Membership and Church Deserters

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by drfuss, Aug 7, 2009.

  1. drfuss

    drfuss
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    There is another thread about involving non-members. I would like to get your ideas on another aspect of church membership.

    What about church members who leave the church for over a year or longer, and then return to the church. Many Baptist churches have bloated membership rolls because they do not update their rolls, but keep members who desert the church on the rolls. Should members who desert the church by not attenhing for a long period of time, be treated as active members when they return and be allowed to participate as though they had never stopped coming.

    I find it very inconsistant to not allow Christians to participant in non-leadership rolls until they become members. But at the same time, allow members who have deserted the church for long periods, to participate as though they had never left.

    How do you handle members who have deserted the church for a long period and then return? Do you treat them the same as if they had not deserted the church.
     
  2. Salty

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    Our church constitution requires a non-attending member to be put on the inactive list after a certain amount of time.

    Upon return, there are procedures to be put back on the active list, based on the reason for non-attendance. This would even include a GI who is gone for, say a year or two overseas. In that case, he would need to sit down with me (the pastor) and ensure he still maintains the statement of faith.

    Other reasons, say for causing division, or other major situations, may call for repentance, apology, ect .
     
  3. tinytim

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    We also have an inactive list, and those on it are those that have not been to church for over 3 months.

    We also have a very strict rule for getting back on the active list.
    6 months of being there EVERY week! and then meet with the board of deacons.... I am not sure I like that strict of rule, but it was in the constitution before I came.
     
  4. Salty

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    Would that also go for Pvt B. Bailey, who has been stationed at Fort Hood, Tx for the past 18 months and attended a great ABC church in Killeen?

    Or should he have had joined the church there?
     
  5. tinytim

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    To tell you the truth, I think there is a clause about having a good excuse for not being there.. .and someone in the military would fall under this clause, so he would not be put on the inactive list....
     
  6. drfuss

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    In our church, we have some members who get upset about something and leave and attend others churches for a year or so. Then they start attending again and are allowed to participate in activites as thought they have been continually active and supporting in our church. Since our church has about 2000 in attendance each Sunday, there is no easy way of keeping track of who is at church. Yet, non-members who attend faithfully and support the church, are not allowed to participate in non-leadership activities such as being a a regular greeter.

    I personally know a family who was very active, and then left the church for a couple of years. When we were updating our bylaws, they showed up at the business meeting and had plenty of input. Since the membership rolls are never updated, they had as much right to be there as faithful members.
     
  7. saturneptune

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    I have a real problem with using church rolls as a standard whether it be your post or communion. I am not talking about a year, I mean decades, twenty, thirty years. It is partly the fault of the church for allowing it. It is not necessary to have a calendar, and the day after, they are non-members, but decades.

    Yes, you are correct. Rolls that are not kept up to date make a mockery of ministry within the local church and to a degree communion. The idea of maintaining someone on a church roll for that long so they can have a funeral preached, someone to marry their relatives, or expect a visit in a hosptial room, in my opinion, is about as bad as it gets, using a local New Testement church of the Lord for such nonsense. In a way, it is mocking the Lord.
     
  8. TCGreek

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    Here's my take:

    1. Non-members is not required to participate in the ministry of the church.

    2. Members who bring disgrace on the name of Christ and the local church should receive church discipline.
     
  9. Jim1999

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    I remained a member of my home church and became a member exofficio of all the churches I pastored. I did not have voting rights in any but my home church. I don't know why I followed that route, but I did.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  10. JDale

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    Church members who do not attend for a short period of time should be contacted in accord with Matthew 18:15-17 -- in a step-by-step process -- over a period of time. The shortest time I've ever heard is 4 weeks (which would empty many churches these days). More common among churches that take membership/attendance seriously, it's one quarter or 13 weeks. In most cases, one year is the time span. After having neglected attendance and membership duties for the defined period of time, they should be notified that they are being removed from membership in the local church.

    The VAST majority of churches -- Baptist included -- make no such provision for responsible membership, and they usually suffer the consequences in a Church conflict. This is something every local church SHOULD implement.
     
  11. drfuss

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    I agree. But our church has never done any of that to my knowledge. I have suggested updating the membership rolls and dropping those who have not been there for over a year. The response from some other members has been that we should not drop anyone from the membership rolls because they might feel we no longer want them. It appears that this has been the tradition for years. This has resulted in about 30% of our members actually attend our church. I think that the general SBC membership attendance percentage is about the same.
     
  12. JDale

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    I think those numbers sound real good -- but allowing them to be publicized as if they are accurate is deceptive and perpetuates the numbers myth. I agree with you that this is common, but something is wrong when the church bases it's roll's on how people who haven't bothered to attend for YEARS MIGHT feel, while ignoring the Scriptural principles of being a responsible Disciple of Christ...
     
  13. Dale-c

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    I believe many reformed baptist churches (the one I am in and another that I have seen) require regular attendance for membership. And if for valid reason a person is unable to attend, regular communication is still required such as in the case of elderly people no longer able to attend due to health etc.
    Of course I think with an elderly person unable to attend, deacons and elders as well as other members would most likely be in regular contact anyway.

    In short there is no valid reason to keep people on membership rolls who skip services.

    for what it is worth, I also oppose maintaining a member ship of an old church when someone moves yet going to a church in the new location.
     
  14. Timsings

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    Over several years our membership roll was purged by one of our church secretaries. She began contacting people, whose names were on the church roll, but who had not attended in years. Some were known to have moved to other churches or even other denominations, but no requests for letters or removal had been sent to us. She would ask them what they would like to do, and the church would honor their wishes. Several times during the year our business meetings would include motions to remove people who had died, moved to another city, changed churches, etc. Now our membership numbers are more accurate. We do continue to maintain a list of "non-resident" members, but I do not know the criteria for being included in this list.

    Tim Reynolds
     
  15. JohnDeereFan

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    This is something we take very seriously.

    Obviously, there are reasons where somebody has a legitimate reason to be away from the church, such as a military deployment or an extended illness, or caring for a loved one with such an illness, but in our church, we do prune our membership rolls every few months.

    It's never done with the intention of excluding anyone, but with two purposes in mind. The first is to help spot a problem with a brother or sister. Often, extended absence from church is a sign of a problem elsewhere in somebody's life.

    The other reason is to protect the integrity of the church. The church is to be holy and set apart and we must send the message to the world that church membership and church discipline is something that is to be taken very seriously.

    Now, fortunately for us, our membership requirements are so stringent that you really have to want to be a memeber and want to commit yourself to the church to join. Otherwise, it's just not worth the hassle you have to go through to join. The membership process tends to weed out a lot of pew warmers or people who will come for a while and then disappear. So it's pretty rare that we have to remove anyone.
     
  16. JDale

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    I am a Non-Calvinist/Reformation Arminian, but this is one issue where I think "Reformed Baptists" aka Calvinists are far more Biblical in their understanding of membership requirements.
     
  17. saturneptune

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    What I would like to know from anyone who will respond, is, if you are in a situation where you are practicing closed communion, and have not policed your rolls, how do you justify the roll as the standard for communion?
     
  18. Dale-c

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    saturn, do you practice closed communion?
    We don't (thankfully since I am not yet a member)

    I suppose there are two general positions on communion, closed with in the local (or physical) church and closed within the universal (or invisible) church.
     
  19. saturneptune

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    Dale,
    We have never been able to resolve the question at our church. It is my belief that at present open communion would win depending on who showed up for the vote, but it causes such emotion, it has never been done. Since we have never voted in closed, we practice open, although at most services with communion, non members are usually not there.
     
  20. Tom Butler

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    Tim, I've highlighted that part of your post where I would gently disagree, although I'm probably in the minority. First, making contact with the delinquent member is the right thing to do, where possible. But the choice of remaining as a member should reside in the congregation, not in the member. There should be some conditions for remaining on the roll, not the least of which is showing up.

    Speaking of non-resident members, over the past two or three years, our church has almost eliminated that list. Some of them had been on the non-resident list for 25 years and most of them we had no idea where they were.
     

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