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Learn to discern church websites, church discipline procedures, membership rules and accountability, attendance, and tithe requirements before joining a new church. A lot of information can be found on church websites.
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The other day, I posted an article including a video of the 12 Doctrines of Christmas which was a take-off using the popular tune of the 12 Days of Christmas. The lyrics included some very large theological words with which I was mostly unfamiliar. I don’t know whether the people in this church ordinarily use vocabulary like that, but I wanted to see what kind of church it was.
I did a little digging around. The name of the church was listed on the YouTube video as Grace Bible Church of Moorpark. It was simple to find the church via a quick Google search.
During the defamation lawsuit brought on by my former church, Beaverton Grace Bible Church (did you catch that – another Grace Bible church), several people alerted me to the fact that the church bylaws were very legalistic. Since then, I have taken a closer look at other church’s bylaws/church discipline procedures, and membership requirements to see if I can discern legalism or extra-Biblical rules.
If you are looking for a new church, this is a good way to get the flavor of the church before setting one foot inside the doors. In fact, it is a very beneficial way to weed out ones with obvious warning signs. Deb from Wartburg Watch blog recently published an excellent article on How to Analyze Churches Via the Internet which has other great ideas. I’ve added the Wartburg Watch article to the Resource Page as well.
I’ve included a couple of sections of the bylaws from Grace Bible at Moorpark:
SECTION 4: Church Membership: Accountability
The Elders of the church will hold members accountable to maintain their commitment to the Lord and to His Church. Annually, each member shall reconsider each of the commitments required of new members.
People’s level of involvement sometimes diminishes over time. For this reason, each year around the anniversary date of having been received into membership, the Elders will meet with each member or member family to evaluate the present level of commitment. Attendance, serving, and giving will be discussed. This annual review will also provide members a chance to ask questions, express concerns, and seek counsel of the Elders. Please see Section 1., D.
A. If a member is continuing steadfastly in his commitments and wishes to renew his membership, he will be invited to do so. The renewal will be so noted in the membership roll book.
B. If a member has become lax in any of the commitments required for new members and wishes to renew his membership, he will be given three months to demonstrate a renewed commitment to his membership. After three months, if the areas of concern have been rectified, the member will be invited to renew his membership, and the renewal shall be so noted in the membership roll book. If after three months the member has not satisfactorily rectified the areas of concern, the membership will be terminated. The member may reapply for membership whenever he is again ready to make and keep the necessary commitment.
The goal of this is always to help members be restored to full participation in membership, never is the desire to terminate membership. The Elders will work with people in a gracious manner, but they cannot shepherd the people if they are not given the opportunity to do so.
Here is another section that I have not seen in any other church bylaws. It is listed under the subtitle of The Subjects Discipline in the church bylaws:
4. Children. The Elders will exercise disciplinary authority, with children in the congregation, if necessary, in the following ways:
a) If a child in the congregation, having grown up in a Christian home:
(i) stops attending church,
(ii) leaves the household, or
(iii) turns eighteen years of age
without ever having made a profession of faith, the Elders will solemnly warn the child of the spiritual hazards of rejecting a biblical upbringing, and urge him to repent and believe. Parents of these individuals who are in our congregation shall be informed and/or included in this process.
This is a proactive act of love prompted by genuine concern for the person’s soul.
b) If a child in the congregation has professed faith in the Lord and subsequently demonstrates a rebellious spirit, or repudiates his earlier profession of faith, the Elders will offer pastoral help to the head of the household as appropriate. If the child persists in a state of rebellion, the Elders may initiate the process of church discipline and the child may be excommunicated.
What do you think? Would you feel like this is a balanced and safe place to bring your family?
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