RMLBC 101 is designed for the person who is interested in becoming a member of RMLBC. Prospective members should study this material very carefully before joining, making sure you agree with our purpose and our shared beliefs. You will also want to make sure you understand the importance we place on membership and what is required to maintain it.
Membership is Biblical
Some would argue that the Bible does not command churches to practice membership, however it clearly does. It is assumed through the both the Old and New Testaments and stated explicitly in passages like this:
1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
Membership is different from being a regular attender in at least two ways. First, it is a statement of commitment. It says, “I believe in what God is doing in this church and will do all I can to be a part of it.” Secondly, it is a statement of accountability. It says, “I am willing to submit my life to this congregation and to the leaders of it.” This concurs with the Bible’s teaching in Hebrews:
Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
The bottom line, as a member you will be able to fully enjoy all that church has to offer people, and you will be able to fully participate in the life of the church.
First, we begin with the purpose RMLBC exists:
~~~ Our Goal ~~~
Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The goal of RMLBC is to make disciples of Jesus Christ who…
Look up to God in love…
- Through trusting Christ as Lord and Savior.
- Through learning and obeying the Word of God.
- Through prayer.
- Through true worship.
Look in to the body in love…
- Through baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
- Through church membership.
- Through support and fellowship.
- Through service within the church.
Look out to the world in love…
- Through evangelizing the lost.
- Through serving the poor and needy.
~~~ Our Shared Beliefs ~~~
One of the major connection points for the members of a church is it’s agreed-upon set of shared beliefs. We do not expect every member to believe the same things about every single thing. Obviously, people will have differences of understanding in many different areas, including that of Christian doctrine.
But we do require that members share the same basic beliefs on the major doctrines of the Christian faith.
It is this set of shared beliefs (and the Christ to which each of them point) that unite us together as a Christian church.
At RMLBC we have adopted the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as our official doctrinal statement. We also use and refer to many other doctrinal statements, so long as they are consistent with the 2000 BFM. It is strongly recommended that candidates for church membership spend time reading and studying the 2000 BFM before jointing (just click the link above).
Below is an abbreviated list of our basic doctrinal positions. As you can see from the list, we are striving to be a God-centered, gospel-focused, Bible-believing, conservative, evangelical, baptistic church (plenty of other adjectives could be added, but they would all be consistent with that list).
Agreement Is Required
Note, no candidate for church membership can be approved unless they consciously and in good faith agree with each of these doctrinal positions. That is, a person must personally believe these things prior to joining the church. This does not mean they must fully understand them (who does?), but that they sincerely believe them.
The Bible, consisting of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, is the inerrant, inspired Word of the living and true God, and the sole authoritative source of information about His nature and works. (Rom 16:25-26; II Pet 1:19-21)
God the Father
God is the infinite, personal Creator of the universe. He is One in essence and Trinity in persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God does all things ultimately for His own glory. (Gen 1:1; Eph 4:6; Matt 28:19-20; II Pet 3:18; Rev 1:6)
Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God who took on flesh and dwelt among us. He was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified by Pontius Pilate, rose again three days later, and ascended into Heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the Father. One day, in His own time, Jesus Christ will return to earth to bring the nations to final judgment and establish His eternal Kingdom. (Jn 1:1-14; Heb 1:1-3; I Tim 2:5-6; I Thess 5:23; Rev 19:12-15)
The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity. He is active in every part of creation and redemption, working in His unique role along with the Father and the Son. (Gen 1:2; Rom 8:9-11; Eph 1:13-14; Rev 22:17)
Man was created male and female in the image of God. He is not God (or a god) nor will he ever be. Adam and Eve were the first man and woman. As a result of their rebellion all mankind fell into sin and as a result is under the curse of God. (Gen 1:26-30; 3:1-24; Rom 5:12-13)
Salvation is the work of God to release mankind from the curse of judgment and to reconcile him with God. This great work is established by the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and is provided for all who are “in Christ” by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit and by repentance and faith. Those who are in Christ will enjoy everlasting life in the Kingdom of God and all the benefits provided to them by their loving Heavenly Father. All who are not in corporate solidarity with Christ are not saved and will face everlasting torment in Hell. (Eph 1:7-10; Rom 3:20-25; Jn 5:24; Rev 20:14-15; 21:3)
The church is a spiritual organism made up of all born-again persons. As a collective group it is called the Bride of Christ. The establishment and continuance of local churches is clearly taught and defined in the New Testament Scriptures. Each local church is autonomous, which means free of any external authority and control. Believer’s baptism and the Lord’s supper are the two ordinances of the church as commanded by Christ. (Acts 13:1-4; 14:27; 15:19-31; 20:17; Rom 16:1; I Cor 3:9; 16; 5:4-13; Eph 1:22-23; 5:25-27; I Tim 3:1–3; Titus 1:5–11; I Pet 5:1-4)
~~~ Our Code of Conduct ~~~
RMLBC is a grace church. That is, we believe that Jesus showered us with grace while we were yet sinners, accepting us and loving us warts and all. Thus, we also believe that Christians should constantly be showing grace to each other, especially since love “covers a multitude of sins”(1 Peter 4:8).
This means that when people step outside the bounds of basic Christian conduct, the church leadership does not immediately move to condemn them or excommunicate them. RMLBC does not require perfection. We stand consciously and strongly against legalism, especially as it was exhibited in the behavior of the Pharisees during Jesus day.
That said, we also understand that a person cannot be a member of our church without first being a Christian and that the Lord calls Christians to a certain code of conduct as representatives of his church. Therefore, we ask each candidate for church membership to be willing to abide by the basic code of Christian conduct as clearly taught in the New Testament and summarized in the following list. Keep in mind, nothing on this list is contrary to basic biblical teaching and common sense.
We do not take roll and we do not require a minimum number of services, but we do ask that you “be around.” Come as often as you can. Love the church and be here. If a member does not attend very often at all they cannot help to fulfill the purpose of the church.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Since the goal of our church is to produce disciples of Jesus Christ, we desire our members to engage in the spiritual disciplines of the Christian life. We want every member to happily be devoted to reading the Bible regularly and spending ample time in prayer.
Service / ministry
The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit endows all believers with gifts of the Spirit, to be used in the building up of the church. Church is not a place to come and always be served, but rather a place to come and serve others. It is unacceptable for a Christian to allow his or her gift to sit dormant. As a church we want to help all our members discover and use their spiritual gifts for the glory of Jesus Christ. As discussed earlier (under Our Process), we realize that many young believers may not yet understand God’s calling to serve or may not be ready, but we hope that every believer is moving in the direction of service and ministry, not away from it.
People should only become members of a church if they truly believe in the purpose and goals of that church. Thus all members should freely participate in supporting the work of the church in word and deed. Members should speak positively of the church to others whenever possible. They should lift up the leadership and members of the church regularly in prayer. They should participate in the ministries of the church and support them financially as needed.
For the sake of clarity, RMLBC does not require a certain amount of money to be donated in order to maintain church membership (remember, we are a grace church that fights against legalism), nor do we seek to embarrass people who are not able or willing to give. We just don’t do those kinds of things. However, a candidate for church membership should understand that the ongoing work of the church depends upon the generosity of its members, as they are led by God to give.
Again, we are a grace church that does not require its members to maintain ethical perfection, but the grace of God does move believers to strive for holiness in their conduct.
1 John 3:3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
A candidate for church membership must understand that members represent the church and (more importantly) Christ wherever they go. We want every member to maintain personal integrity and to be striving for holiness in every area of life. For the purpose of making the point, three of the most public areas of life will be mentioned.
Purity in Speech
The Bible teaches clearly that when Jesus saves someone, their habits of speech are changed.
Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
This is not simply “quit cussing,” but rather a desire to build up and encourage the body of Christ, and a refusal to use speech to harm or degrade others or spread filth.
Faithfulness in Marriage
The Bible also teaches that marriage is a picture of Christ’s saving grace in our lives and thus must be held sacred.
Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
Church members must understand their obligations to their spouse, and refuse to divorce, except in the most extreme cases of adultery and abandonment (Mt 5:32, 1 Cor 7:15).
Addiction to Jesus Only
God created people to be addictive by nature. We get hooked on the things we love the most. This being the case, when Jesus saves us and we fall in love with Him, our addictive natures are to be placed exclusively on Him.
This is why gluttony and drunkenness are considered gross sins in the Bible (Prov 23:21). When we stuff ourselves or depend upon alcohol or drugs for happiness, we are in effect turning our backs on God and the joy that only He can bring. So at RMLBC we want to help members be addicted only to Jesus. Members are people who are actively working toward this goal.
The Bible clearly teaches that church membership can and should be practiced in certain cases. It is the duty of the ordained leadership and the congregation as a whole to carry out church disciple when necessary. If a church member continuously engages in sinful and harmful practices, with no intention of repentance, the congregation has the right to terminate their membership status.
If a person does have their membership revoked, this does not mean the church should abandon the person. Instead, it means the church should minister to them as an unbeliever who needs love, support, and evangelization. The Lord Jesus taught his people to be “harmless as doves” (Mt 10:16). Even when membership must be removed, it does not give the church the right to harm the person in any way.
If church discipline must be administered, RMLBC is committed to making restoration the goal.
Matthew 18:15-17 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.
In other words, the removal of church membership is only done with goal of eventually helping the person get it back. It is an action that says to a person, “From what we can tell from your persistent actions, which you refuse to repent from, you have not truly embraced Christ as Savior and Lord. It appears that you are an unbeliever.” It is hoped that this action will awaken the person so that they see their need for Jesus to save them and turn from their sins.
For more on church discipline and how it is carried out, read the helpful article “Church Discipline.”
~~~ Our Operation ~~~
It is important for members of the church to understand how the church functions. In this section candidates for membership will gain a clear understanding of the basic structure of the church.
RMLBC is a congregational church. This means that all major decisions must be approved by the entire congregation while sitting in business. This is an extremely important fact. RMLBC does not depend on any external person or board to lead our church. Though we are part of a denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention), we do not rely on any denominational leaders to make decisions for our congregation. This is one of the reasons why membership is so important at RMLBC. We rely upon spirit-led believers to seek God’s direction, as a congregation, for the direction of our flock.
The congregation has approved a church constitution and by-laws for the orderly operation of RMLBC. These governing documents are available at any time for any member to read, as needed.
Pastors / Elders
One of the decisions the congregation has made is the calling of ordained leaders to guide the flock. At RMLBC we have a congregationally approved pastor who labors to lead the church according to the Scriptures. He does not function as dictator or exclusive leader. He must submit himself to other ordained leaders, to the congregation as a whole, and most importantly to the leadership of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The board of elders is composed of all the congregationally approved ordained pastors / elders. Currently, besides Pastor Jason Dollar, there is one of elder (non-vocational), Dr. Craig Lawrence.
The deacon board is also a major part of the leadership structure at RMLBC. Deacons are men chosen from the body to provide guidance and service to the congregation. Deacons must be approved by the congregation and ordained before they can serve in this position.
In addition to the pastors/elders and deacons, RMLBC relies upon God-gifted church members to lead certain aspects of church life via congregational teams. The administrative teams include the Personnel Team and the Finance Team. Ministry teams include the Missions Team, Hospitality Team, and the Buildings and Grounds Team, among others. Each year members are given the opportunity to serve on one of these teams as needed.
~~~ Our History ~~~
Every member of a church should know a little history about the church they attend and serve. In this brief historical survey, a short synopsis of the Lord’s work is provided under the names of each of the pastors of RMLBC.
Herbert Thrasher years: 1978 – 1984
The first meeting of what would become RMLBC was held April 16, 1978 in the home of Carl and Annelle Bishop. Seventeen people gathered there as Dr. John Smith, Director of Missions at the Bessemer Baptist Association preached the first message. Herbert Thrasher became the pastor of the fledgling church mission, which was sponsored by the McCalla Baptist Church. With partial funding from the Alabama Baptist Convention and the Bessemer Baptist Association, a groundbreaking ceremony for our church building was held on April 26, 1979. On December 30 of that same year, a worship service was held in the completed basement of the new building. On November 30, 1980, the church was chartered with 94 members.
Derek Gentle years: 1984 – 1986
On August 12, 1984, Rev. Derek Gentle was called as the second pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rock Mountain Lakes. He was the first to serve as full time pastor. A theme verse at that time arose among the church members was Galatians 6:9 “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Under Pastor Derek, the church grew. In 1985, Sunday School enrollment increased 45%, leading all the churches of the Bessemer Baptist Association.
Tom Terry years: 1987 – 1992
On February 1, 1987, Tom Terry was called as the third pastor of RMLBC. The Lord was active under Pastor Tom’s ministry. Scott Guffin served as minister of youth and music for a time. Scott later became the pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Birmingham. Also in 1988 two youth surrendered their lives to the ministry.
Jerry Sherrell years 1993 – 1998
On February 15, 1993 Jerry Sherrell was called as the fourth pastor of RMLBC. During Pastor Jerry’s first three years, over 100 new members were added to the fellowship. During this time, plans were made for the construction of an educational facility that has become our gym and fellowship area. Pastor Jerry later became the pastor of Cottage Hills Baptist Church, McCalla.
Neal Bruce years 1999 – 2008
God called Pastor Neal Bruce, the fifth pastor of RMLBC, to lead the church into the new millennium. During this time, the new gym and fellowship area was completed. In addition the sanctuary was beautifully redone.
Jason Dollar years 2009 – present
On July 1, 2009, Jason Dollar became the sixth pastor of RMLBC. Jason is married to Page and they have five children together. His ministry training was conducted at Southeastern Bible College (BA pastoral ministries) and Birmingham Theological Seminary (MA apologetics). Under Pastor Jason’s leadership, RMLBC has seen the Lord work in many ways. Missions has become a primary focus which has led to multiple short-term trips, especially to Arequipa, Peru. The Lord has also graciously allowed RMLBC to be a debt-free church during this time.
~~~ In Conclusion ~~~
Being a member of RMLBC is both an honor and privilege. Membership is for believers only, who agree with the purpose and shared beliefs of our congregation, and who are willing to be actively involved in the life of the church.
1 Corinthians 12:12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
Once you have decided that membership is for you, all that remains is the approval of the congregation. If you are interested, please inform the leadership and they will set a time for your vote.