Become a Member

Church Membership at Preston Baptist Church

Thank you for enquiring about becoming a member of Preston Baptist Church. We are delighted about this and hope that you find these pages informative about what it means to belong to our church.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask any of the church leaders.

Why do we exist as a church?

We exist to worship and glorify God, living for Him, empowered by the Holy Spirit of God, witnessing to God’s love for the whole world, and looking to serve God in His world and church. As Christians, we celebrate that through faith in Jesus Christ - his death and resurrection - we receive forgiveness for our sins and enter into eternal life!

Where did our church come from?

The church’s origins go back to 1922, when members of Winner Street Baptist Church, Paignton and Upton Vale Baptist Church, Torquay met in Preston to look for a suitable site on which to build a new church in what was a developing district within Torbay.  They found a plot on offer for £2,000 – a substantial sum in those days but one which, in faith, they believed they could raise. And so it proved! The first building was opened on 30th November 1927 and was called 'The Institute'. It was deliberately erected to one side of the land acquired in order to allow for the later construction of a larger and more substantial worship centre. This building is still part of the church complex and is now used as our main hall.

The second project was the building of a manse in 1930.

The third major project began in 1939 – by which date the church members had raised two-thirds of the funds needed for the creation of the main church building. In August of that year there was great rejoicing when the stone-laying ceremony took place. Construction continued even though the country was at war, and the new building was officially opened on 1st May 1940.

Since that time several further additions have been made.  These included, in 1974, a second hall (the Doidge Hall) at the rear of the premises, paid for by Ethel Webber (a former church secretary) in memory of her sister Elsie Doidge. A coffee lounge and offices were also added, with all buildings now linked together in one complex.  

In 2008 a major refurbishment of the entrance area was completed, with the former coffee lounge replaced by the Garden Café built alongside the reception area which serves as a modern internet café for the church and community.

What kind of a Baptist church are we?

There are two categories of Baptist Churches in the UK. Those churches which insist that all members must have been baptised as Believers by full immersion are known as Closed Membership churches. Those which do not insist on Believer’s baptism as a means of entry into the church – but a simple profession of faith - are known as Open Membership Churches.

Here at Preston we are constituted as an Open Membership Church. However, we still very much believe in the importance of baptism as ‘an outward sign of an inward change of heart’ brought about by faith in Jesus, and you will still hear sermons encouraging members and friends to be baptised. It’s just that we do not link baptism, by necessity, with coming to faith.

How is our church governed?

Unlike Anglican or Catholic churches, we are not a ‘top down’ hierarchical church. We believe that the Church should be directly ruled by Jesus, through the person of the Holy Spirit as discerned by the members of the church. To enable this process to happen, our church holds bi-monthly Church Meetings where we seek to discern ‘the mind of Christ’ on all matters of faith and church life, through prayer and discussion.

As a registered charity, our church is governed by a church constitution (copy enclosed in this information pack) which is drawn up by the church and altered, as deemed necessary by the church meeting, from time to time. This is a practical document which ensures best practice is adhered to at all times in the life of the church.

How do we operate on a day-to-day basis?

To oversee the day-to-day running of the church, members elect trustees (church leaders) to serve for terms of three years. Those elected may serve for two concurrent terms, but must then have at least one year off. The church also annually elects a Church Secretary and a Treasurer.

The church decides when, or if, to appoint one or more ministers & other full or part-time workers from time to time.

However, it is only through the generosity of members and friends of the church who give of their time and energy that the day-to-day ministries of the church are able to be sustained and developed.

How does our church relate to other churches and organisations?

Our church is a member of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB). The Union has no authority over our church but exists to offer advice and help. We also belong to the

South West Baptist Association (SWBA). Our BUGB family is grouped across 13 regional associations, and in the SWBA we have access to more local advice and support.

We are linked to the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) which is one of the foremost, and widely respected mission organisations.

We also get involved with other mission bodies; social action projects and work with other local churches from time to time.

Some privileges of Membership (not a painful duty to be endured!)

Belonging – to the family;

Fellowshipping – to build up and to be built up;

Growing – to be challenged and changed by God as part of His body;

Serving – reaching our full potential in Christ, as we use the gifts given to us;

Some responsibilities of Membership

Seeking to discover & obey God’s will in every part of our lives;

Endeavouring to live with integrity and dependence upon God;

Concerned to serve others and witness to them by word and deed;

Commitment to spend time each day in personal devotions;

Commitment to Sunday worship; celebrate the Lord’s Supper & fellowship together;

To offer practical service in accordance with the gifts that we have been given;

Commitment to attend church meetings whenever possible;

To give regularly, generously and thoughtfully, as we are able;

To play a full part in the governance and administration of the church ministries;

To do all we can to encourage love, fellowship and unity within the church;

To do all we can to promote evangelism and mission at home and overseas;

What are our Core Values as a church?

In 1996 the Baptist denomination adopted 5 Core Values and these remain central to the worship, life and witness of our church. We have adapted these slightly to represent the kind of church that we aspire to be:

  1. A Prophetic Community - Following Jesus in confronting evil, injustice and hypocrisy; Challenging worldly concepts of power, wealth, status & security.
  2. An Inclusive Community - Following Jesus in overcoming barriers of gender, sexuality, language, race, class & age; Identifying with those who are rejected, deprived and powerless.
  3. A Sacrificial Community - Following Jesus in accepting vulnerability & the necessity of sacrifice; Seeking to reflect the generous, life-giving nature of God.
  4. A Missionary Community - Following Jesus in demonstrating by word and action God’s forgiving & healing love; Calling & enabling people to experience the love of God for themselves.  
  5. A Worshipping Community - Following Jesus in engaging in worship & prayer which inspires and undergirds all that we do; Exploring & expressing what it means to live together as a people of God, obeying His     Word & following Christ in every area of daily life.

How are we funded?

As an independent charity, our church is obliged to set an annual budget which must be agreed by a church meeting. (Our current church budget is contained in this information pack). Put simply, if we want to spend money as a church, we must release that money as a church! Somebody put it this way – our church has all the money that it needs – it’s just that it is currently sitting in our Members’ bank accounts!

We receive rental income as a church from use of our halls and car park and occasional legacies and one-off gifts. But the bulk of our income is given by members and friends of the church, week by week, month by month, who are committed to the life and witness of our church.

We do not ask for a specific level of regular giving by our members. All we ask is that members should give proportionately and generously to what they have received; that their giving should be sacrificial (that is – it actually costs them something); and that members are committed to giving, as God leads them.

Giving can be by regular standing order or by cash/cheque through the weekly Sunday offering. There is provision for increasing your gift by completing a Gift Aid form – which enables our Treasurer to claim back tax from HMRC that you have already paid on the total of your giving across each tax year.

Please see the Treasurer if you have any questions.

Where might I fit in?

The Bible says that every Christian is given at least one gift by God for the service of Him in the church and the world. Do you know what yours is? Have you used it before in another church? Is a new gift being developed in you? Are you a new Christian who would value help in discovering your gift(s)? In our experience most Christians are given more than one gift and over a lifetime more gifts are developed as we mature in our faith. It would be a privilege to help you to discover your gifts and how to employ them in the life and witness of the church.

What is the process for becoming a Church Member?

Our Church Membership Secretary will arrange for two church members to contact you to arrange an informal interview with you. This is nothing to be afraid of! This fellowship opportunity can take place in your home, or the church or anywhere else of your choosing.

In addition to finding out something about you, your family, work, hobbies, any particular needs or worries that you have, there are three main areas that the interviewers will focus their questions around:

Faith; Fruitfulness & Future Service

  1. Faith – something about your Christian testimony; past churches that you have been in membership with & reasons for leaving them;
  2. Fruitfulness – something about how you have used your gifts in the past and present in church & outside the church; organisations that you have been involved in (Christian & secular); things that you have learnt about yourself over the years as a Christian; how you see yourself as having ‘matured in Christ’;
  3. Future Service – why do you want to become a member of Preston Baptist Church?

How do you think that you might serve Him here? Have you got gifts that might necessitate some new work being pioneered amongst us?

There will be opportunity for you to ask any questions that you might have during the meeting, and the interviewers will offer to close your time together by praying with you.

Please don’t worry about this meeting – it’s not aimed to be a ‘grilling’ – it is much more about having an opportunity to get to know you – and you, us!

What happens next?

The interviewers will report back briefly to the next church meeting (they should be able to tell you when the next meeting falls at the time of their visit) about the three areas highlighted above. The church members present at the meeting will vote, and a simple majority will secure your membership into the church. The Church Secretary will ring you to tell you of the decision of the church meeting.

We will aim to publicly welcome you into membership of the church at the next celebration of the Lord’s Supper. This usually takes place on the first Sunday of the month. During the service you will be invited to come forward (alongside any others coming into membership). The Ministers and Church Secretary will present you with a membership certificate and a specially chosen Bible verse and will then pray for all new members. And there will be applause too!!

Welcome to the family!