Discipleship, Baptism & Membership
Starting life as a Christian
We believe that people come on all sorts of paths towards the life of a disciple. What we believe is important is not how people get to that point, but that being a disciple matters. A disciple is a person who takes following Jesus seriously and commits themselves to do doing it. Discipleship will take all kinds of shapes, but at the centre of it always is knowing Jesus as Lord, and trusting ourselves to the love that is his message.
Becoming a disciple involves changes – turning life around to go in a different direction. That’s why the word “conversion” is sometimes used. It refers to this change.
We believe that the change comes first from God’s action in our lives; God has loved us from before all time, and God's love for us keeps us in being. In love, God has reached out to us in Jesus; and in Jesus’ ministry, life, death, and resurrection God offers us a new way of life and the promise of transformation.
These differences affect all of life. Jesus describes the life of a disciple as loving God with all of our hearts, minds, souls, and strength.
Our heart is the aspect of our self which is our deepest identity; what makes us as individuals. Loving God with all our hearts is not just a warm woolly feeling, but the deepest of commitments, and the rooting of our identity in Jesus, and not in ourselves.
Our mind is our capacity to think and reason. Being a follower of Jesus means having some understanding of the content of the Christian faith – knowing what it is that the Church teaches and that Christians believe. We know that complete understanding of the ways of God is beyond any of us, since we are finite and God is not, but learning about the faith, and giving our assent to it is part of living as a disciple.
Our soul is the part of ourselves that is reaching out, beyond ourselves, and seeking meaning and purpose in life. To offer this in our discipleship is to submit our wills and ambitions to the purposes of God as revealed in Jesus.
Our strength is our energy and intention – the things we do. Giving this over in discipleship is committing how we live, our values and practices to Jesus’ leading.
Those who are disciples make no claims to getting it all right. Indeed, it is often because we know that we get it wrong so often and so badly that we know we need to live trusting in God's love. Our own strength and abilities are not enough to make us the people we want to be, or need to be to follow Jesus successfully. Fortunately, it is not success that is important. What is important is trusting in God's love, and giving ourselves over to following Jesus.
Baptism and membership
As Baptists, we invite those who want to be closely associated with our church to become members. Membership is an expression of commitment both to following Jesus and to doing so as part of the community of people of God meeting here.
For those who come newly to faith, we have the practice of baptism. Baptism has always been the way of becoming part of the church. One of the distinctives of Baptist identity is that we reserve baptism for those who express their own faith and their desire to make the commitment of discipleship.
We practise baptism by total immersion, usually during the morning service. If you would like to explore baptism further please contact one of the ministers.
For those who have been baptised as infants, or who are joining through transfer from another Baptist church, membership is expressed through a reaffirmation of faith. Somebody joining the church is invited to stand up during the service and asked to reaffirm their Christian faith and commitment. They are then welcomed into membership with prayers.
Our church operates as a congregationally governed church; that is, the final authority under Christ for any decision about the life and mission of the church is the responsibility of the Church Meeting, a gathering which is made up of all those who are members. At Bloomsbury, our Church Meeting happens quarterly.
Members are also asked to think carefully about their giving to the church. We don’t believe that, as a church, we have the right to tell people how much they should give to the life and witness of the church, but we do ask members to take their support seriously.
Members are involved in other ways too – and most of those ways are also open to those who want to be part of our congregation on a less formal level. We are always grateful to those who offer time, energy, skills and talents for the varied undertakings of the church.