Are There Any Good Reasons For Not Having Church Membership?

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tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
These "Peacemaking" resources look very interesting. Do they have your endorsement?
Yep. My wife and I have attended their conferences and we have used sets of the Peacemaker audio materials. I believe they are fairly well-respected in the Reformed community. Sande is a PCA ruling elder, and the PCA’s CE&P has them listed on the web site for reference material.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
The Peacemaker materials are fabulous. There is a very good book written by Ken Sande's past, Al Poirer (a PCA pastor) called The PEacemaking Pastor.

Highly recommended.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
At least three times in Revelation is mentioned the names WRITTEN in the book of life. Are we typically supposed to be imitating the heavenly on earth? See also Heb. 12:23.

1 Tim 5:9 speaks of the widows "enrolled". Whoops! Was this extra-biblical?

Where did all those lists of names from the Old Testament church, or in the genealogy of Christ, come from?

Other refs:
Num 1:2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of the names, every male, by their polls;
and many more from Numb. 1; Num 3:40, 43; Num 11:26; Num 26:53

Deu 25:6 And it shall be, that the first-born that she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother that is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel.
("blotted out" is picturesque, yes, but OF WHAT?)

1Ch 12:31 And of the half-tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, who were mentioned by name, to come and make David king.

Many, many other references.

This should be sufficient to show that that from time immemorial, there have been church rolls and names, and our names are written in heaven, and we should be more than happy to acknowledge that our own rolls are imperfect imitations of heaven's roll, and eminently biblical in practice to have them. A permanent record is better than record in someone's memory. Perhaps in times of persecution, one might want to forgo them... but that would be a circumstantial prudence.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
At least three times in Revelation is mentioned the names WRITTEN in the book of life. Are we typically supposed to be imitating the heavenly on earth? See also Heb. 12:23.

1 Tim 5:9 speaks of the widows "enrolled". Whoops! Was this extra-biblical?

Where did all those lists of names from the Old Testament church, or in the genealogy of Christ, come from?

Other refs:
Num 1:2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of the names, every male, by their polls;
and many more from Numb. 1; Num 3:40, 43; Num 11:26; Num 26:53

Deu 25:6 And it shall be, that the first-born that she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother that is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel.
("blotted out" is picturesque, yes, but OF WHAT?)

1Ch 12:31 And of the half-tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, who were mentioned by name, to come and make David king.

Many, many other references.

This should be sufficient to show that that from time immemorial, there have been church rolls and names, and our names are written in heaven, and we should be more than happy to acknowledge that our own rolls are imperfect imitations of heaven's roll, and eminently biblical in practice to have them. A permanent record is better than record in someone's memory. Perhaps in times of persecution, one might want to forgo them... but that would be a circumstantial prudence.
Great post! I agree that it is a simple thing to prove that God is not against church membership.

Someone mentioned to me also that a reason for no membership roll might also be in cases where there is an extremely small church. For example, if the core of a church is just two families, do you really need a roll?
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
At least three times in Revelation is mentioned the names WRITTEN in the book of life. Are we typically supposed to be imitating the heavenly on earth? See also Heb. 12:23.

1 Tim 5:9 speaks of the widows "enrolled". Whoops! Was this extra-biblical?

Where did all those lists of names from the Old Testament church, or in the genealogy of Christ, come from?

Other refs:
Num 1:2 Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of the names, every male, by their polls;
and many more from Numb. 1; Num 3:40, 43; Num 11:26; Num 26:53

Deu 25:6 And it shall be, that the first-born that she beareth shall succeed in the name of his brother that is dead, that his name be not blotted out of Israel.
("blotted out" is picturesque, yes, but OF WHAT?)

1Ch 12:31 And of the half-tribe of Manasseh eighteen thousand, who were mentioned by name, to come and make David king.

Many, many other references.

This should be sufficient to show that that from time immemorial, there have been church rolls and names, and our names are written in heaven, and we should be more than happy to acknowledge that our own rolls are imperfect imitations of heaven's roll, and eminently biblical in practice to have them. A permanent record is better than record in someone's memory. Perhaps in times of persecution, one might want to forgo them... but that would be a circumstantial prudence.
Somebody's been reading Morton Smith! :graduate:
 

Stephen

Puritan Board Junior
One of Calvary Chapel's distinctives is they do not have church membership. I am aware that there are certain major drawbacks to that but CC seems to be doing pretty well in spite of that distinctive.

Given the growing uncertainty of the church's relationship with the US government, lawsuit-happy lawyers, the IRS, etc, are there any good reasons to not have church membership? Could you foresee situations where it would be better to not have membership?

They have no church membership and as a result there is no accountability. People can live however they please and never receive discipline. Calvary Chapel is not a true church because it does not have the marks of a visible church.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
9A widow is to be (N)put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been (O)the wife of one man,

10having a reputation for (P)good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has (Q)shown hospitality to strangers, if she (R)has washed the saints' feet, if she has (S)assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.
The list of people needing/deserving handouts not church rolls in my understanding of the text.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
Let's see where my reasoning goes with the genealogy lists.

The ultimate reason for the list was to prove Christ's birth fulfilled prophecy. It did and the temple was destroyed with all the records.

It's purpose was to establish men from the line of Levi to perform the priests function.

It's purpose was to establish who was in what tribe to get their allotted land.

It's purpose was to confirm who was a Jew.

The last purpose would be the one I believe would most likely be applicable to the church.

The genealogy list was 100% accurate as to the blood line. A church membership list is 100% accurate in what regard? You would have to tell me as a Presbyterian because I don't understand how that might work out in Presbyterian doctrine. In the Baptist regard it would be 100% accurate regarding everyone who made a profession the Jesus is Lord (a true confession vs. a false confession which knocks the percentage way down). If the list is kept up to date (in this fictional Baptist church where discipline and excommunication it practiced well) it gets close to 100% as compared to the Book of Life but only God knows the heart.

In contrast, Jews could not be removed from the list and they can be from a church role due to excommunication, death, (and in another category, moving away where we should hope that person would "join themselves" to another body using the 1689 vernacular)

The list did show who was set apart and had to obey the law. That's a good point for application today. This is where we use discipline and excommunication.

The genealogy list was 100% accurate as to the blood line. A church membership list is 100% accurate in what regard? You would have to tell me as a Presbyterian because I don't understand how that might work out in Presbyterian doctrine. In the Baptist regard it would be 100% accurate regarding everyone who made a profession the Jesus is Lord (a true confession vs. a false confession which knocks the percentage way down). If the list is kept up to date (in this fictional Baptist church where discipline and excommunication it practiced well) it gets close to 100% as compared to the Book of Life but only God knows the heart.

These are just notes on my thinking and not a reasoned post. My apologies.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Let's see where my reasoning goes with the genealogy lists.

The ultimate reason for the list was to prove Christ's birth fulfilled prophecy. It did and the temple was destroyed with all the records.
So, why not just keep lists of the Davidic line, notes for succession, since no other lines mattered?
It's purpose was to establish men from the line of Levi to perform the priests function.
So there was another seriously important reason.
It's purpose was to establish who was in what tribe to get their allotted land.
Yet a third seriously important reason. This is starting to get serious.
It's purpose was to confirm who was a Jew.

The last purpose would be the one I believe would most likely be applicable to the church.
In other words: to distinguish a CHURCH member from the rest of humanity. I agree, it sounds like a very important reason. In fact, it sounds like a sufficient reason all by itself.
The genealogy list was 100% accurate as to the blood line. A church membership list is 100% accurate in what regard? You would have to tell me as a Presbyterian because I don't understand how that might work out in Presbyterian doctrine. In the Baptist regard it would be 100% accurate regarding everyone who made a profession the Jesus is Lord (a true confession vs. a false confession which knocks the percentage way down). If the list is kept up to date (in this fictional Baptist church where discipline and excommunication it practiced well) it gets close to 100% as compared to the Book of Life but only God knows the heart.
I'm not sure what bearing this has on the question of whether or not a church should keep a roll. An identifiable roll of persons helps the church officers know whom they are responsible for, that is "especially those of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). The list would be exhaustive, that is 100% of the people on that roll are to be attended unto by those who "watch for your souls, as men who must give account" (Heb. 13:17). Account of whom? The membership! I don't have to give an account for people not on my list, the ones who are someone else's list. I have a general Christian duty to them, and nothing more. Ah, but some people I will have to give account for. How should I know who they are?

Yes, indeed this is a limiting concept. And its gracious that it is so, because otherwise my duties as a minister would outstrip my capabilities. I think some churches don't want a list, because they don't want God to hold them accountable for anyone. I think they will be very surprised, because instead, God will likely demand an "accounting" that is vast.
In contrast, Jews could not be removed from the list and they can be from a church role due to excommunication, death, (and in another category, moving away where we should hope that person would "join themselves" to another body using the 1689 vernacular).
Well, this is just plain wrong. A Jew most certainly could be excommunicated from his people. Num 19:20 "If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. Because the water for impurity has not been thrown on him, he is unclean." Refusal to undergo ritual purification was reason to be excommunicated. Even if you argue that every time such language is used, it means death, not living excommunication, the result is simply excommunication in a theocratic context. So dead or not, he was still excluded from the assembly.
The list did show who was set apart and had to obey the law. That's a good point for application today. This is where we use discipline and excommunication.
Of course, and sufficient reason all by itself.

So what have we demonstrated? Only that from ancient days, there have been good, prudential, and biblical reasons to have a church roll--a list of identifiable, separated people that the church recognizes, for purposes of ministry and discipline. Which makes this comment:
The list of people needing/deserving handouts not church rolls in my understanding of the text.
pretty difficult to justify, being a dismissal of 1 Tim 5:9, which is nothing but a subdirectory of the larger enrollment, even if you just thought of it as a "virtual" roll, and refused to write it down.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
It's purpose was to confirm who was a Jew.

The last purpose would be the one I believe would most likely be applicable to the church.
In other words: to distinguish a CHURCH member from the rest of humanity. I agree, it sounds like a very important reason. In fact, it sounds like a sufficient reason all by itself.
These things get so drawn out! I got eat right, sleep and exercise before I get in these debates which I'm not good at.

I have to admit ignorance and see if I am understanding you rightly pastor. The Jew and the church are the same?

I only got as far in my reasoning that the lineage defined who had to obey the Mosaic law because the were in covenant. I then tried to see the differences between the to "roles of names" to see of the differences can be explained away to be completely applicable to the church (or to what extent or what modifications)

Also, I was saying that a Jew could never be taken off the list even if excommunicated because it was a blood line. It had nothing to do with violating the covenant.

They were passive in being put in the lineage as we are passive in being put in the Book of Life because we were acted upon and were given faith in Christ.

I know my post is convoluted and I do not explain myself well but please bear with me and make the most of the post if you can!
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Originally Posted by staythecourse View Post
It's purpose was to confirm who was a Jew.
The last purpose would be the one I believe would most likely be applicable to the church.
In other words: to distinguish a CHURCH member from the rest of humanity. I agree, it sounds like a very important reason. In fact, it sounds like a sufficient reason all by itself.
These things get so drawn out! I got eat right, sleep and exercise before I get in these debates which I'm not good at.

I have to admit ignorance and see if I am understanding you rightly pastor. The Jew and the church are the same?
Act 7:37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.
Act 7:38 This is he, that was in the church [ekklesia] in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
Act 7:39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt,

Yes, Israel was the church in the OT.
I only got as far in my reasoning that the lineage defined who had to obey the Mosaic law because the were in covenant. I then tried to see the differences between the to "roles of names" to see of the differences can be explained away to be completely applicable to the church (or to what extent or what modifications)

Also, I was saying that a Jew could never be taken off the list even if excommunicated because it was a blood line. It had nothing to do with violating the covenant.

They were passive in being put in the lineage as we are passive in being put in the Book of Life because we were acted upon and were given faith in Christ.
Why do we need to "explain away" the fact of lists of names in the Bible, lists used in the conduct of religious business? Or to look for reasons why we should not apply such practice to a NT situation? Even if you only think confessors ought to be on such a list, can we not see a similarity in rationale for either?



But, I have to say that I understand why some Baptists would take this position, since (under that view) the NT situation is so "spiritual" that there is no visible administration of the New Covenant. Such a roll would be, at best, a pragmatic concession to weakness of memory.

Our rolls are NOT simply current lists of members/attendees. They are a part of the administration of the church, a historic process. These are the records of the church. So the roll reads all the members, past and present. Past members are marked as "deceased" when they die, their earthly membership is remembered. Excommunicated members are recorded first at their baptism, and later note is made of their discipline. I have seen the same person marked as "restored" at a later date.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
But, I have to say that I understand why some Baptists would take this position, since (under that view) the NT situation is so "spiritual" that there is no visible administration of the New Covenant. Such a roll would be, at best, a pragmatic concession to weakness of memory.
Yes, that explains my underlying reasoning and put well.

But, taking a Presbyterian or Baptist church role, kept accurate and to the best of man's ability the big difference which to me makes a lot of difference, is that the Jewish genealogy was 100% accurate comprising the real church (going to heaven believers) + going to hell non-believers with Abraham's blood in their veins.

The church role is any man's best guess. We can't weed out the baddies to make a perfect role - so, and here's my point, why keep one? Since it will be wrong let's not keep one. The 100% accurate book is the Lamb's Book of Life.

Our rolls are NOT simply current lists of members/attendees. They are a part of the administration of the church, a historic process.
I understand your reasoning here but I can't agree. If any family had an ongoing line of believers in the "Smith" family, let's say, I'd say Amen! But we see the membership grow from "faith to faith" and (Praise God) He sure does grant faith to my brothers' children but often not.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Would those of you who are elders discipline a person (admonish, rebuke, fence and/or shun) someone who was not on the membership roll but who had been attending for some time, if unrepented sin was discovered in that person's life?
I would confront said person. Discipline? Difficult to do since they have not submitted to the leadership of the church.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
Bill,

If you have a pastor's heart (and man, I know you do) you would tell that brother whome you love to get his act together cause he's in trouble with God! The bigger the pastor-heart, the more obligated he feels to Christians around him. Your rebuke may do the trick to get him in line.

We have a familiy at our church who will not become members for theonomist views (true story) but he has a relationship with the pastor and our big-hearted pastor treats him in many ways as a friend, brother, and counselor but (shock) he ain't on the role!
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
An identifiable roll of persons helps the church officers know whom they are responsible for, that is "especially those of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). The list would be exhaustive, that is 100% of the people on that roll are to be attended unto by those who "watch for your souls, as men who must give account" (Heb. 13:17). Account of whom? The membership! I don't have to give an account for people not on my list, the ones who are someone else's list. I have a general Christian duty to them, and nothing more. Ah, but some people I will have to give account for. How should I know who they are?

So what have we demonstrated? Only that from ancient days, there have been good, prudential, and biblical reasons to have a church roll--a list of identifiable, separated people that the church recognizes, for purposes of ministry and discipline.
It is because of posts like these that I am a part of PB!

Would you mind, Rev Buchanan, if I used this in the 'paper' I am writing about membership?
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
Would those of you who are elders discipline a person (admonish, rebuke, fence and/or shun) someone who was not on the membership roll but who had been attending for some time, if unrepented sin was discovered in that person's life?
I would confront said person. Discipline? Difficult to do since they have not submitted to the leadership of the church.
Isn't 'confrontation' a form of discipline, Bill? Many times all my wife has to do to discipline me is confront me.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Bill,

If you have a pastor's heart (and man, I know you do) you would tell that brother whome you love to get his act together cause he's in trouble with God! The bigger the pastor-heart, the more obligated he feels to Christians around him. Your rebuke may do the trick to get him in line.

We have a familiy at our church who will not become members for theonomist views (true story) but he has a relationship with the pastor and our big-hearted pastor treats him in many ways as a friend, brother, and counselor but (shock) he ain't on the role!
That is what the confrontation would be about. Maybe I should have said that progressive discipline would be difficult if the person was not a member. You really could not bring them up in front of the church since they are not members.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Would those of you who are elders discipline a person (admonish, rebuke, fence and/or shun) someone who was not on the membership roll but who had been attending for some time, if unrepented sin was discovered in that person's life?
I would confront said person. Discipline? Difficult to do since they have not submitted to the leadership of the church.
Isn't 'confrontation' a form of discipline, Bill? Many times all my wife has to do to discipline me is confront me.
Ken, see post #49.
 

py3ak

They're stalling and plotting against me
Staff member
Bill, the concern I have (which doesn't invalidate the practice) is suggested by something Bruce said about a membership roll defining the limits of accountability. In one sense, I can certainly see how this is so. And if you practice close(d) communion, then it may be that a confrontation is that all can be done with someone who is not a member. But in churches which practice open communion, if the elders are not willing to discipline a non-member by barring them from the Lord's table (or if they will take no responsibility in prayer and visitation for that person --and I'm not saying that Bruce practices or advocates either of these), then I think something has gone rather wrong. In today's climate it often does take people quite a long time to be sure that they want to join this particular church: perhaps there is a distinctive they don't understand; perhaps they are Baptists in a presbyterian wilderness; perhaps the membership class at the church is a 3-year course. If they are discovered in flagrant, unrepentant sin during that time they should be barred from communion: if a problem is suspected, they should be visited.
 

staythecourse

Puritan Board Junior
That is what the confrontation would be about. Maybe I should have said that progressive discipline would be difficult if the person was not a member. You really could not bring them up in front of the church since they are not members.
In my imaginary church you could:lol:
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I think he meant post #48.
Gotcha. Why would it be impossible to establish a matter with someone who is not a member? I think there is 'de facto' membership. If you show up to my church every Sunday to hear me preach and ask for my prayers and attend fellowship with the church for months on end, then you are, for all practical purposes, a member of my church. I don't see what would stop me from establishing a matter with such a person.

It is not the perfect situation, I agree, but it is still possible.
 

servantofmosthigh

Puritan Board Freshman
...are there any good reasons to not have church membership? Could you foresee situations where it would be better to not have membership?
Top 10 Reasons To Not Be A Church Member:
10. I retain my own independence and not have to submit to anyone in the church for accountability, prayer, discipleship or participation.
9. I can come to church whenever I feel like it.
8. When I don't feel like coming to church, nobody gives me annoying phone calls asking me why I didn't come to church.
7. I can live my life as sinful as I wish without anyone in the church ranting on me about it.
6. There's weekly dues of tithes or offerings that's expected of membership. As a non-member, I don't have to give anything.
5. Members are expected to participate in the many major church events and activities. As a non-member, I can pick and choose if I want to come to any of them or not.
4. I don't want to serve others; I want others to serve me.
3. I can complain and criticize about the church members and its leaders because I'm not really part of them.
2. I'm already serving and involved in the church as a non-member in the exact same capacity and opportunity as the members of the church.

And the #1 benefit to not being a church membership is....

*drum rolls

*more drum rolls

*even more drum rolls

*cymbals clash

1. Membership is like marriage - too tied down. I like checking out many ladies; and I like checking out many churches. So to Joshua Harris telling me to "Stop Dating The Church," no way jose...
 

calgal

Puritan Board Graduate
...are there any good reasons to not have church membership? Could you foresee situations where it would be better to not have membership?
Top 10 Reasons To Not Be A Church Member:
10. I retain my own independence and not have to submit to anyone in the church for accountability, prayer, discipleship or participation.
9. I can come to church whenever I feel like it.
8. When I don't feel like coming to church, nobody gives me annoying phone calls asking me why I didn't come to church.
7. I can live my life as sinful as I wish without anyone in the church ranting on me about it.
6. There's weekly dues of tithes or offerings that's expected of membership. As a non-member, I don't have to give anything.
5. Members are expected to participate in the many major church events and activities. As a non-member, I can pick and choose if I want to come to any of them or not.
4. I don't want to serve others; I want others to serve me.
3. I can complain and criticize about the church members and its leaders because I'm not really part of them.
2. I'm already serving and involved in the church as a non-member in the exact same capacity and opportunity as the members of the church.

And the #1 benefit to not being a church membership is....

*drum rolls

*more drum rolls

*even more drum rolls

*cymbals clash

1. Membership is like marriage - too tied down. I like checking out many ladies; and I like checking out many churches. So to Joshua Harris telling me to "Stop Dating The Church," no way jose...
and that is the Calvary chapel way: no commitment required or desired. :um:
 

beej6

Puritan Board Sophomore
Gotcha. Why would it be impossible to establish a matter with someone who is not a member? I think there is 'de facto' membership. If you show up to my church every Sunday to hear me preach and ask for my prayers and attend fellowship with the church for months on end, then you are, for all practical purposes, a member of my church. I don't see what would stop me from establishing a matter with such a person.

It is not the perfect situation, I agree, but it is still possible.
Is 'de facto' membership like common law marriage?:um:
I would certainly agree that you would have the right, as any brother would, to address a matter. But without a defined and clear statement that I have submitted to you and the other elders as a member of your church, it's simply advice. You have no authority explicitly.
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
and that is the Calvary chapel way: no commitment required or desired. :um:
Interesting the way Calvary Chapel keeps surfacing in this thread (all the way back to the OP). Their theology is purportedly "balanced," but results in a strongly anti-Calvinist Arminianism (they still sell Bryson's anti-5 pts. book and offer his tapes although Chuck Smith attempts to strike an irenic position for non-Calvinism or a "balance" between the "extremes" of Calvinism and Arminianism, http://www3.calvarychapel.com/library/smith-chuck/books/caatwog.htm). On the five points, 3 and 4 are clearly Arminian. Point 1 uses the language of "balance" but falls short of a Calvinistic understanding. On Point 2, they adopt the prescient view. And, finally, while they affirm "perseverance," their application of Matthew 7:21-23 washes away much of the meaning.

I guess if you view soteriology as dominated by my free will, it makes sense to have an ecclesiology to match.
 

danmpem

Puritan Board Junior
and that is the Calvary chapel way: no commitment required or desired. :um:
Interesting the way Calvary Chapel keeps surfacing in this thread (all the way back to the OP). Their theology is purportedly "balanced," but results in a strongly anti-Calvinist Arminianism (they still sell Bryson's anti-5 pts. book and offer his tapes although Chuck Smith attempts to strike an irenic position for non-Calvinism or a "balance" between the "extremes" of Calvinism and Arminianism, Calvinism, Arminianism and the Word of God). On the five points, 3 and 4 are clearly Arminian. Point 1 uses the language of "balance" but falls short of a Calvinistic understanding. On Point 2, they adopt the prescient view. And, finally, while they affirm "perseverance," their application of Matthew 7:21-23 washes away much of the meaning.

I guess if you view soteriology as dominated by my free will, it makes sense to have an ecclesiology to match.
I've heard much of that too, but the two that are near my town are much more toward the Calvinistic side than anything else.
 
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