What ought be required for church membership?

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Scott1, Jun 30, 2009.

  1. Profession of faith only (not examined)

    4 vote(s)
  2. Examined (credible) profession of faith

    29 vote(s)
  3. Examination by elders, ordinarily in the home

    21 vote(s)
  4. Public profession of faith (e.g. before the congregation)

    29 vote(s)
  5. Baptism, previous by evangelical church only

    19 vote(s)
  6. Baptism, previous by any nominal Christian church (e.g. Roman)

    14 vote(s)
  7. Member class- weekend only format or only a few classes

    5 vote(s)
  8. Member class- 5 to 10 class sessions

    5 vote(s)
  9. Member class- More than 10 class sessions

    6 vote(s)
  10. Member class AND faith promise to follow with additional doctrine class(es)

    3 vote(s)
  11. Comprehensive knowledge of church's doctrine standards

    7 vote(s)
  12. Comprehensive knowlege AND agreement with doctrine standards

    6 vote(s)
  13. Vow to walk an orderly (obedient) life in Christ

    27 vote(s)
  14. Vow to submit to government and discipline of the church

    29 vote(s)
  15. Vow to peaceably study the church's doctrine

    19 vote(s)
  16. Vote of church leaders (e.g. session) to admit

    16 vote(s)
  17. Vote of congregation members to admit

    4 vote(s)
  18. First, renounce by word and deed known disorderly (sin) life pattern

    11 vote(s)
  19. Personal study/mentoring with church leader(s)

    5 vote(s)
  20. Vow to support church (prayers, efforts, tithes)

    23 vote(s)
  21. Other (please describe)

    2 vote(s)
Multiple votes are allowed.
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  1. Scott1

    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.
  2. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)


    --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.
  3. Rich Koster

    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.
  4. Timothy William

    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.)
  5. Marrow Man

    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:

  6. JonathanHunt

    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.
  7. toddpedlar

    toddpedlar Iron Dramatist


    Associate GrandMother?
    Articulate Greek Man?
    Assistant Garbage Monitor?
    Argumentative Gossip Machine?
  8. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I voted for 3,4,5,9,11,13,14,15,20.
  9. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Aggravating goober muncher

    arthritic gorilla mauler

    affectionate girly man
  10. Berean

    Berean Puritanboard Commissioner

    Quiz on the PB's "Prominent Personalities" :rolleyes:
  11. Sven

    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.
  12. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    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.
  13. smhbbag

    smhbbag Puritan Board Senior

    What is the difference between an examined and unexamined profession of faith? What sort of 'examination' are we talking about?
  14. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    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.
  15. smhbbag

    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?
  16. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    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.
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2009
  17. Joseph Scibbe

    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.
  18. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    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).
  19. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

  20. Scott1

    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.
  21. Mushroom

    Mushroom Puritan Board Doctor

    So you would baptise RC's?
  22. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    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.
  23. Christian Soldier

    Christian Soldier Puritan Board Freshman

  24. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

  25. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

  26. Edward

    Edward Puritanboard Commissioner

  27. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    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/validity-roman-catholic-eastern-orthodox-baptisms-37009/ (this one had a poll also)
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