy in serving the body of Christ through service that utilizes our gifts. We also need the body to encourage our sanctification; we need to be connecting to other believers in significant encouraging relationships (Acts 2:46; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:5-7; Hebrews 10:23-25). Participation in the body also includes honoring God with the material gifts He has given us by supporting the local church and other God-honoring ministries (1 Chronicles 29:14; 2 Corinthians 9:6-9).
Devoted to His mission
As believers in Jesus, being ambassadors of Christ and the Gospel should be of the utmost importance in our lives. We should demonstrate the love of God through the power of the Holy Spirit and trust God for the results (Mark 16:15-16).
The main responsibility of every member of Grace Pointe is to participate in the life of the church by following Christ. The only expectation of members of Grace Pointe is that they are true disciples of Christ. In other words, they are devoted to Christ, they are devoted to His church, and they are devoted to His mission and live accordingly.
A farmer has no power to make his crop grow. He prepares the field, sows the seed, fertilizes the soil, and protects the plants from parasites, but he cannot create life. Yet every good farmer cultivates his crop because he knows he must do the RIGHT thing even if he cannot do the most important thing. Most of all, he pays attention to the health of his field. He analyzes it constantly, observing the important indicators of life: seedlings that break through the soil, green color which denotes health, and changes that show growth. If these things are absent, he works to reverse the detrimental effects of whatever threatens his crop. He takes all of this action, yet remains utterly dependent on something other than what he can do to make his crop successful. Such is the life of a farmer.
And such is the life of the church! The apostle Paul said, “You are God’s field” (1 Corinthians 3:9). We are completely dependent on God, yet we must look for the signs of life and combat the presence of what threatens our spiritual health both individually and collectively. We must look for the characteristics of a healthy church, and see if we have them. We must note the symptoms of spiritual blight, and fend it off. We do this with the humble admission that God is in our midst, providing life and growth. We are caretakers, not creators.
What are the signs of spiritual life and health? Specifically, how can we look at our church as a whole and know that these signs indicate we are doing well or that a problem is present that requires a change? We need a diagnostic tool.
Our study of the characteristics of a disciple draws, in broad strokes, the picture of a healthy church. If we are living out these characteristics, we are making progress. If people are not progressing along these lines, something needs to change. As you look into this study, realize it is intended to be used as a tool, not just for our church, but for YOU. The amount of time required to complete this study will vary from person to person depending on the amount of reflecting you do while writing your responses. To maximize the personal benefits, consider completing the study in stages, perhaps using it as a devotional aid during the days you’re working on it.
If you are interested in becoming a member, please contact Dan Painter at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know! We will get in touch with you, and give you the workbook ASAP! If you would like to see the study in the workbook, keep reading below!
Pardoned by God’s grace
When a man is released from prison on parole, he must be on his best behavior. He is assigned a parole officer and he must report to the officer on a regular basis. If he makes one mistake, he knows he may return to prison. And so the parolee always lives with one eye over his shoulder, afraid that any misdeed might end his freedom. Or, sometimes if he does not want to return to prison and has truly forsaken his life of crime, he will want to prove to his officer that he has reformed by demonstrating his best behavior.
But when a man is released from prison on a “pardon”, no sword is hanging over his head. It is as if he had never committed a crime. He does not have to fear a small mistake or slip up; he will never return to jail for the crime of which he was accused. He is not required to report to an officer to prove his goodness. He can go about his life without ever looking back.
Likewise, by God’s grace (the word means “a favor we did not earn”) we were “pardoned”. Because of God’s grace, there are no swords hanging over our heads. It is as if we have never sinned. God does not treat us as our sinful nature deserves. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.”
However, God’s gracious work began behind the scenes long before we responded. He literally came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, and by means of the death of Christ on the cross, He paid our crippling sin debt. He comes to each of us now, pursuing us even in our waywardness and points us in a new direction. His grace also has staying power. He persistently takes us to the next step of our spiritual journey. He never gets tired of working with us, and He NEVER gives up on us. That’s grace!
Grace may be a somewhat unfamiliar term to you, or you may hear it sprinkled in “spiritual” conversations but aren’t exactly sure how to define it. You may have even used the word without really knowing what you were saying. We all need to attain an understanding of what grace means and then solidify the understanding of our own beginning with God. For some of us, this very study will be the doorway into that first experience of grace that enables us to say, “I finally understand what grace is, and I am a recipient of it.” For others it will be an affirmation, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.”
Our need for grace
Some people assume that they are not much worse than anyone else, so they don’t need any special help from God. How would you put, in your own words, the message of the following verse to those who think themselves morally “acceptable”? Romans 3:10-18, 23
To forgive someone literally means to release that person from indebtedness. But if you forgive a debt, the money must then come from somewhere else –usually you, the debt-forgiver. In the spiritual realm, God’s forgiveness means that we are released from spiritual debt. But our sins do not just vanish into thin air. How are our spiritual debts covered according to the following verse? 1 Peter 2:24
Our response to God
Once we are at the position where we have been honest about our need for God’s help and forgiveness, what is the next step? John 1:11-12
What does the Bible reveal concerning God’s behind-the-scenes work in preparation to welcome us into His family of grace?
Summary: Servants of Christ understand and have individually received Christ’s saving grace. They have abandoned all attempts to earn God’s favor through accomplishments of their own and find security only through Christ’s sacrificial death on their behalf.
Growing in the likeness of Christ
“I think we need to throw out this plant — it’s all withered and brown.”
“Christina is already two months old but hasn’t grown beyond her birth weight. We have to do something Doctor!”
What do the above statements have in common? They both assume that it is the nature of vital things to grow. All living organisms are programmed by their DNA to progress through stages of growth until they eventually reach maturity. To be alive, by God’s design, is to change and to grow.
Why then do some Christians not grow spiritually? We would rush our children to the hospital if they failed to grow. How can we take similar steps to protect our own inner health when we stagnate and stop “gaining weight” spiritually speaking?
The first lesson emphasized our beginning in the Christian life — our first encounter with God’s grace. The second lesson is about our ongoing response to God’s grace over a lifetime. Our walk with God begins by grace and also continues by grace. Unfortunately, just as people misunderstand the extent of God’s work to initiate our Christian life, people fall into the trap of thinking their work and following the rules automatically produces spiritual maturity. To try to grow through your own efforts alone is as out of harmony with God’s plan as not growing at all. Both lead to spiritual frustration.
The purpose of this study is to discover a balance between owning the responsibility to grow, which requires resisting what keeps us from growing, and trusting in the help and power of the Holy Spirit to bring about Christ-like character in us. That tension will be with us all of our lives. But if we’ll commit to move forward, we will experience the blessings of God’s grace in our everyday lives and marvel at the resulting miracle of spiritual growth.
In Colossians 2:6-7, Paul uses several different words or phrases to describe the quality of faith the people had. List below as many terms as you can find from those verses.
Read Philippians 3:12-16. Paul the Apostle knew well that Jesus had saved him, yet he talks of a “striving” and a “reaching” for something in these verses. How would you put into your own words what Paul was working so hard to do in his life?
In light of what you just wrote, what does verse 16 mean?
Read Matthew 15:10-11,17-20. Based on these verses, what is the cause of our sinful behaviors?
Read Philippians 2:12-13. From these verses, what part does God play in changing our lives? What part do we play?
Tools for growth
What do the following verses teach about the importance of Scripture in the life of a growing Christian?
According to 2 Timothy 3:16, who is the real author of the Scriptures?
How would you put in your own words the warning in James 1:22-25? What specific ways are you tempted in this area?
What do Luke 5:16 and 6:12-13 tell us about Jesus’ prayer life and His need to be alone periodically? What are the implications for you personally?
What is the clear call of God on every believer’s life and conduct in 1 John 2:4-6 and 1 Peter 1:14-16?
As long as we are forgiven, why does it make a difference whether we sin or not?
Combine Psalm 38, Psalm 51 and 1 John 1:9 into a unified description of how to handle sin in our lives.
Jesus’ charge to the early Christians still holds for us today. How expansive is His plan according to His words in the following passage? Matthew 28:19-20
2 Corinthians 5:18 and 20 tells us we are God’s ambassadors. We usually think of evangelism as an activity we do to benefit others. How does evangelism benefit you and build up your faith when you share it with someone?
Summary: In order to grow as a disciple of Christ, the first thing that is necessary is God’s work within us. As He works within in us, He gives us both the desire and power necessary to grow and change. Our obedience to God comes from love and our love comes in response to God’s love for us that is displayed in Jesus Christ. The journey of discipleship then, does not happen by pure human effort but by the continued work of God in our lives as we grow to love Him more and better understand His grace displayed in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Participating in the life of the body.
We have seen in the previous study that God gave us valuable tools to help us grow, but they aren’t all He’s given us. He also gave us each other. In the body of Christ, we serve each other in various ways. This is how God designed it. For example, we can learn when we listen to gifted teachers. When we worship together and participate in church gatherings, we can enter a dimension of God’s beauty experienced through no other means. When we allow other believers into our lives, others can powerfully remind us of what we can’t see — that God is working in us, that we are going to make it, that the affection of God is not just for “the world” — it’s for us. When we are together as fellow Christians, someone can literally say our name and put a voice on “You, __________________ (insert your name) need to work on this area of immaturity in your life.” Or we can hear, “I know you are going through a tough time, but you are not alone. God is with you, and we are all with you.” These are the moments of beauty that give us the hope that we can break free of the power of sin we have been imprisoned in for so long. As believers we never walk alone; we walk shoulder to shoulder with every single one of God’s children.
The Community of believers
The early believers in Christ did not want to live the new life they had found alone. What do you learn about their relationships with each other from the following verses? Acts 2:44-47
The writer of Hebrews actually gave a command about community life in Hebrews 10:24-25. How would you rephrase this passage in modern terms?
According to the following verses what are our responsibilities to other believers?
Summary: Believers honor God’s call to participate in community in order to grow in Christ-likeness, express love, receive love, and to carry out the ministry of the church. We as believers will not grow if we attempt to work out our salvation on our own; we need help from other Christians!
Perfecting Others by Using Your Spiritual Gifts
Throughout the New Testament there are reminders that God has given us all different gifts and abilities. It’s also clear that no one has all the gifts. After a week of attending any church it will be clear that not everyone has the gift of encouragement or teaching. In fact, many people don’t even have a desire to teach. Like a body with many organs, our different roles and activities bring LIFE to the church. If we become separated from each other, we suffer like a limb out of joint with its body.
The Need for, and the Privilege of, Serving
Read Matthew 9:36-38. Now imagine Jesus visiting a weekend service at Grace Pointe. After the service, you and He sit in the lobby and watch the hundreds of people walk out. He sighs as He sees the streams of attendees pass by and then says to you the exact words from Matthew 9. Explain in your own words what you think is on His mind and heart at that moment.
Do you personally think we have a “laborer” shortage at Grace Pointe today? Explain why you say that.
Different parts, one body
The Bible compares the Church to a human body, with Christ as the head and all of us as different parts, or members, of the body. Summarize in a sentence or two what Paul is trying to convey in 1 Corinthians 12:14-26.
Every Person a Difference-Maker
What do you think Jesus meant by “bearing fruit” in John 15:8, 16-17?
Why would Jesus make such a close connection between bearing fruit and showing ourselves to be His disciples?
What is the application of this truth regarding involvement in a local church?
Summary: Believers recognize that the church is composed of interdependent members, each uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of building up the body and furthering the ministry of the church. They therefore seek to discover, develop and deploy their God-given gifts and to seek a place of service within the church with the support and affirmation of the body.