Baptism & Membership

In baptism we identify with Jesus, as Jesus has identified with us. 

For Jesus, his baptism serves as a transition from a time of preparation to his earthly ministry. Jesus claimed that by being baptized by John he was fulfilling all righteousness. Righteousness is connected to full participation and fulfillment of God’s mission on earth. It is through right relationships to God, and growing in relationships with God, that Jesus embodies the ministry of God on earth. Jesus’ baptism, itself, is a sign of his relationship with God. He shares in the life of God and the Holy Spirit. Jesus also demonstrates his solidarity with those seeking baptism, reconciliation with God and belonging among God’s people. 

NT Wright: “Those who in repentance and faith follow Jesus through baptism and along the road he will now lead us will find, if we listen, that the same voice from heaven speaks to us as well. As we learn to put aside our own plans and submit to his, we may be granted moments of vision, glimpses of his greater reality. And at the centre of that sudden sight we will find our loving father, affirming us as his children, equipping us, too, with his spirit so that our lives may be swept clean and made ready for use.” (NT Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, 23) 

Baptism signifies a personal decision to follow Christ. Our Anabaptist forbearers turned away from the practice of baptizing infants, because they believed that being a Christian is not something we are born into. It is not our ancestry or our culture that makes us Christian. It is following Jesus and receiving new life offered in and through Jesus that makes us Christian. We are made new when we choose to receive this new life. Jesus says we are born anew. Paul says we are a new creation. 

The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective says, “Christian baptism is for those who confess their sins, repent, accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and commit themselves to follow Christ in obedience as members of his body, both giving and receiving care and counsel in the church.” (47) 

Baptism also symbolizes the coming of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who follow Jesus. The Holy Spirit is poured out, like the water. We are cleansed by the Holy Spirit. Our lives are covered by the Holy Spirit. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit. 

We do not receive the Holy Spirit through baptism, but it is a sign that we have been bound to the Spirit. When we are reconciled to God through Jesus, the Holy Spirit enters our lives in a real and tangible way. The Spirit works in us and through us, to lead us and guide in God’s ways. The Holy Spirit also empowers us to be God’s agents and ambassadors in the world. The life of God is embodied in our own lives. 

Baptism is also a public witness. It is a declaration of our commitment to follow Jesus and live lives consistent with God’s ways. It is a commitment to identify with those whom Jesus also identified with, and a commitment to give our lives for the sake of others. “Baptism is done in obedience to Jesus’ command and as a public commitment to identify with Jesus Christ, not only in his baptism by water, but in his life in the Spirit and in his death in suffering love.” (Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, 46) 

The book of Acts describes baptism as an essential element in the life of the early church. Those who welcome and received the gospel were baptized and found a place of belonging in the church: “those who welcomed his message were baptized, ... They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:41-42) 

We are also baptized into the body of Christ. We become members of the church, both universally and locally. It is a commitment to discipleship with a community of sisters and brothers, striving to live faithfully in the world. “Christian discipleship is embodied living and needs to be continually embodied in the local body of Christ.” (Gathering for Worship, 65) Therefore, baptism is always done within a faith community. Baptism always includes a commitment by the church to participate in a life of discipleship with those being baptized. 

We attach membership in the church with baptism. Membership is a sign of the covenant bound between those in the community and the those being baptized. We commit ourselves to one another. In our context, membership includes some formalities. However, the heart of membership is a declaration that we are together, sisters and brothers, committed to one another, committed to a shared life of faith in Jesus Christ, and committed to our mutual service to one another and the world. 

Baptism Process
Those interested in pursuing baptism and membership should contact the church. Periodic baptism and membership classes are scheduled to lead people through a discovery of Anabaptist and Mennonite belief and history, as well as an introduction to the history and organization of Foothills. 

Baptisms are a celebration that happens with the context of our worship services on Sunday morning.  Baptism candidates will have an opportunity to share their faith story with the congregation and be welcomed into membership. 

Membership Process
Those coming to Foothills from membership at another Christian church can request a transfer of membership. Membership candidates will meet with a pastor to share their desire to be members at Foothills and review the Anabaptist/Mennonite beliefs and history essential at Foothills. Membership acceptance is based on: a public commitment to follow Jesus Christ, demonstrated by adult baptism upon confession of faith, or other public faith commitment consistent with the Anabaptist/Mennonite teaching; evidence of Christian lifestyle and conduct; and an ongoing desire for a deeper personal faith with the congregation of Foothills Mennonite. 

Receiving new members happens within the context of Sunday worship. Membership candidates will have the opportunity to share their faith story and express their desire for membership at Foothills. The congregation will have the opportunity to affirm and welcome new members.