What ought be required for church membership?

To protect the peace and purity of the church, what ought be required for membership?

  • Profession of faith only (not examined)

    Votes: 4 9.5%
  • Examined (credible) profession of faith

    Votes: 29 69.0%
  • Examination by elders, ordinarily in the home

    Votes: 21 50.0%
  • Public profession of faith (e.g. before the congregation)

    Votes: 29 69.0%
  • Baptism, previous by evangelical church only

    Votes: 19 45.2%
  • Baptism, previous by any nominal Christian church (e.g. Roman)

    Votes: 14 33.3%
  • Member class- weekend only format or only a few classes

    Votes: 5 11.9%
  • Member class- 5 to 10 class sessions

    Votes: 5 11.9%
  • Member class- More than 10 class sessions

    Votes: 6 14.3%
  • Member class AND faith promise to follow with additional doctrine class(es)

    Votes: 3 7.1%
  • Comprehensive knowledge of church's doctrine standards

    Votes: 7 16.7%
  • Comprehensive knowlege AND agreement with doctrine standards

    Votes: 6 14.3%
  • Vow to walk an orderly (obedient) life in Christ

    Votes: 27 64.3%
  • Vow to submit to government and discipline of the church

    Votes: 29 69.0%
  • Vow to peaceably study the church's doctrine

    Votes: 19 45.2%
  • Vote of church leaders (e.g. session) to admit

    Votes: 16 38.1%
  • Vote of congregation members to admit

    Votes: 4 9.5%
  • First, renounce by word and deed known disorderly (sin) life pattern

    Votes: 11 26.2%
  • Personal study/mentoring with church leader(s)

    Votes: 5 11.9%
  • Vow to support church (prayers, efforts, tithes)

    Votes: 23 54.8%
  • Other (please describe)

    Votes: 2 4.8%

  • Total voters
    42
  • Poll closed .
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Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Reformed theology has a "high view" of the visible and invisible church. What ought be required for church membership?

Thinking biblically, what ought be required (not necessarily what was required of you) to protect the peace and purity of Christ's Church?

Vote as many as you wish, please read qualifications carefully.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Add:

--knowledge of secret reformed handshake,

--trivia quiz about biography of Calvin,

--A brand on the backside with a capital C

--physical fitness test involving vigorous Calvin-sthenics

--Full beard and.or at least 4 kids.

--Knowing how to flash the Calvy gang symbols.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I voted for the mentoring with leadership selection. Why? Mentoring takes time and people get to know each other and what they believe and how they live out those beliefs. This will help the leadership ascertain if they have a baby, young man/woman or mature man/woman in Christ with them OR a goat (think they're a Cristian but deceived), pig (knows doctrine but their life is no different than the world) or wolf (agenda driven person looking for a following or sent to cause destruction). While no choice above is foolproof on its own, mentoring is a good filter to help maintain purity and unity.
 

Timothy William

Puritan Board Junior
-- 500 posts on PuritanBoard.

-- Thanked at least 100 times.

-- Thank others at least 100 times.

(I selected options 2, 4, 6, 14, 18, 20.)
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Wow, that's a pretty comprehensive list! Here's what the ARP Form of Gov't says with regard to membership vows:

Applicants for communicant church membership shall be examined by the session in private with regard to a knowledge of their spiritual need, their faith in Jesus Christ, and their intention to be obedient to Him. The applicants shall give assent to the following or similar questions, by which they enter a solemn covenant with God and His Church:

(1) Do you acknowledge yourself to be a sinner in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His love and mercy?
(2) Do you believe in the L ord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Saviour of sinners, and do you receive Him and trust in Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
(3) Do you believe the Scripture of the Old and New Testaments to be the written Word of God, the only perfect rule of faith and practice?
(4) Do you now promise, in humble reliance upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
(5) Do you accept the doctrines and principles of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, so far as you understand them, as agreeable to and founded on the
Word of God?
(6) Do you promise, with the Lord’s help, to be faithful in the performance of your Christian duties, both in private life and in the work of the Church?
(7) Do you submit yourself in the spirit of love to the government and discipline of this Church, and seek the peace, purity and prosperity of this congregation so long as you are a member of it?

Upon affirmative action by the session, applicants shall then be received into communicant membership.
The session shall not impose additional conditions for membership.
 

JonathanHunt

Puritan Board Senior
I would have voted for 'agreement with church statement of faith' rather than 'comprehensive knowledge of church standards etc'.

I'm looking for agreement with essential doctrine, not understanding of the minutiae of how an AGM is called, or how a deacon is ordained, and so forth.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
I would have voted for 'agreement with church statement of faith' rather than 'comprehensive knowledge of church standards etc'.

I'm looking for agreement with essential doctrine, not understanding of the minutiae of how an AGM is called, or how a deacon is ordained, and so forth.
AGM?

Associate GrandMother?
Articulate Greek Man?
Assistant Garbage Monitor?
Argumentative Gossip Machine?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I would have voted for 'agreement with church statement of faith' rather than 'comprehensive knowledge of church standards etc'.

I'm looking for agreement with essential doctrine, not understanding of the minutiae of how an AGM is called, or how a deacon is ordained, and so forth.
AGM?

Associate GrandMother?
Articulate Greek Man?
Assistant Garbage Monitor?
Argumentative Gossip Machine?

Aggravating goober muncher

arthritic gorilla mauler

affectionate girly man
 

Sven

Puritan Board Sophomore
Other: Be able to speak in a Scottish Accent.
Other (for PCA only): Agree to never bring up the idea of women deacons.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Item #18

First, renounce by word and deed known disorderly (sin) life pattern
By this is meant if the church leaders (e.g. elders) knew that, for example, the person was living in an adulterous relationship at the time they applied for church membership.

Would that person be accepted for membership as he was, persisting in that pattern, or must he be counseled that he does not have a credible profession of faith, and must change that pattern before being admitted to the visible church.
 

smhbbag

Puritan Board Senior
What is the difference between an examined and unexamined profession of faith? What sort of 'examination' are we talking about?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
What is the difference between an examined and unexamined profession of faith? What sort of 'examination' are we talking about?
By "examined" the question means someone evaluates the basis upon which a person says they are a Christian.

This is as opposed to someone only saying they are a Christian, and being automatically accepted on that basis into membership.

In many reformed denominations, two church leaders (e.g. elders) would meet with the person and hear their story and try to understand the basis upon which they profess they are Christians. For example someone might say they are a Christian because their parents were, or because they thought they did good things more than bad things, etc.

And you are aware, Jeremy, 90% of American still say they are "Christians." I think we would all agree that is not possible, given the collective life witness reflected in our nation in this generation. Rather, that we see, in this generation, as in any other the "parable of the sower" being illustrated right before us- a proving out that many who say or think they are Christians have not been, in fact, miraculously changed first by God.
 

smhbbag

Puritan Board Senior
Would it be fair to say this examination operates more on the principle of finding positive evidence to support their claim ("Define your faith and show it to me by what you do"), rather than an investigation looking for something to disqualify them?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Would it be fair to say this examination operates more on the principle of finding positive evidence to support their claim ("Define your faith and show it to me by what you do"), rather than an investigation looking for something to disqualify them?
In practice, this is going to depend on the leadership in your local church.

The objective would be several, I would think. Two or more elders confirming that there is a credible profession of faith in the person's life.

I take it you understand this is not an examination of being "good enough" to get in but rather, whether there is credible evidence, confirmed in the mouth of two or three witnesses that God has saved an unworthy person for His Honor and Glory. Also, one can't claim that and persist in an open, known lifestyle pattern of sin. (One of our PCA vows is to walk an orderly (obedient) Christian life- not a perfect one, but not an open one of defiance of God, either).

Implicitly, that means that the person understands and is relying on the gospel (not a mere notion that they are a Christian or a good person), that they are not in an open pattern of sin (such as "living together" out of wedlock), that they have or will be baptized (and that they understand the basis for that).

In the PCA at least, there is no doctrinal examination except what is necessary to establish a credible profession of faith (e.g. understands justification by faith in Christ's righteousness alone, even if they don't know that terminology). There may be a bit about baptism. A new member only vows to learn the church's doctrine peaceably.

There are some reformed denominations that require more examination of the church's confessed doctrine (but that is not the focus of your question as it relates to "examined for a credible profession of faith.")

If the person is not ready for membership in the visible church, they can be encouraged to further study, mentoring, etc. It's also a time to learn of their needs (which can be relayed back to the Deacons).

Remember, in the end, reformed theology takes a "high view" of the Church. While it may be common in broadly evangelical circles to think the church is merely a loose association of consenting adults, Scripture teaches a view of some authority in the visible church. Not authority to determine salvation, God alone controls that, but authority by which to govern and discipline.

It's an institution governed by officers whom He appoints, where we learn to get along, be accountable, and submit to the brethren. Sin will happen, and God will cause scandalous sin to become known. He gives the church some authority, not to determine their salvation, but to discipline it for the peace and purity of His Church, and for His Honor and Glory.

Oh, that God's people, by His grace would come to understand that they will one day be judged by their behavior. (Yes, even Christian will be "judged"- this life is not a game centered on our egos or thoughts).

One way it happened for us was two elders visited us at home. They asked us each to share our testimony. They asked a few questions about our baptism, church past, etc. Then, we had a prayer time- I think they prayed for us, and we prayed for them.

For us, it really was more a warm time of fellowship.
 
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Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
I said a confession of faith and baptism. While I think other ideas are good practices for members to adhere to I really think that Acts 2:41 gives us the standard. After this any issues that arise doctrinally or in the lifestyle are to be handled as Church discipline issues.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
I said a confession of faith and baptism. While I think other ideas are good practices for members to adhere to I really think that Acts 2:41 gives us the standard. After this any issues that arise doctrinally or in the lifestyle are to be handled as Church discipline issues.
Do you mean by that that if God causes scandalous sin to become known beforehand to the church, that a person ought be admitted on basis of profession (saying only they are a Christian) and baptism?

My question understands "scandalous sin" to be a lifestyle pattern given over to sin that is open and God causes to become known to the church. It's not about incidental sin, but a lifestyle pattern that appears to be that of the ungodly (e.g. living in an adulterous relationship, even though the person may justify that in their own imagination).
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
Add:

--knowledge of secret reformed handshake,

--trivia quiz about biography of Calvin,

--A brand on the backside with a capital C

--physical fitness test involving vigorous Calvin-sthenics

--Full beard and.or at least 4 kids.

--Knowing how to flash the Calvy gang symbols.
:rofl:
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
The poll has closed.

There are a lot of different ideas about what biblically ought be required for church membership in order to protect the peace and purity of Christ's Church.

Combined, about 89% said baptism previous to membership was required, with 33% saying any nominal Christian church baptism was sufficient.

Large majorities, but not quite overwhelming majorities would require the following (69.5% said these):

1) Examined (credible) profession of faith
2) Public profession of faith (e.g. before the congregation)
3) Vow to submit to government and discipline of the church


Then slightly less (64.5%) said

1) Vow to walk an orderly (obedient) life in Christ

Then there is a big drop, with all the other choices around 54% or less, most below 30%

About 31% would require either comprehensive knowledge of the church's doctrine standards or both that knowledge and stated agreement with them before one could become a member.

-----Added 7/2/2009 at 09:30:04 EST-----

It seems to me the biblical guidance is not real specific or clear about the particulars of church membership. We can't be dogmatic about the particulars and would have to recognize the scriptures tend toward the simplicity of believing, baptizing and walking orderly lives, as befitting their profession:

It may be too much, because this is not clearly detailed in Scripture, but in the interest of protecting the church, her peace and purity and Christ's reputation, here's my list:

1) Examined (credible) profession of faith
2) Examination by elders, ordinarily in the home
3) Public profession of faith (e.g. before the congregation)
4) Baptism, previous by evangelical church only
5) Member class- More than 10 class sessions
6) Vow to walk an orderly (obedient) life in Christ
7) Vow to submit to government and discipline of the church
8) Vow to peaceably study the church's doctrine
9) Vote of church leaders (e.g. session) to admit
10) First, renounce by word and deed known disorderly (sin) life pattern
11) Vow to support church (prayers, efforts, tithes)

This is the way it mostly happened for me in the PCA, and I'm glad for it.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
4) Baptism, previous by evangelical church only
So you would baptise RC's?

After considering this biblically, I still can't get past the fact that a church that does not officially, at least, hold to the (biblical) gospel does not really have authority to perform a valid baptism. So, yes.

It seems to me the very object of baptism is salvation. If that (the gospel) is not only not held, but "anathemas" are pronounced upon it, then it would seem the authority of communion is not there.
 

Christian Soldier

Puritan Board Freshman
Add:

--knowledge of secret reformed handshake,

--trivia quiz about biography of Calvin,

--A brand on the backside with a capital C

--physical fitness test involving vigorous Calvin-sthenics

--Full beard and.or at least 4 kids.

--Knowing how to flash the Calvy gang symbols.
:lol::lol::lol:
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
It seems to me the very object of baptism is salvation.
That sounds like it is heading toward baptismal regeneration. It's certainly farther than Westminster goes.
Not at all- the Westminster Divines did a great job of distinguishing between the sign and the "thing signified". It is not baptism regenerating.

(The context here, Edward, was whether to be a member one had to have baptism by an "evangelical" church beforehand or a merely "nominal" one (which would include Roman). The Roman churches teaches baptismal regeneration and that's not biblical either (along with officially denying the gospel).:)
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
The validity of Roman baptisms has been debated by better men than us.

PCA Historical Center: Index to the Position Papers of the Presbyterian Church in America

As to the WCF:

V. Although it is a great sin to contemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it, as that no person can be regenerated, or saved, without it: or, that all that are baptized are undoubtedly regenerated.
Yes, and for those following, the study report is well researched biblically and well written.

The report was 4 to 1 against the validity of Roman baptisms. What that means is that there was a "majority" report and "minority" report. What that means in our PCA polity is that there is not really an authoritative position on this in our denomination, even though an overwhelming majority on the committee were of one view. (This is a classic example of why a pre-determined divided committee on "women's issues" will not resolve anything or bring clarity in the PCA).

What this tells me, while I am inclined to believe biblically Roman baptisms are not valid baptisms, there really are two possible biblical views on this.:)

Incidentally, I have noted that some influential churches in our denomination take the position that while Roman baptisms are valid and administered but once, would be members who are uncomfortable with that may be "re"-baptized. I'm not necessarily commending that as the biblical practice, only reporting practice.

You may find helpful previous threads on this topic here on Puritan Board:
http://www.puritanboard.com/f57/roman-catholic-baptism-valid-62/
http://www.puritanboard.com/f57/validity-roman-catholic-eastern-orthodox-baptisms-37009/ (this one had a poll also)
 
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