Church Membership

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Whowillgo, Apr 16, 2010.

  1. Whowillgo

    Whowillgo
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    I sincerely apologize if this issue has been brought up before. I would like to hear some thoughts on church membership. I have been a Pastor for many years so I have heard all of the standard Seminary/Bible School thoughts.
    I am sure many of you face the same issue, today many want to be a part of a church but formal membership seems to drive them away. I realize this shows a lack of committment but I can also see that feeling a part of the local church is more important than a formal declaration. What is the actual scriptural basis for a membership requirement, again I would ask that you show more than the Passage in Acts 2: "added to the number". I realize that church discipline and monitoring the Lord's Supper is almost impossible without membership but are we making tradition into rules?
     
  2. saturneptune

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    For my part, I believe every Christian should be active and a part of a local church. That is the best medium for carrying out the work of the Lord. Membership rolls are another issue. Each local church has to decide how to police its church rolls and administer the Lord's Supper. If a local church uses its membership roll as a standard for taking the Lord's Supper (do not want this to turn into an open vs closed communion debate), then it almost demands that those who do not support the local church in either time, talent, offerings or commitment must be taken off the rolls in accordance with the standards that church has set. Most churches today seem to shy away from church discipline, whether it be attendance or another issue at variance with the will of the church. Most local church Constitutions will have a time limit for non attendance.

    You ask from very good questions at the end of your post. There are no right or wrong answers. Each church decides.
     
  3. tinytim

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    I think we are commanded to do things "in order"...
    Church membership became necessary to do this.
    It is supposed to ensure Discipleship (part of the Great commission that many churches ignore)...
    It is also suppose to ensure that we are united together with a common goal..
    It promotes growth by financial giving, and each member should be expected to be in a ministry of some sort.

    But sadly around here, people seem to only want their names on the roll so they can include this in their obituary!!

    Our constitution makes no provision for removing names after a period of inactivity, and I wish it did. Because we have a lot of members on our inactive list.. some we have NO idea where they even live now!..

    But a constitutional fight is not something I am willing to fight right now in our stage of growth in our church. BUT ONE day... God willing, we will change our constitution to address this problem.
     
  4. Salty

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    Does your constitution Prohibit taking them off the membership or at least putting them on a non-voting list?
     
  5. tinytim

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    The inactive list is a non-voting list.. It is in effect the same as having NO rights as a member, except in name only...

    And in order to get off the inactive list a person must attend EVERY Sunday for 6 MONTHS!... with an exception for work, or other reason the deacon board deems acceptable.
     
  6. webdog

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    I think membership is a matter for the church to decide. I don't think Scripture speaks on the issue. It is also up to us to examine ourselves prior to the Lord's supper.
     
  7. Timsings

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    This subject has come up before, and I have told this story before. Several years ago, our church receptionist started digging into our inactive members. She made phone calls, sent cards, and tracked down many of these folks and asked them if they still wanted to remain in the membership. She found that several of them had died, some had joined churches of other denominations, some had moved out of town or out of state. Every month or so for 3-4 years, the church clerk would bring reports to our monthly business meetings about the work of this receptionist. We dropped a lot of names from our rolls. This was not an action initiated by the church . It happened because questions were asked and decisions were made by the people involved. Our membership roll is a lot smaller now, but it more accurately reflects the actual size of our congregation.

    Tim Reynolds
     
  8. gb93433

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    I have also seen those who became members and ceased to attend. I have also been in a church for 10 years and saw a much more active congregation because there was not a membership list. People could not say they were members but that they went to church at ... Whereas in a church that had a membership the members could say they were a member at . . . even if they have not attended in many years.
     
  9. Deacon

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    I think you answered your own question!
    Church disciple is almost impossible without membership.

    There are so many legal issues that are solved by membership.

    Membership is a modern way to be able to perform a function that God gave the church to do.
    Without it our hands are tied.

    Rob
     
  10. drfuss

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    Granted, my personal experience with Baptist membership is very limited only to my church. However, I have found that in order to have any position or even serve as a greeter in my Baptist church, you must be a member.

    I have also found that a member can leave the church or dissert the church for many years and their name is still on the membership rolls unless they request a transfer or to be dropped. After being gone for many years and then they come back, they are still members with voting rights since the membership rolls are never updated.

    To me this is very inconsistant. Membership is very important when a Christian first starts at a church, but has no meaning if they don't attend. In my church, we have no idea where about 2/3 of the members are. As a convention, the SBC has the same problem.

    Based on the above, I think Baptists put entirely too much emphasis on membership.
     
  11. Salty

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    I would disagree with that statement. The problem is that rolls are not properly purged.
    I would agree that a member who has been gone for 10 years, should not have th right to vote. But that should be spelled out in the consitituion.

    I have also heard, that it is possible that if someone gives money to a church, that has no membership list, could be legally considered a member, and thus legally financialy responsible for debts, lawsuits, ect. You might best check with a lawyer on that.

    I am a strong believer in membership. As stated above, even greeters need to be members. To me membership = commitment.

    Salty
     
  12. gb93433

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    I know a church that died because a non-believer gave some money to the church and it was not used as the money was designated and the church was sued.
     
  13. Whowillgo

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    I appreciate the thoughts so far and I agree that membership serves a function but I am still asking how do we back this with scripture used within context.
    Purging of the rolls is fine, but many churches teach you are baptized into the church can you purge that act?
    I would submit that if it is to maintain discipline, then a board of elders could handle the issues. Again, I am not putting membership down, I am sincerely seeking an understanding of the scriptural basis.
     
  14. Jon-Marc

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    We automatically become a "member" of Christ's church at the time of our re-birth. Whether or not membership in a local church is required, I really don't know. However, for me, I don't feel as though I am a part of any church unless I join, and many Baptist churches (the ones I've known anyway) won't let you do anything unless you are a member.
     
  15. Tom Butler

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    We have a couple occurences in the scriptures which provide some guidance for us.

    In Acts 9:26-27 we have the account that Paul went to Jerusalem to join the disciples there. But because of Paul's history, they were skeptical of his intentions, and didn't believe he was a disciple. So Barnabas went with him and related to the church how Saul was saved, and how he was boldly preaching Jesus at Damascus.

    Based on Barnabas' endorsement, Saul was allowed to join their fellowship.

    So the principle I see in this story is that each congregation controls its own doors and who shall be members.

    The other scriptures which give us guidance are in I Corinthians and II Corinthians regarding the man who was having an affair with his father's wife. In the first letter, (Chapter 5)Paul admonishes them to kick him out and don't even eat with him. It went beyond just condemning his sin, it involved separating from him.

    In the second letter, Paul told the congregation it was time to forgive the offender since he had been punished sufficiently. Implicit in his instructions in Chapter 2, they are to receive him back into their fellowship.

    Beyond the examples in scripture, a membership list is simply a practical way of keeping up with folks.

    The fact that church membership lists have been a practice for at least a couple of centuries should have no influence on our thinking. After all, those Baptists didn't know as much as we know today. (This is tongue-in-cheek, of course, for those who believe God created the heavens and earth the day they were born.)
     
  16. SaggyWoman

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    What is exactly the point of having an "inactive" church member? Really!!?
     
  17. Revmitchell

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    Members who are not currently attending or contributing to the church who needs to be restored. The church has a responsibility to restore wayward church members. Gal 6:1
     
  18. gb93433

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    There are those who have moved and are on inactive status of many churches and are active, growing members in another church.
     
  19. saturneptune

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    It is the responsibility of the member to make sure he or she is on one church roll. If moving from one denomination to another, letters are not usually transferred or notice given to the old church by the gaining church. It is not fair to the old church to carry someone on their rolls that is active in another church. It is a waste of time and resources trying to restore such a person.
     
  20. Jon-Marc

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    Too many church members and church goers (non-members) are just "pew sitters"--never doing anything for Christ's work. I have heard some very good singers in the congregation, but do you think they will use that God-given talent for the Lord? I'm sure there are some good musicians in the congregation, but they don't offer to use that talent for the Lord.

    I have never liked being a "pew sitter". Every church I've been in, I've gotten involved. If that wasn't possible because of an abundance of others to fill that position, then I looked elsewhere. I have done everything in one church or another except be the pastor. I've song solos, sung in the choir, led the singing, tried (and failed) teaching, even preached a couple of times (not very well), been an usher and a deacon, and I've been the janitor. I've helped build a church building. I've also sung and acted in a church TV program and loved it. In fact, as much as I love singing, I enjoyed the acting even more. It was a great experience.

    I don't understand people who refuse to use their God-given talents for the Lord. God tells us how displeased He is with such selfish people in Matthew about the talents given to servants, and one just hid it and didn't use it--as many Christians do. I find it interesting that the word "talent" is used. WE all have some talent(s) that we can use for God's glory, but so few do; they just hide it and refuse to use it for God's glory.

    I studied music and took voice and directing lessons to increase the talent God gave me. I never believed in selfishly hiding it and refusing to use it to glorify the One Who gave it to me. I never had any problem in Michigan finding a church that needed my talent for singing and song leading. I came to Florida and can't find a single church that needs my talent. They all have more than one capable of leading the singing (in some of them the pastor leads the singing and won't turn it over to anyone else), and they have an abundance of soloists and don't need me. I must be full involved, or I'm not happy there.
     

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