Church Governance or Policy Issues, Learn to Discern, Safe Churches

Learn to Discern: Church Membership Accountability and Discipline of Children

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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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This is what happens to our trees when there are two days of morning frost and temperatures below freezing.

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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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124 thoughts on “Learn to Discern: Church Membership Accountability and Discipline of Children”

  1. Gary,

    The same type of thing happens in the blogs that I frequent more often. I am not even sure how I stumbled here, it wasn’t on purpose. God’s will I suppose. I am surely not here to try to lecture or preach to anyone. I for one agree to disagree. If it was God’s purpose to teach me patience and perseverance, I think he was spot on placing me here.

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  2. “The same type of thing happens in the blogs that I frequent more often. I am not even sure how I stumbled here, it wasn’t on purpose. God’s will I suppose. I am surely not here to try to lecture or preach to anyone. I for one agree to disagree. If it was God’s purpose to teach me patience and perseverance, I think he was spot on placing me here.”

    Brenda, There is so much Platonic determinism in this comment I hardly know where to start. The end result is no matter what you say or do, it is God’s will or purpose. That leaves Brenda with no volition and ultimately no responsibility.

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  3. God’s will. God’s purpose. He placed me here. God ordained. God predetermined it. It happened, it must be right. God allowed it.

    Think carefully. Whoever makes these statements (myself included, not picking on Brenda) is saying that the mere fact that something occurred means:

    it is right
    it is good
    it is from God
    God is on their side

    This is not a small thing. It is a big deal. Not everyone who uses these words means them to be hurtful. However, these words commonly defend all kinds of evil & the abused are left with nowhere to go mentally or spiritually.

    These words will never allow anyone to think about right & wrong. These words move us right into fatalism… when right is wrong, and wrong is right… just because it happened.

    These words state that just because it happened, by default it’s right. This is not good thinking. These words can send someone to their breaking point. These words teach suffering, submission, compliance. The truth is, each person makes choices each & every day, for good or bad. Just like our kids do. They aren’t robots. Remember, we don’t have absolute robot control over our children’s behavior, yet we do love our kids.

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  4. A Mom – – Your comment reminds me of something else – – the flip side – – how babies are born in sin – – we are not good. I’ve gotten reprimanded for saying someone was good. No one is good – only God is good.

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  5. Thanks Julie Ann. I really worry about that sort of thinking

    Amom took that thinking to it’s logical conclusions and she is so right.

    What if we believed that God wants us to be responsible for everything we say or do because He created humans to be rational thinking beings? That would mean we have to take responsibility and be obedient to Christ as believers saved by grace (and repentance). Obedience is responsibility and not a work of salvation.

    There is something else to fear when attributing everything we do or what happens to God’s will or purpose. The commandment that says we are not to take the Lord’s Name in Vain really means we are not to attribute to God things that are not from Him. Therefore such declarations that this thing or that event is God’s will or purpose can be very dangerous. We had best be circumspect before we declare such things as God’s will or purpose.

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  6. Lydia, You obviously know everyone’s heart, especially mine. much more than God does and are determined to put me in my place. Why don’t you just say “Go away, we don’t want your king here.” I originally was interested in the topic, but since the topic has changed to me, not so much. I’m not sure how many times I must say I meant no harm, but I meant no harm. You are determined to pick me apart. Are you licensed to diagnose? Sj-Once again, I meant no harm. I had your best at heart.

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  7. Brenda,

    Lydia is not judging your heart. She is responding to your words. I also picked up on your expression of what I would call deterministic fatalism (“I think he was spot on placing me here”. No, God didn’t place you here. You chose to come here of your own free will. God allowed you to choose to come here, and He is not doubt teaching you something. Or maybe He is simply allowing you to learn something. In any event, you simply are not some sort of automaton who has no choice but to do whatever it is you find yourself doing, as your comment suggests. If Humans have no choice but to do whatever it is they do, God is the author of sin, and that simply cannot be.

    On a related note, even if Lydia was judging your heart, I find nothing in Scripture that proscribes judging (as in discerning) other people’s hearts. In fact, I dare say that we must become proficient in judging/discerning others’ hearts. Otherwise, we would not be able to respond to Jesus’ admonitions regarding our dealings with those He called wolves and pigs. I am of the opinion that ecclesiastical leaders wrongly teach us not to judge hearts in order to minimize the possibility that they themselves will be held accountable.

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  8. Gary, I also have picked up on many things that were said to me. My heart only has to be right with God and held accountable to Him. You can judge if you want, it won’t make you right. There is a process in the Bible for going to a brother or sister that has offended you or you think is going down the wrong path. This is not it. I will continue to pray for Sj I have learned that this site is not home for me. This site is legalism in a different way. As long as I agree completely or express myself just the way you want, everything is well. The elders that were spoke of in the original post were wrong. This is too. I recently escaped a very abusive husband. I see this site no less abusive.

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  9. “Lydia, You obviously know everyone’s heart, especially mine. much more than God does and are determined to put me in my place. ”

    Brenda, why should I assume there is something different in a person’s heart than what they say, write or do? How does that work? Scripture says that what is in the heart comes out. Are you trying to tell me you have different beliefs in your heart than what you write here? I have never understood that declaration that we are claiming to know another’s heart and that is some sort of sin. It is said a lot in Christian circles. All we can go by are what people say, write or do.

    One reason comments on a blog are a blessing is that we can flesh out understanding. You have continued on the same path even though quite a few here have questioned your declarations. What conclusion are we to come to? In fact, you have declared that all you write here is God’s will/purpose so who can argue with that? Now you declare that I am claiming to know “everyone’s” heart much more than God does. Can you not see the problem? Did God make you write that, too?

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  10. “There is something else to fear when attributing everything we do or what happens to God’s will or purpose. The commandment that says we are not to take the Lord’s Name in Vain really means we are not to attribute to God things that are not from Him. Therefore such declarations that this thing or that event is God’s will or purpose can be very dangerous.”

    Yes. It is not right or fair to account any action (good or bad) to a person, if that person was not responsible. How much more upsetting is it then to account any or all our actions (good or bad) to God, as if God is responsible for what we do?

    Fate = fatalism = destiny = determinism = pre-determinism. This belief is found in the Islamic religion. Possibly other world religions as well. It is not found in Jesus’ teachings nor found when reading the Bible as a whole, IMO.

    It’s evident this belief has slowly crept into American Christian churches over the last few decades. I am concerned. It does not give our young people any hope… or understanding of personal responsibility.

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  11. “I’ve gotten reprimanded for saying someone was good. No one is good – only God is good.”

    IF no one is good
    OR
    IF only Christians are good, and it’s not them doing good, only God doing good through them in them
    THEN we would be a liar to:

    tell anyone, “good job”
    look anyone in the eye and tell them, “thank you”

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  12. Brenda
    DECEMBER 29, 2013 @ 1:25 PM
    “Waitingforthetrumpet2,

    Could you please elaborate on your view of science and faith going together? I don’t believe the Big Bang Theory or evolution can go together with faith. In what ways do they coexist?”

    I feel like I was being effectively dismissed. Did I once say anything about believing in evolution? There are many scientists who are Christians who also do not believe in evolution, but can justify science with the Bible. If all science is an abomination because it doesn’t accept a literal 6 24-hour day creation, then explain how there can be stars that are hundreds, thousands, millions and even billions of light-years away….if the sun, moon and stars were all created on the first or second 24 hour day and the Earth is only 6000 years old.. Am I not entitled to my feelings, fears, thoughts or questions, just because someone else here doesn’t believe in something I wrote?

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  13. Waitingforthetrumpet 2, I know you asked Brenda, but I’m curious. Are you saying you don’t believe evolution is compatible with Christian teaching?

    It’s not an essential for me – I’m just wondering. I personally believe they are compatible when we view the Bible as a series of teachings, especially if we see that a day according to the Creation story may not be a day as we define it. There’s so many incredible things about the world – like the stars you mentioned. Isn’t it amazing?

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  14. My view on evolution, so far, is still up in the air. I am having to overhaul many of my 50+ years of beliefs and am currently going through a faith crisis. I am not losing my faith in Jesus, I just am now questioning my beliefs of what I was taught from the Bible.

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  15. lydiasellerofpurple on January 1, 2014 at 9:47 PM,
    Thank you for your information on not taking the Lord’s name in vain. That makes so much sense and highlights the importance of that commandment.

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  16. waitingforthetrumpet2, thank you for your answer. For me it’s been hard when I hear people saying “this is what the Bible says,” but I know the Bible contradicts itself and I know it was translated so many times and in pieces. It’s also difficult for me when people pick one scripture and demand it be translated literally and be applied now but then have tattoos or short hair (or long hair) or wear jewelry to church. A minister/friend told me to look to the Bible for what it teaches us about the nature of God. I believe in God, Jesus Christ who came as a man and died on the cross so we can be reconciled with God, and the Holy Spirit. Beyond that, I’m thinking it doesn’t matter. One day we’ll all face God and be drawn to God or reject God. And there are so many ways to know God in this world.

    May you enjoy your journey of discovery.

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  17. “My view on evolution, so far, is still up in the air. I am having to overhaul many of my 50+ years of beliefs and am currently going through a faith crisis. I am not losing my faith in Jesus, I just am now questioning my beliefs of what I was taught from the Bible.”

    An interesting read is Genesis for Normal People, It is not really about evolution but about how to read Genesis

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  18. “Thank you for your information on not taking the Lord’s name in vain. That makes so much sense and highlights the importance of that commandment.”

    Were you taught it was about cussing, too? I really gleaned a lot from studying how an ancient Hebrew audience would have understood it. Kind of scared me because it is so easy to say something is from God or something is God’s will. Many of us have done that as it is normal in most Christian circles. Instead, a harder way is to ask what is my responsibility?

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  19. I don’t remember why I thought it was about cussing, but I do know that has never made sense to me. It just didn’t go with the other commandments or seem to be serious enough to claim the top spot. But the way you explain it makes a lot of sense – it is really serious to claim that something is from God when it’s not necessarily. For one thing, it can interfere with other people’s relationship with God. And that fits with what else the Bible tells us about the nature of God.

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