“Requirements” for Church Membership?

“Over the course of the last three years, I have been to 30 “Christian” churches. Only one of these would I consider joining. Even that church which had the essential doctrines of salvation and sanctification correct–required formal church membership and water baptism in order for a person to be fully accepted into the life of the church. Jesus accepted anyone who believed in Him. Shouldn’t we do the same? I see these requirements as the first step in trying to control people, to lord it over others’ faith, when God did not give these requirements for local church membership. I already am a member of the church based on my belief in Jesus. As a believer, I am already baptized in to the death and resurrection of Christ (the only spiritually efficacious baptism). I am a new creation in Christ, holy and righteous in Him. As believers, our activity is to believe in Jesus and who we are in Him, and love God and people and ourselves, and be led by the Spirit of God in our spirits, and spread the Gospel and be salt and light in this dark world. I think making formal local church membership and a water baptism ritual a condition of full acceptance into church life leads to legalism, and leads to the death of true spirituality. A few years ago, when I felt far from God in both faith and morality, I went to the church and felt uplifted and cleansed. Now I go to church and I feel like I am with people who give God one hour a week, instead of the entire week. What do you all think?”

–Curtis Smale