To Make Our Churches Grow We Need To…..Make It Harder To Join?

If we really want to see our churches grow, we need to make it harder to join and we need to be better about excluding people. We need to be able to show that there is a distinction between the church and the world – that it means something to be a Christian. If someone who claims to be a Christian refuses to live as a Christian should live, we need to follow what Paul said and, for the glory of God and for that person’s own good, we need to exclude him or her from membership in the church. [Mark Dever – 9 Marks of a Healthy Church – p. 170-171]

Dever’s comment surprised me. In fact I had to read it twice. Do you agree with it? After I thought about it for a bit I think I agree with it and here is why. I think it is an issue of commitment. We need to make sure that the people who wish to join our church are committed to Christ and our church before they are allowed to join. That would head off problems down the road. It also gives us a chance to let the prospective members know what is expected of them as members (Dever addresses this point also).

What do you think…should we accept anyone who wants to join as soon as they express the desire to join or be more deliberate in the process?

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8 Responses to To Make Our Churches Grow We Need To…..Make It Harder To Join?

  1. cupfromthewell says:

    I honestly don’t believe that people are really busting down the doors to get in as it is. Making it harder to get in will only result in you sitting alone. The problem is that we (the church) are producing false converts. Peolpe that are not saved anyway. The answer is to lead people in the gospel the way Jesus did. Visit http://www.wayofthemaster.com to see what I mean.

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  2. Tom says:

    You are correct that people are not “busting down the doors”. That speaks volumes of how bad the church is doing in pointing out that the spiritual condition of the people in our communities. If we were doing our job then people would be busting down the doors.

    Having said that, we must be sure of the prospective members commitment first to God and then to the church. We must also let the prospective member what is expected of them as members. Giving this information is the basis for church discipline should it become necessary. The net effect would be to make membership harder to obtain for prospective members. I think this would be a good thing.

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  3. Phillipa says:

    I think that our expectations are a little too high sometimes for new members. We have to understand is that a person’s commitment level is parallel to their spiritual growth, and often comes in phases. Sometimes, we ask for too much involvement and give too little support. Every church should have processes in place that guides new members in their spiritual growth while directing and celebrating their member’s movement to the next commitment level.

    As the Church, our first responsibility is to preach the Gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to do its work. If someone is accepting Salvation, it is then the responsibility of the Church to engage and minister to that individual, and it should be done at the time of their decision-making as the Holy Spirit has already opened the door for dialogue. Their minds and hearts become open to the possibilities of their personal future and their future in God’s church. Connecting with new members at this point of decision also plants seeds that often bring forth fruit later in their faith-walk as they face the trails and challenges of the world.

    As far as exclusion goes, I think it ultimately is the work of the Holy Spirit, and should only come when the Holy Spirit has revealed that the individual has not truly accepted the gift of Salvation and there is no desire to do so. Also, there may be times when a “seasoned” member (one who has longevitiy in membership) does something so destructive to a body of believers that seperation is merited. But again, we must do our part at least in the initial phase of a new or prospective member’s walk of faith and be the spiritual caretakers ready to engage them where. Making this connection early also lets them know that there is a listening ear that will not judge, but minister to them in the spirit of truth.

    Finally, even if a decision is made to exclude a member, it should be from the church rolls, but never from our hearts. If the commonality of the Church is in our Salvation, then the Invitation for Salvation should always be extended. By making an effort to bring closure to the relationship in the spirit of righteousnees, we pave the way for future redemption.

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  4. Prophet says:

    I disagree. While we do need to be distinguished Jesus said to make disciples of all people.

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  5. Prophet says:

    Although I agree with Philippa for the most part, I thought it was called the Great Commission.

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  6. Tom says:

    Prophet said

    I disagree. While we do need to be distinguished Jesus said to make disciples of all people.

    I think you misunderstand. Making membership a bit harder to obtain in no way limits who we should evangelize. It simply means those that who are truly reached will have a greater commitment to what they are joining.

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  7. Tom says:

    Phillipa said

    Sometimes, we ask for too much involvement and give too little support. Every church should have processes in place that guides new members in their spiritual growth while directing and celebrating their member’s movement to the next commitment level.

    The process need to begin before they are members. It should help them to understand what they are joining and what they can expect before they join the church. It should also inform them of what will be expected of them.

    Phillipa said

    Finally, even if a decision is made to exclude a member, it should be from the church rolls, but never from our hearts. If the commonality of the Church is in our Salvation, then the Invitation for Salvation should always be extended. By making an effort to bring closure to the relationship in the spirit of righteousnees, we pave the way for future redemption.

    I agree we must always be ready to forgive someone once they have repented and asked for forgiveness. But, at the same time, we are taught in the Bible that there comes a time when we have to “shake the dust off our feet as we leave.” At some point we have to sever the relationship and trust God.

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  8. prophet says:

    “I think you misunderstand. Making membership a bit harder to obtain in no way limits who we should evangelize. It simply means those that who are truly reached will have a greater commitment to what they are joining.”
    Then, making it harder to join in order to make churches grow doesn’t seem like the craziest thing after all.

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