Continue Church Membership?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by franklinmonroe, Mar 5, 2016.

  1. franklinmonroe

    franklinmonroe
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    A member at our church confessed to a major non-violent crime against the church, was convicted and sentenced recently. This person apologized to the church in writing immediately upon confession. The pastor and deacons have been counseling this person. He professes to be truly saved but fell into sin.This convicted criminal seems now to be truly repentant, although we recognize that he could be lying as he did while committing and covering his crimes at church. The church members have forgiven this man (as far as can be determined) and the witness of the church to the community has be positive through out the publicity of the court proceedings. The church desires to restore the man to fellowship after his years of time are served.

    The question: should this criminal be removed from membership while incarcerated? or should this brother remain a member even while in jail?
     
  2. Salty

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    Good reason to have a discipline membership list.
    Yes, I would keep him on the list and continue to minister to him.
     
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  3. HAMel

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    He apologized to the church in writing immediately upon confession..., does this mean he confessed once he was exposed/caught?

    Nothing wrong with ministering to him but chances are once he's able to fly to coop you'll never see him again. As the old adage goes..., "A friend in need is a friend indeed."

    How much time was he awarded?
     
  4. Darrell C

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    We have a principle of restoring a fallen brother which I think would apply to this situation. If he is openly repentant I think you guys have an obligation to minister to him, which may make the difference from an eternal perspective. If he becomes convinced that repentance means nothing because he is not really forgiven by his brethren, how much more should we expect he will doubt forgiveness from God.

    I would say yes, keep him on the list, and go further to minister to him while he is in jail (i.e., visitation, support in this difficult time, love).

    If his repentance is false, you probably won't have to wait long after he gets out to know whether he is going to stay in this same community of believers. But, if he does return to "the scene of the crime," so to speak, that would be enough for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.

    But if he is abandoned, I can only see one course for him, because he has been thrust out by the actions of the church. We would expect him not to return to that fellowship regardless of whether he is truly repentant or not.


    God bless.
     
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  5. franklinmonroe

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    Thank you for responding. We plan to minister to him either way. You don't see any shame brought to the name of Christ by keeping a convicted felon on the membership role then?
     
  6. franklinmonroe

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    I appreciate your interest. Yes, he admitted all his sins upon being exposed. It is probable that he will chose not to return to our church; however, the embarrassment factor rather than unresolved guilt that could be a reason (he is only human). He was given 5 years in jail, plus 3 years parole, and restitution (which we don't expect to ever receive).
     
  7. franklinmonroe

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    Thanks for your thoughtful answer. I wouldn't see his membership being revoked or suspended as an act of abandonment, especially if we explain the reasons for our action beforehand to him.
     
  8. Salty

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    Thus the reason for an inactive, non-resident and discipline list.
    (being on the discipline list basically means you cannot vote or hold office)

    "The Church is not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners and it was founded by the greatest Physician ever and is full of medicine, nurses and doctors. However, the Church is also full of damaged people, the walking wounded and there are often outbreaks of disease. It often doesn’t look pleasant, but it is the best place to be for those who need healing. The Church is full of sinners and for that I’m grateful, because otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed to join." link for this quote ( disclamer : I do not endorse the editor of the link - but this is an excellent statement.
     
  9. Rolfe

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    I mean this seriously, what shame? I would think that this tangible token of forgiveness would be honoring to Our Lord and a public example to your community.

    If he has expressed repentance, the time to strike him from the roll would be if he abandons the Church after his sentence is finished.

    Your Post #6 suggests that it was a financial crime against the Church. I wonder if this is the case that I think that it is.

    Of course, these are my opinions only.
     
  10. Darrell C

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    If God can keep a murderer on the "role," Paul, I think He can give grace to His Body to truly forgive this fellow.

    If we separate this man from the Body based on the type of sin, then we categorize sin, essentially accepting certain sin as better than other, which is a form of viewing "lesser sin" as acceptable, because, after all, everyone on every role in every fellowship has sinned.

    It is true that the sins of men will receive a meet judgment according to that sin, but, this is from an Eternal Perspective within the judgment of God, rather than a temporal perspective within the judgments of men. We have specific instruction in regards to sin among the brethren, and it is when one is unrepentant that he places himself within that human authority concerning judgment, which is designed to bring about repentance. This man, according to what you have said, has professed repentance, so I wouldn't see this as something that should be questioned, simply monitored.

    If he is repentant, and he sees that he has been forgiven by those he directly sinned against, I would think he would want to keep that relationship intact. I agree that embarrassment may cause him to seek another fellowship, that's understandable, but, I also believe that God can empower you and your fellow members to actually restore him. That would be my prayer in this situation.

    And if you think about this, if that happens, it would be not only a victory in the Name of Christ, but a clear example of the grace of God as applied to all of, who have all sinned against God.


    God bless.
     
  11. Darrell C

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    It would be abandonment, from my view, and, it would underscore your determination not to forgive the man.

    Which itself would be a greater sin against God than this fellow's actions.

    Even if you went to visit him, each visit would be a statement "We simply don't believe you. You say you have repented of your sin but...you're going to have to prove that to us! So this is what we are going to do, we are going to minister to you, and if you measure up to what we want to see in you, then...we will put you back on the role."

    The basic truth is that if one is a Christian, a born again believer, he is never removed from God's Role. Believers can fall into sin, but, we also know that God's will is for that sinner to be restored.

    So the implication would be, "Well, God may still keep you on His Role, but, we don't have to do that."

    I would suggest leaving him on this earthly role. The greater result may be, if the man was never truly saved to begin with, that he might be saved through this experience. A great opportunity to example the grace, mercy, and love of God right here on earth.


    God bless.
     
  12. preachinjesus

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    I'm not sure membership is that important of a concept these days, but if this were to happen at our church we would remove him from membership whilst in jail and once he was out help him in a spiritual and personal restoration process with the church family. If he completes that process, welcoming him into the church family as a member is a proper next step and something that would bring great acclaim to the name of Christ.
     
  13. Salty

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    Excellent point!
    So good, I am starting a new thread.
     
  14. franklinmonroe

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    Interesting proposal. Out church constitution currently does not have such categories. Either you're a member or, and only under four delineated circumstances, an associate member. An associate membership can be held if: 1) the person will be on the mission field; 2) away at college; 3) in the military; or 4) extended travel [like to Florida for the winter]. Otherwise, if a member does not attend at least one church service within 6 months they are in breech of the Members' Covenant (which states that you must attend church services as well as other obligations). Being in jail does not fit the criteria for an associate membership. He will be in violation of his membership agreement in 6 months (of which he has already been in custody for about 4 months.

    Can we change the constitution? Certainly. But it will take time to compose the amendments and have them approved by congregational vote at a regularly scheduled (quarterly) business meeting. It is very unlikely that we could have an amendment ready in less than 3 months. Even if we did, it might not pass (not because of him, but perhaps some other unforeseen issue). Indeed, we may amend the constitution eventually.
     
  15. franklinmonroe

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    I agree that it can be taken as tangible evidence of forgiveness. But could it also be viewed by the outside world as though the church doesn't care about moral standards?
    Certainly if you leave, then you're taken off.
    The felony against the church was financial in nature. However, there were additional sins (gross immorality) against God, his family, friends, and Christian brethren; not the least of which was betrayal & lying to cover the other sin.

    Your opinions are extremely helpful; please continue.
     
  16. franklinmonroe

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    We have. It is now only a question of what is just and right in the stewardship of God's church.
    True. However, I would make this distinction: his sin was public because he broke the civil law. The community knows (because it made the news), the police know, grand jury members, judges, lawyers, IRS, insurance companies, inmates and others all know about it.
     
  17. franklinmonroe

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    This was likely what would have happened, if we were not now giving this issue additional careful consideration. We happen take church membership very seriously, as Baptists have historically done.

    We are assuming that he will not be moved so far away that restoration ministry would become impossible.

    What might be the value to keeping a person on membership who clearly will not be participating for the next 5 years?
     
    #17 franklinmonroe, Mar 7, 2016
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2016
  18. Darrell C

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    I think Scripture makes your path clear. You are to seek to restore this fellow to fellowship with the Lord. And it isn't going to take much effort on your part.


    It makes no difference, and I would just caution you about speaking about the particulars. It might be construed by some as gossip.

    His relationship to the world is not the priority relationship, his relationship with God is. Secondly, his relationship to the Body. He didn't need to sin to be despised by the world, his faith was enough for that. We don't concern ourselves with what the world thinks before we first concern ourselves with what God thinks, and what He has shown us as a pattern as well as given us explicit commandment in regards to a sinning brother.

    Can you look back at the period in which the crime was taking place and determine if at any time you had sinned against God? Was that sin (and I am going to assume that at some point you did sin somewhere, lol, sorry, you can correct me if you were sinless during that period) inconsequential?

    Here is what usually comes to mind when something like this comes up: I know that if I drop my guard I could end up in the same boat, and I thank God I haven't.

    Satan is a crafty adversary, and works his wiles in the Body. When a member falls prey, we don't join the world in reviling him/her, we should do the very thing God has done for us. Not one of us can say "At least I am not as bad a sinner as that fellow," because our relationship with God doesn't start with sins, it starts from a relational perspective. God doesn't save on the basis of who sins less, who commits sins not worth mentioning, or that anyone merits salvation more than another. It's a matter of unmerited grace and mercy.

    Paul wrote:

    Philippians 2

    King James Version (KJV)

    1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

    2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

    3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

    4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

    5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

    6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

    7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

    8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.



    Sometimes in our focus on the Incarnation...we forget that Paul makes a point here which is to have an application in our hearts.

    The "mind of Christ" is to have a love for others that is sacrificial, and let's face it, there is no sacrifice in seeking to restore a brother.


    God bless.
     
  19. franklinmonroe

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    I gotta like a fella who has an R.C. Sproul quote at the bottom.

    Agreed, we will work to restore him. In your view, how is church membership linked to restoration during the process?
    Yes, except for the grace of God it could be me.
     
  20. Aaron

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    If Christ has received him, you cannot expel him.
     

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