Church Membership Policy

Discussion in 'Fundamental Baptist Forum' started by AlexL, Mar 7, 2007.

  1. AlexL

    AlexL
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    Hi

    I am wondering if there is such a thing as a scriptural membership policy, if so what is it.

    I moved to my current church from abroad over a year ago. I was in an active IFB church before (actually the Pastor's wife's church) and moved to australia to another IFB church.

    After about three months, I approached the deacons and pastor about transferring membership to their church. They just said they will 'observe whether we fit in and are faithful and then decide later'. That was two years ago...

    I since found out that they have only added about four members in ten years (three of which are just children of the members who were baptised). The church size has remained at about 30 (basically six families) for fifteen years. Others have attended church faithfully for five years and never been invited for membership. I have asked for the membershp policy, but nobody could tell me, except that the constitution is entirely based on scripture.

    Non-members are not allowed to participate in any ministries. Actually they don't have any ministries except youth - which is just a sunday school and once a month for all the children of the members. I have tried in vain to inspire them to do some kind of evangelising but to no avail, but that should be another thread! :BangHead:

    I am just confused and two years without participating in anything is taking its toll... Unfortunately it is the only KJV-only, bible believing IFB church within 50 miles of where we live, so changing church is not likely..

    Is this membership practice biblical at all?

    Thanks
    Alex
     
  2. Jon-Marc

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    Different churches have different policies on church membership. I joined the one where I am now after just 3 weeks of going there. I did have to go through 3 weeks of a membership class though, which I thought was totally unnecessary since I've been saved for nearly 44 years and have served in every capacity except that of pastor. I can't understand wasting 2 years with a church that hasn't allowed you to join and become a working part of the church. I wasted 6 months on a church like that and finally gave up and went elsewhere. Since then I've always joined churches that don't expect me to wait for months or years.

    On the day of Pentacost, they added to the church daily as people turned to Christ, and I don't think they had to wait months or years, or go through a training class to prove themselves. Their profession of faith was sufficent. The only qualification should be a verbal trestimony before the church membership of how they came to know the Lord to make sure they know what they're talking about.
     
    #2 Jon-Marc, Mar 8, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 8, 2007
  3. mnw

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    I can understand a slight difference in today and the day of Pentecost. If a stranger came to our church without a letter of recommendation from someone I respected or at least knew of then I would want to meet with them several times before bringing them before the church for membership.

    At pentecost they did not have to consider the fact that there are wolves in sheep's clothing.

    At Faith if someone wants to be involved with the youth ministries they not only have a doctrinal check but a police check as well. Now, I realise that is not membership related but unfortunately there are bad people out there and before someone starts having a voice and influence on church policy we want to make sure they are of the same faith and practice.

    However, two years seems excessive. Refusal to discuss the matter, or avoidance I guess, makes me think they are afraid of one thing or another. Sometimes being overly cautious can be just as bad as not showing any discretion.

    All I can recommend Alex, if you believe this is the church where the Lord would have you, then focus on personal ministries. You can evangelise and have studies with others independently. The church may have a problem with Bible studies but if they have a problem with you evangelising then there may be deeper problems.

    Just keep praying and see what the Lord wants you to do.
     
  4. AlexL

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    Thanks for the responses. We often feel like we are wasting time in this church, but then it makes us rely totally on the Lord. We want to leave but don't quite know where else to go. Anything else would mean over an hour of travelling (with young children!).

    The only thing that keeps us there is the fact that we want to worship the Lord with others. Also there is the 'fellowship' (the people are nice once you take the time to get to know them) and the sound preaching, especially the guest speakers. My wife calls the church a glorified social club..

    It is sad, but in my previous church I would take friends and people I witnessed to to our church and knew they would get ministered unto. I am too ashamed to take anyone to this church because of the lack of ministering and the feeling that you are under suspicion, rather than lovingly welcome. If we hadn't reached out to the people, we could happily attend with noone talking to us (there are a couple of 'attendees' who do just that).

    Also I went to one business meeting (when we first arrived) and all they discussed was how to get the highest interest on the cash deposit of over $30k, which they have had for years and have no idea what to do with it. I suggested making our pastor fulltime(he has a full time job) or supporting missionaries, but after two years, only the amount has grown. The talked of how much money had been added, when I calculated that it was equivalent to my tithe, I immediately stopped tithing and sent it back to my old church. Thankfully I wasted only 3 months tithe.

    We do have other christian friends (outside of church) who we meet with and pray with and this has been good. I actively witness to anyone who will listen. I get my own tracts and use them. Our church is usually amazed at how much I witness, for me its normal and not an unusual endeavour.

    I recently gave up going to the church 'prayer meetings' as often they would pray for only ten minutes at the end of a video or teaching, and often there 'wasn't much to pray for'. It was so dry and I felt like a hypocrite. They would look weird at me (as if I am a charismatic) when I would say the Holy Spirit leads you to who to pray for, or when I shared unexplained experiences of praying at a time of need of a friend without knowing they were in need. They even laughed when I said we should pray for good weather for the church picnic.

    I am sorry if I sound so negative, it is just frustrating, as I really feel the Lord is trying to work through the church, but the people just don't move forward.

    Oh well.. Thanks for at least listening!!!
     
  5. mnw

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    It sounds like you're having tough time Alex. If you're ever in Northern Ireland and need a church feel free to stop by. :)

    As I see it you have two options. Stay in the church and pray and work to see change from within.

    Or, start a new fellowship in your area. Now, please take this option with a huge grain of salt. So much bad could come of this if it is not God's will. But my reasons for mentioning this are due to the lack of evangelism. If a church is not witnessing and encouraging its people to evangelise then something is wrong.

    Most churches I am familiar with have a section in the covenent that states, "We moreover purpose that when we remove from this place we will as soon as possible unite with some other Church of like faith and order where we can carry out the principles of God’s Word. In the event there is no such Church, we shall seek with the Lord’s help to establish one."

    Maybe, and this is a big maybe, your situation may lend itself to the scenario of starting a fellowship.

    My recommendation, stay in and pray for the Lord to change hearts. Evangelistic fervour is contagious and it would be wonderful for others in the church to catch your vision.

    The other option I only put as it keeps coming into my head.
     
  6. Salty

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    Alex,

    I agree with mnw, I believe you should consider seeking the Lords will in starting a new church. We are commanded to study. A great way to study is to teach others. Seems like you are not able to do that now.

    Keep us posted on the progress

    Salty

    ps maybe Pete http://www.baptistboard.com/member.php?u=6241
    will come to your church!:applause:
     
  7. tinytim

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    Alex, I actually know a pastor in Melbourne.
    He was a missionary from WV back in the mid 80s.
    Our church supported him and his wife as missionaries.
    They are IFB, and the church they came out of is also KJVO.

    I even remember a sermon he preached at our church when I was 16.
    I looked him up this past summer to see what he is doing now.
    He started a church in Melbourne, I think it is Suburban Baptist.
    He told me it is running around 250 in attendance and is growing.

    His name is Tim Loftis. His wife's name is Tammy.
    I would recommend this church to you out of my experience with him years ago, and a couple emails I received this past year.
    He is no longer supported by churches here, he is now the full time pastor there.

    I don't know how far this church is to you, but he told me if I was ever in Melbourne to stop by.

    He is a true man of God.
    If you are interested, I have his email addy, and if you PM me, I will let him know you are interested.

    Life is too short to stay in a church where you are not wanted...
     
  8. amity

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    Alex, they said to wait and see if you fit in, among other things, and it sounds like you don't! The areas where you seem to have differences are fairly major, and so I wouldn't get my feelings hurt. There is just some more fundamental difference (in theology perhaps?) there that you haven't quite been able to put your finger on yet.

    Have you ever probed to find out WHY they don't agree with you on issues like proselytism and providence, etc.? What ARE their views on these things?

    I think when people first start coming to the church I attend they might well be a little confused at first, too, but I can't imagine that confusion lasting for two years of regular attendance.
     
  9. AlexL

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    Hi

    Yes two years is a long time to still not figure them out. I guess they really have absolutely no God-given vision for the church and we were praying hard for them, and we saw glimmers of improvement that kept us hopeful, fundamentally the church exists more as a social club than to honour God.

    We had friends that left our church a couple of months ago (under mysterious circumstances), we talked to them just today actually and found out - basically they were told to leave because they didn't fit in and because they disagreed with certain things. They indicated our church is hypercalvinistic (which was news to me) and when the pastor taught the youth the five points of calvinism as being correct, the children pointed out that that they were taught that it iss too extreme and so a big discussion with the pastor and deacons ensued and the pastor basically told them to leave the church. He never told anyone else about it. It would explain the complete lack of desire on anyone's part to witness, evangelise or even care about others.

    We are going to try out our friends new church tomorrow (its about 1hr away, but its worth it if it is good). They spoke highly of this church and we confirmed with another pastor friend. We have prayed about it and think it is time to look elsewhere. So we will keep you posted.

    Thank you for all your advice. We are trusting the Lord will lead us where he wants us to be.

    Regards
    Alex
     
  10. amity

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    Yes, I thought it was something like that. My church is sometimes termed "hyper-Calvinistic" and I don't think the term is a valid one. But we would definitely be rather coolish to the handing out of tracts, too. I think we would be pretty warm toward anyone who walked in the door, though, so that had me a bit confused. The personalities of the people involved often has a lot to do with it. The thing is you would have found out pretty quick that we were opposed to missionism, it would not have taken two years for someone to discuss the subject with you and the whys of it. These folks seem to have been expecting you to figure out their theology for yourself.

    I think the church you have been going to is probably teaching absolute predestination of all things, is that right?
     
    #10 amity, Mar 9, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 9, 2007
  11. AlexL

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    Hi Amity

    All of Calvinism was not preached in the church, just in the youth sunday school. In adult sunday school, the deacon certainly did not teach all of Calvinism, and preached predestination based on God's foreknowledge only - not on some kind of pre-election. So I think the problem is the Deacons and Pastor have different views and don't know it at all. Some of the deacons don't even know what the five points of Calvinism are.

    They did support some missions, but they really didn't have a heart for it. But more than anything, it is the total coolness. It was really the lack of love of God and for others that really frustrated me, the prayer meetings showed that up glaringly.

    A new person may get smiled at, and hand shaked and even questioned, but there has NEVER been any kind of visitation by a pastor or deacon or any follow up by them of anyone. There certainly is never any warm welcome. I saw people not dressed as middle class as everyone else be totally ignored by everyone and you could just sense the coolness and avoidance. Only my wife and I made an effort. Nearly everyone who is not a member leaves soon enough... So you have the same five families for fifteen years and no growth. Nice people, if they like you (and they really liked us as we are so friendly and so clearly wealthy upper-middle-class!!).

    I never felt the pastor loved his flock or God - his secular job was actually more important and he left all prayer meeting/bible study to a Deacon who only read out of a book. Everyone just nodded and agreed whatever was said, even if wrong. We caught the pastor twice saying he was too ill to come to church, and then we spotted him going to work. He even got angry with someone who commented that he should step out in faith and go full time as a pastor, so the church can grow.

    Sometimes it does come to the personality of the people, but I think its more about their committment to the Lord and the jealousness they have for God's glory.

    But, praise the Lord, we found another church today. It is a bit of journey, but it is worth it. We thank the Lord for answering our earnest prayers.

    We have made friends at our previous church, and we hope they will want to be friends still, but the Lord will show us who are our real friends in time....

    Thanks...
    Alex
     
  12. Squire Robertsson

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    For many various and sundry reasons (which they can't articulate), it looks like this congregation has turned into an "us four, no more, let's meet, eat, and burp."

    But you are not the first to find himself in a place where helping to plant a new church is a viable alternative.

    http://www.hamiltonsquare.net/PDFs/HSBC Book.pdf

    Please note I used the term plant a church not start a fellowship.
     
  13. Jon-Marc

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    The thing is, if I am not a member of the church I'm attending, I don't feel obligated to support them financially. Some Baptist churches won't let you participate in anything unless you're a member. That means if it takes months of "training" for you to become a member, that's months wasted where I could be serving the Lord in another church that doesn't make me wait so long to become a part of of their group.
     
  14. AlexL

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    Hopefully our new church will be better and we will be able to join in ministry activities soon enough. The pastor certainly was most welcoming. We only wasted three months of tithe on our old church and basically sent the money back to our previous church, where we know it is being put to the Lord's work. I agree, we shouldn't support a church we are not a member of - especially one which just counts the interest on a large deposit they don't know what to do with!

    I guess the Lord has His reason for us to be in that church. They did help us feel more settled in Australia at the beginning and we did make some friends. But now the Lord really wants us to be more useful and not waste away in a social club.

    The thing is that the reason we really started to look for a new church was two fold and may seem even silly. Firstly when the children of the deacons who have attended since birth were made members, there was this big ceremony for 'welcoming them to the family'. My wife and I were stupified, 'does that mean they weren't in the family in the first place? and what about us?'. The irony was the same children did all the music for the last five years (which they said only members could do and which I who am a concert trained pianist couldn't do). The second and last straw was the wanting to rush through a service so they can have a picnic in the park straight after the service. These two little things I guess were the final things we could take, and I am so glad we have 'come out of her'. They were really "us four, no more, let's meet, eat, and burp."

    The Hamilton Square book looks interesting. Thanks.

    But having Baptistboard to share it with, has eased the burden...
     
  15. mnw

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    I want to clarify that, rightly or wrongly, I use the term fellowship and church interchangeably. Not as one set up against the other.

    Squire made the distinction and I guess in some places there is more associated with each word. :)

    Glad things are working out for you Alex. It does sound like the church you used to attend had some serious issues.
     
  16. Squire Robertsson

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    Remember Professor Henry Higgins,
    To me, folks applying the word fellowship to a New Testament ekklesia are just a tad too seeker driven for my taste (YMMV). It's a matter of the level of formal organization.

    Though, you're from the land of churches and chapels. So, I can see why for you the discriotives are interchangable.
     
  17. mnw

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    Seeker-driven? That cut me deeply. :)

    I would agree that there are senses in which the word fellowship does not equal the word church.

    Maybe I have not been specific enough with my definitions here.

    Anyway, just wanted to distance myself from any seeker-driven titles. :thumbs:
     
  18. 2 Timothy2:1-4

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    I am so far right Falwell has to turn right to see me. I have used fellowship in referecne to the church. There isnt any error in that.
     
  19. Squire Robertsson

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    Of course, a good church is a place where God's people will have times of good fellowship (especially if the food committee has done its work right). And there are para church organizations that quite properly style themselves as fellowships (the FBFI and the BBF come to mind).

    However, there are brethren who will use the word fellowship instead of church as in:
     
  20. GLL

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    When someone new walks through the doors of a church for service they should be recognized and greeted. Any new person saved or unsaved should be thought of as a potential new member and if they are unsaved it should be emphasized and mandated as a church rule to bring them to Christ. I am not against obtaining as much information as a church can about someone but police checks or even hiring an investigator seems to me to be a little to paranoid. I doubt very much that very many people who come to church are their for any other reason except to turn their life over to God. Any one who attends Church for any gregarious reasons will be found out in due time. And should be asked to leave. I have oftened wondered why alot of churches take a hands off position toward new members especially those who are unsaved. I would think a good common sense approach for a church would be a mandatory mentorship or a supervised training period to assure the new convert gets a good start in their new life. This will give them a good idea if their intentions are genuine. Fellowshipping is very important for the membership. And it would open up positions for those members that are eager to do something in the church but don't know what. As for potential new members that have already been saved and baptized and have attended church elsewhere a simple call to that church to speak to their pastor is all that is necessary. Even if they are carrying an impressive resume, a call should still be made. And I see nothing wrong with requiring saved new members to attend class(es) at least to learn what to expect of the church, what is expected of them, they should learn things like what the church doctrine is, what the testament of faith is, and how to become a member. I recommend anyone attending a new church to find these things out before they attend it. I have attended churches that are ingrown and seem to be secretive about their affairs. They limit membership and I don't trust them when they don't go out to witness to others or support any missions of any kind. I can certainly sympathise with the person who can't find a church that is run the way it should be. I have often felt God has been giving me the opportunity to establish a new church (for which I have not taken advantage) where people can go and just worship God and be a true scripturally based church where no mans dogma like Calvanism or Arminianism can exist. Perhaps God is opening your eyes to this.:thumbs:
     
    #20 GLL, Apr 7, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 7, 2007

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