Monday, January 30, 2006

Your Counsel is Requested...

It happened on a typical Sunday morning in the small sleepytown of Anyville, USA. The choir had just finished singing their first song when the door opened and in walked Mr. Professing Christian. He was dressed in a fine one piece suit with polished shoes and a crisp new red tie. In his hand was a beautifully bound black leather bible which had the look of being well used.

Mr. Keener, the head deacon was quick to offer this newly arrived gentlemen a fine seat in the padded pews near the front. Mr. Christian had the look of one who enthusiastically enjoyed the sermon preacher Parsons delivered that morning. As the service closed, Mr. Christian turned to extend a warm hand of fellowship to Joe and Martha Snobbly who in turn profusely welcomed the visitor with outstretched arms. Quickly taking hold of Professing's arm, Mrs. Snobbly led him straight to Pastor Parsons who was standing and talking to the other deacon, Mr. Hippicrit.

"Pastor Parsons, you must meet our new visitor, he is a fine christian if I have ever seen one". The pastor turned to greet the new gentlemen and glancing over his appearance immediately raised his right hand to welcome the man. "Why pleased to meet you sir, I do trust you enjoyed the service this morning?"

"Yes, I was really moved by your sermon, pastor, in fact I would like to discuss becoming a member of your fine church. As President of a global investment firm, I have chosen to set up our corporate headquarters in this tranquil little community. I do trust you will accept me as a member?"

Pastor Parsons paused for a moment, considering the bountiful increase in tithes that potentially lay head of him, then replied, "Why sir, we would be more than happy to have you join our loving church."

As Mrs. Snobbly scurried her newly found friend away, you quickly seize the opportunity to approach the pastor and question him on his quick acceptance of this unknown man.

Now It's Your Turn

What will you say? How will you discern whether or not this man is genuinely saved and is in fact a child of God? After all, as members of the congregation you will ultimately decide if this man can join your church and participate in the local ministry.

I would sincerely appreciate hearing how you would go about assessing the candidate for membership to your church based upon the requirement of salvation. Please give me your thoughts and be as brief or lengthy as you wish.

Thanks again for being an active participant.



23 comments:

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

As I do not accept sectarian membership, I am not sure I can answer this.

How about just trusting what the guy says? If he is naughty you cn always put him out later.

The Brethren in principle accept any who profess Christ to the Lord's table and admit the right of all to minister.

Normally, letters of introduction from another assembly are requested before receiving one into fellowship. This ensures that if he has been put out of another assembly, he cannot get into another.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Puritan Belief said...

You wrote this so well. Is this your work?

Well first I would ask myself what am I doing in a church where the Pastor is the Parsons nose and the decon is Mr Hippicrit and my congregation is full of snobs.

Then I would go to the pastor and give him a copy of pilgrims progress and ask him to consider the characters in this book and compare them to his church and the man he just met.

Joe said...

In our church he would be presented to the membership after responding to the invitation, be welcomed, fill out an information sheet, attend a new members class and then be presented for "official membership" at our next regularly scheduled business meeting.

This would hopefully give us time to discover whether there were any dire circumstances surrounding this fine man.

Jim said...

Matthew, you crack me right up. I just knew you would answer in that way.

Bless you brother,

Jim

Jim said...

PB,

I am humbled by your compliment, I do enjoy writing in anologies and yes it does remind me of Pilgrims progress. I had to laugh at your assessment of the membership, because we would all deny at face value any such affiliation but when we dig deeper there are always striking similarities.

I guess my pointed question would be: how would you determine whether or not this man - as fine and proper as he may appear - is in fact a genuine child of God?

Thanks for stopping by. ;) Jim

Jim said...

Thanks for your comments Joe.

Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

I am not so sure what was so funny about that. I was being serious.

I am not so sure why you find it so important to know.

The Bible assumes the possibility of knowing who is a brother and who is not.

If a man says he is believes in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation then he either is or he is a liar. If he is put out he is to us as a heathen or a publican, but until then, why be so suspicous of his profession?

It is through fellowship that one comes under discipline, not through discipline that we come to fellowship. You seem to be putting the cart before the horse.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Antonio said...

By his doctrine alone.

Antonio

Jim said...

Matthew,

I in no way was mocking you. I understand you to be a most serious individual who practices what he believes. I found it amusing because even why writing the post I was imagining what you would say.

Antonio,

Thanks for your input. Is there any particular doctrine you would require?


To everyone else,


I would sincerely appreciate hearing from my reformed brethren out there.

centuri0n said...

First of all, ignore Antonio. One string guitar, and it's not tuned right.

Second of all, this is what I would call "common practice" in "evangelical" churches. So when we start saying good or bad about it, I think we're saying good or bad about the common practice, and as such one should not take offence but pay special attention.

Third, it seems to be that there are marks of the believer, and carrying a Bible or owning a global investment firm are somewhat vividly absent from the NT list of those marks. However, actually wanting to join the church is one of those marks, so let's not be too hasty.

Fourth, all anthropomorphic names aside, let's also not let any biases we have toward the maladies of our contemporary church cloud our ability to look at this problem, which is a church problem and a discipleship problem and not a personality problem.

Fifth, in the NT, the admonition is "believe and be baptized" or "repent and be baptized". In that, the bar is somewhat low for initiation into the church. However, in spite of that low bar, the next hurdle is a lot higher: sharing all things in common; being subject to one another; resolving conflict rather than escalating it or leveraging it to gain an advantage; many memers but one body; etc. I belonged to a church once that had the simple mission statement, "not saved to sit but saved to serve." Entering into the church is somewhat easy, but being part of the church is W-O-R-K. In that, nobody should enter in who does not understand their responsibility to the church as the church has at least that responsibility to them.

So I think that there's a lot to be desired in the example you have given here, but there's also a lot to be considered before we say, "oh it's bad" or "oh it's just fine". Do I think we should knee-jerk anyone into the church for minimal cause? No. Do I think we should be straining at gnats when there's a camel in our soup? uh, no. I think we should refrain from trying to stereotype the issues and in that, we should also refrain from trying to adjust every shade of 256-part grayscale in the picture we are trying to paint.

Stick to the NT and in the right Spirit.

Last, ignore Antonio. Did I say that already? Well, at least I said it.

Jim said...

Thanks Cent,

You are profusely profound! I see now why some guys would rather avoid a tussle with you. :)

Your points have been taken into consideration. Thanks again for visiting my humble blog and making a sincere contribution.

Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

That comment about Antonio was rather unkind, Centurion, if Jim does not mind my saying so.

Jim said...

Matthew,

I have been thinking how to properly address that issue in the near future.

-----------------------------


Looks like I'll have to get one of those avatars as well.

Sojourner said...

Jim,

I would tend to focus on the guy joining. The pastor and the snobs have enough problems that muddy the waters.

My concern is for the man joining. He has not been briefed on what will be required of him as a member...if anything. Is he expected to attend regularly? Is he expected to give? Does he realize that he will be held accountable for his actions outside the church? Does he agree with our statement of faith? Will he sign the church covenant?

If he confesses Christ, and he knows the above, and he still longs to join the fellowship, then why prevent him?

As for what I would say to the preacher....he isn't the one I go to talk to. You have to get these things from the potential member. If I suspected that the pastor was after money and prestige, I'd be sick and have a worse dilemma on my hands.

Jim said...

Sojourner,

Thanks for stopping by and throwing in your comments. You raise some valid points.

God bless,

Jim

Crazililmonki09 said...

Ok yeah in our church the congregation doesn't really decide. First the bishop interviews him and then he gets baptized into our church. Then the congregation manifests whether they accept him or not. But basically everyone raises their hands b/c in the BOM it says you will know them by their fruits, so basically if there bad then it will eventually show, but if there not then don't worry about it

Jim said...

Crazi,

Would you mind sharing with us what type of church you belong to? I am not familiar with this style?

Thanks for stopping by.

Gianluca Di Milano said...

How about make a drinking competition. If the man can to drink many wines I'm will except he. But if he is fall to the floor after a little wines, may be is a gay.

Jim said...

Hi Gianluca,

Have you trusted Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord? Do you know why He had to die on the cross?

May God grant you eyes to see the truth about the Son of God.

Thanks for dropping by! Chow!

Chuck said...

Thanks for the comment- How'd you find me, BTW? As far as this question goes, I liked Centuri0n's response. Also, I think dyspraxic made a great point (they actually said pretty much the same thing; one's just a wee bit more loquacious than the other). You won't know the root until you take time to observe the fruit. An apple tree has no oranges.

Jim said...

Moonlight,

Thanks for visiting, I honestly can't remember where I found your blog. Probably off a comment you left on someones site.

You picked a couple of the more profound comments, good for you.

Jim

Rose~ said...

Centurion says:
First of all, ignore Antonio. One string guitar, and it's not tuned right.

That is the kind of attitude that I think is so unfortunate and scornful. (in regards to your newer, Feb. 1 post)

Antonio said...

Jim,

What is required for salvation?

Faith in Christ alone.

I would ask the potential member what his expectation of heaven was.

If he said that He believes in Christ alone for His promise of eternal life, apart from works, and I have no reason to doubt him, I would consider him saved, period.

the following is something I cut and pasted from an article on my website that may be of some assistance:

----------
Bob Wilkin and Zane Hodges have a brief discourse on this Passage

Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord

The passage under consideration says that you will know false prophets by their fruits. What are the fruits? They are wolves in sheeps clothing! Every outward appearance is that of a Christian. So “fruit” couldn’t mean their conduct! Fruit is the doctrine that they preach. If they preach anything but eternal salvation by grace through simple faith in Jesus Christ, they are false prophets. That their words are their fruit is easily demonstrated by looking at:

"If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods' -- which you have not known -- 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams” (Deut 13:1-3).

“And if you say in your heart, 'How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' -- when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deut 18:21-22).

In conjunction with:

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:33-37).
----------

Can an unsaved person do all the things and have the mindsets that centurion proposes? I believe so. How do you know if he is saved? By his doctrine.

If He believes in Christ alone for eternal life, he is saved.

Antonio