Transferring membership from a non-denominational church

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Sarah, Sep 14, 2009.

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  1. Sarah

    Sarah Puritan Board Freshman

    I grew up in a non-denominational church (Christian Church/Church of Christ that was born in the Restoration Movement), then went off to college, and in the past 5 years I have only attended that church when I was home visiting family on breaks from school, holidays, etc. Now I'm newly married and moved away from there, and my husband and I have been attending a PCA church. We're thinking about the possibility of joining this PCA church. I am just wondering if anyone else on these boards has transferred from a church like mine (non-denominational or arminian-leaning) to a calvinistic church? If so, I'd like to hear about your experience.

    - What was the process? Did you contact your old church so they could send a transfer letter or did you just join the new church without contacting the old one?

    - If you contacted the old church, were they perfectly fine with it, or were they incredulous that you were leaving for a church that taught some different teachings?

    I'm a little nervous about talking to my old church in case they are angry that I would want to join a church that is not in the same "non-denomination", so any experiences from others would just be nice to read about as I ponder church membership.
  2. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Speak with the Session of the PCA church about the possibility. The pastor will likely want to meet with you beforehand (or perhaps hold a membership class). The clerk of session will likely write to the church directly in order to request a transfer of membership. It is not unusual (but depends on the kind of church) not to hear back. The church will likely handle this authority-to-authority. But speak to the pastor/session about it and they will be happy to guide you through the process.
  3. carlgobelman

    carlgobelman Puritan Board Freshman

    Sarah, our stories are almost identical. The only difference is that my wife still attends our non-denominational church. As such, I occasionally attend with her, but most Sundays I'm at my local PCA church. I have not actively pursued official membership yet as I'm seeing how the Lord moves my wife, but at some point I will. I have thought about seeking a letter of transfer from my previous church. I have no problems with anybody at that church, but there has been a theological drift between me and them. I have drafted a letter outlining my concerns, but I haven't sent it yet (I am waiting for the right moment).

    Anyway, thought I would make a comment seeing our similar stories.

    p.s. Welcome to the PB!
  4. awretchsavedbygrace

    awretchsavedbygrace Puritan Board Sophomore

    That must be tough Carl. Why doesnt your wife become a member at your church? If you rather not get into detail, its fine.
  5. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    I was a member of a non-denominational charistmatic influenced church years ago(which I now know is Arminian influenced, dispensational, with no binding confession of faith).

    I don't ever recall there being a formal membership process at all. No new members class, no vows, not even a church roll. I now know this comes from a low view of the (visible) church also.

    If there is any doubt as to membership being required to transfer, I would go through the biblical steps of seeking their permission. Difficult, but one of the biblical patterns we are called to pursue, somehow trusting God for the results.

    If the church is as described and they want to block transfer (because they don't believe the doctrines of grace, covenant theology, or the Westminster Standards), I'd have to think hard what to do.

    In earlier days, I would have just left without a second thought.
  6. A.J.

    A.J. Puritan Board Junior

    My experience is similar to Scott's. My former Pentecostal church does not have formal membership.

    What I did when I left was I gave one of the pastors a letter explaining why I needed to leave. After I gave him the letter, the two of us were supposed to meet with each other to talk about the things I wrote about. On the day we were supposed to meet, the pastor did not show up. When I called him up, he said that he was still preparing his sermon and he apologized for not telling me beforehand.

    This happened last year. The pastor and I have met a few times (e.g., the birthday of my sister) after that incident. Unfortunately however he seemed to have forgotten all about the letter and my decision to leave. So we have not been able to talk about it at all.

    Many of the people in my former church (including my friends) are aware that I am now attending another church. This is because my parents and sisters are still with that church. I am the only Reformed person in the family and the only one who left.

    From what I have heard from my parents and sisters, the leadership and the membership of the church apparently were neither perfectly fine with it nor were they incredulous that I was leaving for a church that taught some different teachings. This is so partly because of the lack of formal membership and partly because of the fact that my parents, despite their awareness that my decision to leave was doctrinal in nature, are not willing to tell their friends in their church about my change in my doctrinal beliefs.

    Your questions are somewhat similar to what I asked in this thread:

    The advice given me in that thread might be useful to you too.

    In any event, asking a formal permission to leave is the best thing to do (even if the church does not have formal membership). Blessings!

    -----Added 9/15/2009 at 05:34:37 EST-----

    P.S. :welcome: to the PB!
  7. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    One other thing that might be helpful.

    When you do join a biblical, reformed church its all the more important your new understanding of God's revealed will affect the way you act.

    Remember, God gave you access to some of those people in that church. Use that access to people to explain biblical doctrines, clarify the gospel, etc.

    One of the things I have come to enjoy is fellowship with some of the friends from that former church. I see real evidence God has saved them and they want to serve God. Engaging them with the doctrines of grace and doctrines of reformed theology. Pray for them, don't worry about the results... it is very reformed to know you trust the results to God.

    One entree discussion is something like coming to understand the doctrines of grace, covenant theology and the importance of a confession (and then contrasting the Arminian influence, dispensationalism and lack of accountable belief in their system).:)
  8. ewenlin

    ewenlin Puritan Board Junior

    Hi Sarah, welcome to the Puritan Board.

    From my own experience, I was a pastoral intern at an Assemblies of God church. Note that I was; not is, anymore. For the purpose of your question, when I came to the point of having to leave my church and responsibilities, it was not out of the blue. Having discussed issues in church especially doctrines, they kind of saw it coming which made it a much easier process.

    Your situation would probably be different seeing as you've not attended that church for quite some time. Nevertheless, I would suggest you speak with your old pastor, be as open and honest as possible. In my own experience dealing with pastors, no matter how much of a charis-maniac they are, most of them are still sincere, loving and caring shepherds of the flock, as were mine.

    All the best for your transfer process. :)
  9. Sarah

    Sarah Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks so much for all the advice so far and for welcoming me to the boards! I appreciate it. :up:
  10. carlgobelman

    carlgobelman Puritan Board Freshman

    Not at all. When I met my wife nearly ten years ago, neither one of were churched. She never grew up in the church nor had any church influence at all during her formative years. I grew up in a Baptist/Catholic family (Dad was the Baptist, Mom was the Catholic). My Mom eventually switched and we went Baptist full time. When I was 18, I rejected my Christian upbringing and lived as a practical atheist. That was the state we were in when we met.

    We decided to get married in a church (long story there) and we chose our current church, Long Grove Community Church. It was a decent fit for both of us. The music was contemporary, the sermons were practical and the people were friendly (all of which is still the case). It was through interacting with the pastor that I eventually came to Christ (mine was an intellectual struggle). My wife had come along slowly, but surely.

    After about three years at LGCC, I started becoming more conservative in my faith and theology, and we left LGCC to go to a Harvest Bible Chapel (James MacDonald, if you know who that is). After about three years there (I detect a pattern), it was becoming apparent that my wife wasn't really growing in her faith. We discussed the matter and decided to go back to LGCC. In the past two+ years, she has grown in her faith; a growth that wasn't apparent in the past 5-6 years. During that time, I have been going through a change of my own as I have slowly but surely shifted toward the Reformed Tradition. This has led me to seek out Reformed churches in my area, and I found Lakeview PCA.

    Let's just say the preaching I heard at LPC is vastly different than what I heard at LGCC and even Harvest. Whereas both of those churches emphasize duty over doctrine (LGCC much more so that Harvest), LPC emphasizes Christ and him crucified and preaching in the historical-redemptive method. This is like a breath of fresh air to me, however, I don't want to make the same mistake I made in my previous switch. In switching from LGCC to Harvest, I really didn't take my wife's feelings into consideration; I thought Harvest was closer to the truth, so there was no debate. This time I want to let my wife make the decision on her own; she is sort of where I was about 6-7 years ago. Therefore, my current decision is to split time between two churches. It's not ideal, but I feel it's more important for me to be sensitive to my wife's needs in this matter.
  11. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Great Story, Carl about how God has worked in your life. Glory be to God He has given you the privilege of some insight and perspective.

    If we had it to all over again, we could skip much of the waste and foolishness, but of course we don't. What's more reformed theology helps us understand it was ordained and that God has purposes in this. Maybe helping others so they avoid, be spared some things, all to the Honor and Glory of our God.
  12. au5t1n

    au5t1n Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I left my old Southern Baptist church without saying a word. Since his church keeps you on the member list pretty much forever and does not practice church discipline at all, especially not for not attending, nobody has even contacted me. My family is still there and doubtless the members have noticed I don't walk in the door with them. My PCA church has a membership class in two weeks and when I join, I will either ask for a letter from the old one certifying my baptism there, or I will just ask them to remove me from their membership.
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