ABUSERS & THEIR TACTICS, Church Governance or Policy Issues, Extra-Biblical Nonsense, Kevin DeYoung, Misuse of Scripture, The Gospel Coalition

Kevin DeYoung Pushes Church Memberships and Making Vows

Church Membership, Pastor Kevin DeYoung, Making Vows, The Gospel Coalition, here we go again!

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At The Gospel Coalition website, Pastor Kevin DeYoung has a new article on church membership, 6 Reasons Why Membership Matters. The title is not correct. It should be:

“6 Reasons Why Church Membership Matters to Controlling Pastors.”

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As long as celebrity church leaders continue to push this dangerous teaching, my blogging friends from coast to coast will be pushing back.

Thank you, Amos, for bringing this article to my attention. Let’s just jump on in and I’ll add my editorial comments:

1. In joining a church you make visible your commitment to Christ and his people. Membership is one way to raise the flag of faith. You state before God and others that you are part of this local body of believers.

You do NOT need to be a member to raise the flag of faith. Your presence and fellowship among a body of believers is enough proof.

2. Making a commitment makes a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture. Many bowling leagues require more of their members than our churches.

Our commitment is to Christ and His precepts. Why is DeYoung keeping this so narrow to a body of believers at a church? The Body of Christ reaches far outside the confines of a physical building.

3. We can be overly independent. In the West, it’s one of the best and worst thing about us. We are free spirits and critical thinkers. We get an idea and run with it. But whose [sic] running with us? And are any of us running in the same direction? Membership states in a formal way, “I am part of something bigger than myself. I am not just one of three hundred individuals. I am part of a body.”

Part of a body following whom? One leader? How about following Christ?

4. Church membership keeps us accountable. When we join a church we are offering ourselves to one another to be encouraged, rebuked, corrected, and served. We are placing ourselves under leaders and submitting to their authority (Heb. 13:7). We are saying, “I am here to stay. I want to help you grow in godliness. Will you help me to do the same?”

There it is, the most popular verse used by leaders who to control their underlings. It does not require church membership to encourage one another. This is just nuts. When did church memberships start?  25-50 years ago?  Why weren’t there membership rules before that?

5. Joining the church will help your pastor and elders be more faithful shepherds. Hebrews 13:7 says “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority.” That’s your part as “laypeople”. Here’s our part as leaders: “They keep watch over you as men who must give an account.”

Ack – two times he’s using that verse to push an authority position.

As a pastor I take very seriously my responsibility before God to watch care for souls. At almost every elders’ meeting the RCA Book of Church Order instructed us “seek to determine whether any members of the congregation are in need of special care regarding their spiritual condition and/or not making faithful use of the means of grace.”

Code language:  let’s see who is messing up so we can use our self-appointed authority positions and put people in church discipline. “Making faithful use of the means of grace?”  Say what? What exactly does this mean?

This is hard enough to do in a church like ours where there is constant turnover, but it’s even harder when we don’t know who is really a part of this flock.

Me thinks they probably take roll here to determine who is present or not present. Watch out!

To give just one example, we try to be diligent in following up with people who haven’t been at our church for a while. This is a challenge. But if you never become a member, we can’t tell if you are really gone, because we might not be sure if you were ever here! It’s nearly impossible for the elders to shepherd the flock when they don’t know who really considers them their shepherds.

Yup, there it is. And if I say that I can’t make it to Sunday because I’m out of town at my daughter’s volleyball tournaments, and that excuse doesn’t pass their test, then what? Church discipline?

6. Joining the church gives you an opportunity to make promises. . . . They are solemn vows. And we must hold each other to them. If you don’t join the church, you miss an opportunity to publicly make these promises, inviting the elders and the rest of the body to hold you to these promises-which would be missing out on great spiritual benefit, for you, your leaders, and the whole church.

Hold on, just a minute. Did he just say vows? This pastor is telling you to go against Scripture?

vow Kevin DeYoung, church membership
Source

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5: 33-37

Articles from women bloggers (Dee and Deb from The Wartburg Watch) from the East Coast to SSB on the West Coast warning about these dangerous teachings:

145 thoughts on “Kevin DeYoung Pushes Church Memberships and Making Vows”

  1. Yuck, I would have to get a divorce quickly if I made a vow to his church.

    I get hives when I drive by Kevin’s church building, that was where I attended for years when it was owned by Trinity church. When we left Trinity, we attended University Reformed a few times, don’t remember Kevin, but THANK GOD we didn’t buy what they were selling.

    We took one of my daughters friends when we visited, months later we drove by it, she was in the car & said, “isn’t that University Deformed Church?” Haha out of the mouth of babes does wisdom speak.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I was getting ready to quote those scriptures from Matthew 5, but you were already there.

    Authoritarianism loves to cherry-pick scriptures to back its agenda. If these folks had their way, I wonder if Matthew 5:33-37 would just disappear from the Bible.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow! This was sure timely. Thanks, JA. There is no way that I would ever make a vow to a church or pastor/preacher, whatever. The debate on church membership is still out for a judgment call inside my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Why are these contracts always about power and control over the church attenders? The script should be flipped. HAVE THE PASTORS AND ELDERS SIGN A CONTRACT TO SERVE THE CHURCH : This should include financially caring for single moms, widows and orphans. Be available to help those who have mental and physical illnesses. Assist in paying for medical care (Remember when pastors visited the sick!!!). Provide a food pantry for members who are hungry (That is feed the poor). Have their own children attend-gasp- public school to be a light for Christ. Provide afterschool tutoring for kids who academically struggle. Provide an accurate account of how church money is spent, including pastor salaries. Do not engage in money making endeavors that interfere with church service ie: publishing books, attending conferences or making paid speeches. Do not spend money on frivolous items such as p.r. representatives, campus bookstores, building campaigns, McMansion sized buildings or other unnecessary purchases (fill in your own blank)
    Most of all they must wash the feet of their congregants monthly to be an example of Christ-like humility to their church. It would be amazing to see how far money would stretch when not wasting it on printing obnoxious membership contracts! Some of my suggestions are actually in the Bible.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. RevKev wrote~
    “I’ve been asked the question before. Sometimes it’s said with genuine curiosity-“So explain to me what membership is all about.” Other times it’s said with a tinge of suspicion-“So tell me again, why do you think I should become a member?”-as if joining the church automatically signed you up to tithe by direct deposit.”

    Well, membership may not technically sign one up to tithe by dd, but RevKev sure makes it easy at his church:

    “Q: When will contributions be taken from my account?
    Contributions will be taken from your specified bank account within 48 business hours of the date you requested. This time frame allows time for the contribution to process through your bank and the church’s bank. If the date of your contribution falls on a weekend or a holiday, the transaction will be initiated on the next banking day.”

    http://www.universityreformedchurch.org/members/online-giving.html

    Liked by 1 person

  6. On this issue, I’m going to say I’m for membership. From a practical standpoint, if one is going to be part of an organization with a charter and by-laws, then they need to be able to have some sort of legal standing. Of course, these type churches don’t vote on much of anything that matters, because the elders rule, right?

    There does need to be authority, accountability, etc. The deep end for me is this covenant membership junk which is like some sort of mafia blood oath or something, giving some sort of overarching permanent authority.

    Then there is the misinterpretation of “obey your leaders” which cannot biblically be justified as implicit obedience to RevKev cause he’s the pastor. RevKev has to earn that obedience through influence and the “member” needs to just be a teachable person. And when RevKev is full of it, he/she should feel free to tell him so and hit the door without consequence.

    Membership is not mentioned in the New Testament. I believe that is probably because the cultural context would imply that if one was willing to suffer as a Christian back then, then they were all in as a “member.” Now that we don’t have that heat, there is some desire to get people to sign on the line in order to be willing to put up with a bossy leader or be committed to be there to help pay for some useless new building project. Can’t have that new fellowship halls without browbeating members for the cash.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m constantly amazed at the relevance of this blog and just how ” fluid ” it is. Recently I have started regularly attending church for ( confession time ) the first time in a decade. Some of the things that happened to me made me just want to get as far away from church PEOPLES as I possibly could and , well I did. Honesty it was a very freeing feeling and one of the best things that I have ever done. The problem is IT WAS ALSO the worst thing I have ever done. It took me a good 10 years to get to the point of wanting to actually go to church. That 10 years gave me time to heal, really heal to the core of my person. Then I ran into one of the horribly abusive teachers from the Christian school I attended. She is now divorced, doesn’t attend church at all and is teaching in a public school. She sobbed uncontrollably in that Walmart parking lot apologizing and acknowledging how wrong it all was. In that moment a wholeness and centeredness emerged that can only be described as healing of woundedness. I wrapped my arms around her and realized at that moment that we were the same. Two people greatly effected and hurt by a theology of legalism that ran through a church and Christian school like a cruel venom killing the body.

    So I start going to this church and when in a few months of attending started seeing how they push the whole membership issue. For one, you are barred from taking communion unless you are a member or visiting from OUT OF THE AREA and a member of a church of similar belief. They claim communion is a ” local church ordinance”. That to me makes communion a church thing instead of the LORD’S Supper. Then David Gibbs of the Christian Law association was given the pulpit for a Sunday. This also concerned me as I have very strong views on the guy.

    They also insist on membership if you marry within the church, are married by one of their pastors or are marrying a member. That seems kind of weird and cultish. Like their main objective is to get control over people with membership covenants, instead of growing the body of Christ through winning people to the Lord and maturing the believer through the teaching of the Word of God. I’m not sure whether I will join the church or even take the membership class. Part of me would rather be on the fringe of the church, uncommitted as they say , and safe.

    Liked by 7 people

  8. Membership may be a relatively new concept in a lot of churches, but it is the norm for many others. It is the norm in Lutheran churches (at least in LCMS).

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  9. “But it’s not just about being cared for, it’s about making a decision and sticking with it-something my generation, with our oppressive number of choices, finds difficult.”

    Wow…didn’t know his generation finds making decisions difficult. I wonder how he knows this for a fact? He doesn’t. Assuming…RevKev.

    “We prefer to date the church-have her around for special events, take her out when life feels lonely, and keep her around for a rainy day. Membership is one way to stop dating churches, and marrying one.”

    Where have I read these last two sentences before?…was there an SGM book or a Josh Harris book …something like I stopped dating the church? So yesterday…

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I wrapped my arms around her and realized at that moment that we were the same. Two people greatly effected and hurt by a theology of legalism that ran through a church and Christian school like a cruel venom killing the body.

    Scott, that was beautiful!

    The communion and church membership/marriage rules are whacked out. Seriously, these pastors need to take a chill pill.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. My memory is shaky, but aren’t there verses in the Bible that tell believers not to make vows, or do not make them lightly, or if you do, only make a vow to God and not to man?

    Before the spiritual abuse blogs started covering church membership, I don’t think I would have realized before that there was a difference between membership and attendance. To me, it’s the same thing.

    I don’t recall where the Bible says you have to sign a paper, take classes, or take vows to be part of the church.

    I’m not so keen on going to church anymore, or trusting too many Christians. The internet isn’t as bad, but in real life, no.

    After my mother passed away, I was in a world of hurt. I tried going to local churches and felt safe confiding in some of the church members – and I also went to extended family (who are Christian) – I got lectures, platitudes, put down, shamed for opening up from all these people – no support, no compassion, no encouragement from them.

    So I’m not in a hurry to attend a church let alone be a member of one.

    Churches need to fix their people problem first if they want more members or attenders. Start loving people where they are, instead of shaming them for having problems or being in pain, or pressuring them to repress the pain or denying the pain.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Julie Anne I have a stinkin’ feeling all this is coming out with greater intensity because of the bloggers, Nones and Dones. This is a push back. They are feeling the pain of losing churchgoers and especially the ones who did all the work in the church. The money and power must be slipping through their fingers and they are noticing.
    Keep it up- we can’t back down now.

    Scott- don’t become a member. I felt free too after I left and now I realize I can do more outside the four walls. I have met people in all denominations who are Christians and have come to realize we have ONE thing in common: we love Jesus.
    This has been/and is a wonderful experience and one that promotes the unity of believers. When I was in church I kept in my heart fear and guilt; I was fearful of the world and was in a bubble. Not anymore because love conquers fear.
    I have also come in contact with those who are not believers and without the church affiliation I think it is easier to witness. There are no barriers between me and that individual. These are just my own observations.

    Liked by 7 people

  13. I went back and read the OP more closely, and yes, I see you’ve already quoted some of the verses where the Bible says not to make vows, or be careful when you do…

    “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. Matthew 5: 33-37

    I think there might be some Old Testament passages that caution people about making vows too – I think.

    Like

  14. trust4himonly said,

    Julie Anne I have a stinkin’ feeling all this is coming out with greater intensity because of the bloggers, Nones and Dones. This is a push back. They are feeling the pain of losing churchgoers and especially the ones who did all the work in the church. The money and power must be slipping through their fingers and they are noticing.

    This is an excellent point.

    For years, conservative evangelicals and Southern Baptists have been arguing that only liberal denominations are losing members, but the new Pew (or was it Barna?? whatever it was) survey that was released this week says conservatives are losing members at a high rate too.

    I’ve already seen a small number of conservative Christian editorials the last two days insist that the survey must be flawed. They are still at this point in denial that they are having problems and they are still arguing that only liberal churches are having problems.

    I think maybe we can expect to see more and more editorials by them about this survey.

    And maybe different tactics to lure people back.

    Maybe they will buckle down on blaming the rank and rile even more, and yelling at us to attend church no matter what, rather than do the hard work of examining their flaws and fixing them.

    That will probably be their tactic. Which actually isn’t different or new, they’ve been shaming and blaming the “nones” and the “dones” and “deChurched” for the last few years now.

    How do they expect to draw people back by being critical of them, guilting them, and shaming them? That isn’t a winning strategy.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ann said,
    “Provide a food pantry for members who are hungry (That is feed the poor).”

    Good idea, but sad story at CFJ blog about this. A woman there was going through a divorce from her abusive husband. She had s small son and daughter.

    This lady said she and her kids kept going to their church during the divorce. She said she didn’t have much money and couldn’t buy food. She kept telling her church she needed help (with money and/or food), but they wouldn’t help her.

    I can’t remember exactly, but I think she said in spite of her low income, she sometimes donated a bit of money and/or food to the church’s food pantry

    She said her church had a food pantry and on some days put out hot plates of food for those less fortunate.

    One day her two kids were leaving the church, when her kids stopped by the food table to get themselves plates. The ladies at the table shooed the kids away, told them the food was not for them, but for people who needed it.

    I was upset to read that.

    Here you have a church member among a church who was facing problems herself, and she and her kids needed their help, but they refused to give her help. They seemed to think that their food pantry / hot plate program was only for non-church member, homeless / poor people.

    Church people have that attitude in general, I have noticed.
    A woman at my father’s church would cry for the women she met at a DV shelter but be dismissive and mean-spirited about my grief over my mother being dead.

    This church women would assist women at the DV shelter and weep for the women at the DV shelter when talking about them with me at our church, but she would scold me over still being upset over my mother’s passing (this was only about a year and half after my mother’s passing).

    Sympathy and help is only for those outside the church, and not in it, apparently.

    I am convinced this is another reason churches are losing members and can’t attract new ones. People who show up to churches are not finding compassion or help in their times of need, want, and pain.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Change of subject, but on Free Jinger there is a thread about Lourdes filing for divorce from Nolan. The fall out from Doug Phillips is still being felt.

    Like

  17. Daisy, you are spot on.

    The mega church I grew up in helped the entire community around them with their massive food bank, but when my own family (which tithed 10% every single paycheck) underwent hard times (dad lost his job in a recession), they gave us 1 whole bag of groceries and told us not to come back for another month. I also recall one of the lower-level pastors dying in a horrible accident, and leaving behind his widow and children. The church wouldn’t help his widow out at all. When my dad left me and my mom when I was 19 (and my mom is disabled with multiple sclerosis), nobody from any church would help, except those few individuals who didn’t have much to give in the first place, but tried their best. I got more help from an atheist family member whom I barely even knew.

    Seriously, why would anyone want to get saved and join a church if they’ll be downgraded to “we-don’t-care-about-you-anymore” status? Duh.

    Of course, if you become upset and leave the church as already saved individual, they don’t reach out to you either. You’re now a lost cause, and they still only care about people who were never saved in the first place.

    You know the most sobering thing I’ve done is read church history books, especially for the ante-Nicene era. The Romans thought Christians were absolutely NUTS to care for the sick, the lame, the poor, the windows, the orphans, etc. In some cities the bishop would call for a church-wide fast so they could save up food to send to another city’s Christians who were suffering from hunger. When I read those things, I feel like I’m reading a fairy tale. I’ve never seen anything like that in any church I’ve ever attended. Why is it considered so nuts by *other Christians* today when we ask that these things be done? Shucks, I care for my disabled mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and my own “Christian” family thinks I’m nuts for doing what the *Bible says to do*. I’ve done it when it was really hard and when my father left me with nothing at age 19. And there were Christians from university and church who thought I was nuts and should dump my mom so my life would be financially easier. Even Candice Watters, from the Focus on the Family Boundless blog, wrote a Q&A just for me telling me to dump my mom if I want to get married. I had basically just wrote in wanting to know if she knew of any real-life Ruth & Boaz stories. I mean, she loves that Bible story so much. But I guess she doesn’t like the Naomi part. Ruth should have totally dumped Naomi so she could score Boaz, because there’s *no way* Boaz would want to take care of *two* widows! Ha. Ha. Ha.

    By the way, Daisy, your blog really resonates with me. In case you can’t tell already, I’m a very disillusioned, single 30-something woman who has finally kissed Joshua Harris goodbye, because all his advice is WORTHLESS (as is the majority of conflicting advice on Boundless). My mom is my best friend, too. She’s still with me, thank God. But as she’s getting older and older, I know I’ll end up alone soon. I’m very scared of what that will be like. I know I can’t rely on “church” to be my family. It’s just a fancy country club–the pastor’s own small business. There’s no such thing as fellowship and friendship in those four walls.

    Wish I could get to know you in person. I have a feeling we would have been good friends, despite the 10-year age gap. We just have too much in common. But you have my condolences for your mother’s passing, and my prayers. I know that it’s not much to give, being long distance and all, but I can promise you your voice has been heard by someone, and that you’re not the only one. Hang in there. As part of the body of Christ (to which I am connected), you are dearly loved. How can I not love the arm/finger/ear/eye/etc. of my body that is suffering? We’re connected.

    Liked by 6 people

  18. Daisy,

    The OT passage about vows is in Ecclesiastes 5:1-7:

    Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifices of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed — better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.

    This is one of the reasons why I think what DeYoung et al are doing in requiring people to make vows to the church via membership covenants is something closer to an abomination than a public demonstration of Christian solidarity or “raising the flag of faith.”

    Liked by 1 person

  19. @Scott,

    Nice post. Your new church sounds like my old one (that has inflicted so much damage on so many peoples’ lives). I would suggest that you try a variety of churches.

    Here are Dr. Ronald Enroth’s well-known books about abusive churches, which Dr. Enroth has made available for free (bless him in electronic form), in case you would find them helpful:

    1. Churches That Abuse http://www.ccel.us/churches.toc.html

    2. Recovering From Churches That Abuse http://www.ccel.us/churchesrec.toc.html

    Liked by 3 people

  20. Julie Anne I have a stinkin’ feeling all this is coming out with greater intensity because of the bloggers, Nones and Dones.

    I completely agree. And obviously, by listing those blog articles at the bottom of the post shows that Dee, Deb, and I have covered this subject a lot. So, I’ll keep preaching to the choir, but at the same time putting it out in social media, too, because they are putting their stuff out in social media. This mom in the podunk desert of Eastern Washington can tweet just as loudly as they can.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Ann, I can confirm that the pending divorce between Lourdes and Nolan Manteufel is true. I heard about Lourdes filing for divorce in March. She’s going to school full time. I wish the best for her and Nolan. Marriage is difficult enough under normal circumstances, but then to come out of a cult, deal with a very public lawsuit, etc, had to be very stressful.

    Like

  22. These Neo-Calvinists and all of their legalistic rules are so damaging to the Body of Christ (membership covenants and the like; all of the Mark Dever/9 Marks inappropriate control of members’ lives).

    At my former church – the one that did excommunications and shunnings for any form of dissent with the pastors/elders (a doctor* married for 40+ years, godly man was the first one subjected to this deplorable treatment) – membership covenants were used like clubs over the members. I didn’t know that. I thought we were agreeing to things like say, being confronted for unrepentant sexual immorality. But no. It wasn’t the big stuff. It was virtually anything that could be used against a member to kick them out, and preceding that – drag them into elders’ meetings.

    Additionally, a dear older Christian man from East Asia, who didn’t believe in membership covenants and did not wish to sign the church’s, was told by the pastors/elders that he was no longer permitted to come to church! It was so evil and heart-breaking what the pastors/elders did to this dear brother in the Lord.

    *The doctor is a long-time close personal friend of Pastor John MacArthur’s at Grace Community Church in Southern California.

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  23. ^The older Christian man from East Asia, who was told by my (former) pastors/elders he was no longer permitted to come to church, had been faithfully attending church for six years!

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  24. I wonder if the real substance of this debate on membership in churches is more related to how that membership is secured (oaths, vows, etc.) and what it actually means (discipline, unwanted home visits, pressure to give money, etc.), and how it is re-enforced (withholding fellowship, communion, baptism, etc.)
    But the fact of some identifiable membership being required seems evident, doesn’t it? How could Paul honestly think his letter to any particular church (say, the Corinthians) could be received and read by the right people if he didn’t have some specific people in mind that he’d written to? And on a more immediate level, it seems to me that if a church doesn’t have some means of its supporters identifying themselves as having a stake in its ministry, how would that church’s leaders know who to submit themselves to, as servants of the church? If there were no means for people to self-identify as members, who would determine what people have the right to determine the business of the church, such as its relations with the surrounding civil government, its need for material upkeep of its facility, the payment of salaries, support, benevolence, etc.? Oregon, for example, requires us to identify who leads our church (our “officers”), and also requires that we function under some sort of bylaws. Otherwise, how would the state know that we weren’t just a group of buddies that had joined together to launder our money under the guise of conducting a ministry?
    My point is–if individual attenders of a church do not stand up and self-identify as members, with a stake in the church, and a commitment to share in the fortunes and ministries of that church–then I soberly believe there will be a group of people who will gladly take those roles and responsibilities. That group will probably function more like a gang, and (short of a healthy, robust, identifiable membership in the church) will soon find themselves in ownership of the churches resources, if not its soul. So, as we muddle through the issue at Grace Bible in Portland, we tell everyone if they’ve made it through the door, they’re family to us, if they live in the neighborhood, they’re family to us, too. But if they want to make a formal step of joining in, and taking a role in determining how we operate and function in our part of the world–they should think about joining the church formally. Sorry, if you’ve made it to the end of this too-long blog, you deserve an apology!

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  25. “I can confirm that the pending divorce between Lourdes and Nolan Manteufel is true.”

    Oh. 😦 I’m sorry to hear that. Coming out of the ideology they were raised in is a difficult transition, and Lourdes had been through so much already. I wish the best for both of them.

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  26. “But the fact of some identifiable membership being required seems evident, doesn’t it? How could Paul honestly think his letter to any particular church (say, the Corinthians) could be received and read by the right people if he didn’t have some specific people in mind that he’d written to? And on a more immediate level, it seems to me that if a church doesn’t have some means of its supporters identifying themselves as having a stake in its ministry, how would that church’s leaders know who to submit themselves to, as servants of the church?”-Ken Garrett

    @Ken,

    It seems to be liked you are repeating the Mark Dever/9 Marks version of church membership. Is that where you got it from?

    1) Dever demands church membership so that churches don’t let people slip out the back doors. If members are slipping out the back doors, including at Dever’s church, then it’s time to get really honest: They don’t like him (or the other leaders).

    2) Next up, Dever has claimed that the Baptists have too many members on their rolls who don’t attend church and that it will all be resolved by membership covenants. Is Dever too lazy (or uncaring) to pick up the phone and call church members, ask how they are doing, and do they consider themselves members or not? Mark Dever seems short on grace and love; he solves every problem with a new rule.

    3) I don’t subscribe to the adults-as-idiots rule that Mark Dever and the Neo-Calvinists subscribe too. I’ve seen it do too much damage.

    4) At my former church (a church that practices excommunication and shunnings for any kind of dissent, the first to be subjected to it was a godly doctor, married for 40+ years and a long-time friend of Pastor John MacArthur’s of Grace Community Church in Southern California), the pastors/elders told a godly, older East Asian man who had attended the church for six years, faithfully volunteered at church, that he was no longer permitted to attend church because he did not believe in membership covenants and would not sign.

    My former senior pastor made, what I believe were snotty, remarks from the pulpit about those who would not join the church and “who is your pastor” and how do we “know to serve you”. My thought: Because they showed up and they’re here, the “one anothers.”

    5) Speaking of the Apostle Paul, which church was he a member of?

    Like

  27. Do you (insert future members name) solemnly swear to love and serve this church and it’s elders?

    To blindly follow it’s dictates, even when your conscience tells you otherwise.

    To believe all official proclamations from the pulpit and to faithfully tithe, give, and allow your pastors to use your vacation property for free during the prime summer season.

    And should you ever find yourself up late at night, doubting the contradicting stories coming from the pastoral team, swear to never do an internet search about this church.

    And if you should, accidentally read an unflattering (and therefore, untrue) report about this church, swear to disregard and forcefully defend your pastors from such hell bound blogging.

    If so, say I do.

    I now pronounce us, master & you, servant.

    You may kiss your tithe goodbye!

    Liked by 6 people

  28. I think Ken brings a unique perspective here. Not only is he pastor of a church, but he came out of an abusive cult. I don’t think Ken has any desire to control other people’s lives whatsoever. Still, I can’t do the membership thing ever again. I just can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. @Witch Hazel

    “I thought they pushed baptism as the “flag of faith”. Or maybe things have changed since I was in VBS.”

    It used to be that way. I was baptized in “the titles” to satisfy the SBC’s requirements, and then baptized in “the name of Jesus” to satisfy the Oneness’ requirements. I guess that makes me cross cultural in a denominational sense?

    I was in my former cult for nearly two decades before we had to start signing a membership covenant twice a year for communion. Before that people joined by being baptized or making a verbal commitment before the congregation.

    Like

  30. Dever says, “Membership states in a formal way, “I am part of something bigger than myself…” This is an appeal to pride, just like the time when they set out to build a city and a tower and a name for themselves.

    He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.

    (Psalm 2:4 ESV)

    Liked by 2 people

  31. @Julie Anne,
    LOL. I figured Ken wasn’t a Mark Dever, because I checked out his church’s website prior to posting. I would like to know where his ideas come from since they are in the vein of 9Marks (of an Unhealthy Church).

    Like

  32. @Michaela

    You wrote, “It seems to be liked you are repeating the Mark Dever/9 Marks version of church membership. Is that where you got it from?” No, I actually thought this stuff up all by myself! My point is not to support abuses of formal membership, but to suggest that when enough people decide to attend and participate in a church without formalizing their participation, a type of vacuum is created (depending on the church’s system of administration and governance). Unfortunately, that vacuum is then more easily filled by the power-hungry and sectarian people, who are then granted the formal power to do bad things to the church. I think this is esp. relevant in small, independent churches like the one I serve at. I certainly wouldn’t “demand membership” from anybody. Any church that made that kind of demand should be the one you’ve left behind. But, that being said, what Mark Dever does in is church is really not my concern, and he’s certainly not my enemy because I don’t agree with him or his 9Marks ideas.

    As for Paul’s church, that’s easy. Everyone knows he was a member of 1st Baptist Church of Tarsus. Seriously, it does seem that he mostly identified with the church in Antioch, having been formally sent by them into ministry, and returning there to report after his ministry endeavors. Although, who knows how long that association really lasted, as he continued to extend his ministry?

    @ Gary W
    The “bigger than myself” idea seems strange to me, too. It presumes that the listener knows (or gives a rip) about church-life, membership, etc. Maybe in the Bible-belt that might be true, but here in Portland, nada. With so many opportunities to join things (websites, member clubs, etc.) I think the concept of membership has become pretty a pretty lightweight concept. Seems like churches should get off the idealistic reasons for membership, and certainly the control-mechanism reasons, and simply look at it from a legal standpoint in the eyes of the surrounding culture.

    @Been There Done That: Me, too! I didn’t join churches that I attended after leaving a Christianesque-cult! In fact, I couldn’t make it through an entire service, and often would just step out for a smoke, and end up walking home. We wanted the kids to be in church, so kept going, but it was a long time before our hearts were healed enough to make any commitments.

    Like

  33. Anyone who plays the Hebrews 13:17 card —
    “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
    needs, firstly, to quote the verse number correctly!

    It’s verse seventeen, not verse seven, as Kevin DeYoung erroneously gave it.

    And secondly, such a person needs to, balance verse seventeen with verse seven —
    “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

    So, the implicit instruction in verse seven is that all Christians ought to be continually evaluating the teaching of their leaders to discern whether or not they are “SPEAKING THE WORD OF GOD” to the flock. And for whether their way of life and the outcome of their faith lines up congruently with the Word of God.
    In other words: evaluate not just what the leaders SAY, but what they DO; and the OUTCOMES of what they say and do.
    ….(sorry for all caps, please read as italics).

    Any leader who bridles at this interpretation is to be called into question , because such bridling would suggest they have an authoritarian attitude which is attached to or addicted to power and control.

    Would De Young accept it if a person in his church (or a member of the universal church, such as a Christian reader of this blog, for example) were to admonish him for not speaking the word of God but teaching the doctines of men?

    I bet some of you here, who are more familiar with De Young’s teachings, can give some examples of his pet doctrines-of-men which he might resist being challenged on. Would his doctrine on divorce be one such doctrine?

    It’s all too easy to think one’s doctrines all line up with the Word of God, but one is in fact believing man-made traditions that have been passed down by the multitudes of seminaries and theologians for centuries. . .

    My own experience in grappling with the doctrine of divorce demonstrated this to me (in spades… )

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Ok, I’m going to say some things here that may step on some toes. Forgive me if I do.

    1) DeYoung’s particular branch of religion seems to breed these sorts or thinking… I’m not surprised.

    2) I went to DeYoung’s church website looking and found this in their statement of faith: “III. Scripture. We believe, that while God has revealed himself in his creation (Ps. 19:1-6, Rom. 1:18-20), he has spoken to us most clearly in his word (Jn. 14:25-26, Deut. 6:6-7). The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are breathed out by God, holy, complete, and entirely without error in the original manuscripts (2 Tim. 3:16, Jn. 10:35, 2 Pet. 1:20-21). The Bible is our final authority in life, doctrine, and godliness (Mt. 4:4, 2 Pet. 1:3-4).”

    In contrast, Bruxy Cavey recently stated: “We believe in the authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word of God. His name is Jesus.”

    Liked by 2 people

  35. I was a member of a church for many years. The church was basically healthy. My husband and I applied for membership and were voted in by the board at their next meeting. We had gone there for some years so they knew we agreed with the denomination’s theology. We were not asked to sign anything. Membership allowed me to vote for the board of deacons and to participate in decision making. When my husband and I left for a different church with more programming for teens, we just said we were leaving and why and that was that. No shunning even though we were changing denominations.

    The idea of making vows to a particular group of people in a particular building is just mind boggling to me. My loyalty is to Jesus.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. @ Ken

    I believe you say what you say in good faith, but I am a believer in Jesus Christ, therefore, I am a member of the only Church that ultimately matters. As the Jews say “Dayenu”–it is enough. If anyone thinks that one need to add anything to that, any man-made commitment, then it has the effect of lessening the importance of that one true commitment.

    You may mean well, but one day Ken you will die or move on to another church or occupation. And if you leave a legacy of human membership commitments being tacked on to that commitment to Jesus, that status as a part of His True Bride, that baptism into the faith, then you have left a legacy that says those things are not quite enough, that “dayenu” would not be appropriate to use in connection with them. Surely you don’t really think that, and surely not so benighted as to think that others without your bonhomie and general good will might not one day use those things as a weapon.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Ugh, this is exactly the set of lines my ex-husband used to spout at the kids and me, trying to convince/coerce me into being a member at two different churches I didn’t feel comfortable in. Makes me shudder.

    Ironically, when we did find a church that was a good fit, and that church ultimately backed me up when I began to reveal the mental and emotional abuse that had been going on throughout the marriage, XH suddenly wasn’t super dedicated to following the advice of the elders. Funny how many of these types dance and shout about everyone’s responsibility to submit to membership ideals until they themselves aren’t getting what they want.

    Liked by 4 people

  38. “Membership is one way to stop dating churches, and marrying one.”

    Marrying a church? But the church is the bride of Christ. If I go marrying a church that is already Christ’s wife, I am committing adultery. God’s wife is the last one I would want to commit adultery with.

    Liked by 4 people

  39. I see that I have misunderstood the problem, which is not church membership per se, but signing some sort of document. Is this correct?

    Liked by 2 people

  40. The one thing that is conveniently missing from these guys teaching is the one about how the elders are servants. The other one is how Paul continually warns us about those who take advantage of/abuses/falsely teaches the flock. The other is how there is only one mediator/one Priest and that is Jesus Christ.
    Here is another kicker- context, culture, Greek and Hebrew text. This is why we are to be Bereans. There is soooo much that they miss compared to the few issues of elder control and membership (which is a shaky theological view in the first place). And they are the supposed leaders of NT teaching?? I do not think so.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. @Keith Blankenship
    “I see that I have misunderstood the problem, which is not church membership per se, but signing some sort of document. Is this correct?”

    I think that may be the problem for some… I’ve got bigger issues… I’ve even got an argument with this article…

    “1. In joining a church you make visible your commitment to Christ and his people. Membership is one way to raise the flag of faith. You state before God and others that you are part of this local body of believers.

    You do NOT need to be a member to raise the flag of faith. Your presence and fellowship among a body of believers is enough proof.”

    Jesus said: (John 13:34-35 NIV) ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

    Notice, Jesus didn’t say, “By church membership, people will know your commitment to me.”

    He also didn’t say (Sorry JA) “By the amount of time you hang around other who are a body of believers”..

    The only qualifier and witness to the world is your love for others.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. joelfrederick: Thanks for the response. Do you think that churches which have formal membership are sinning? Or is church membership an adiaphoron?

    Like

  43. @Keith

    adiaphoron – I learned a new word today! I would go with that…

    I don’t see anything wrong with church membership in general. I see a problem when that becomes a litmus test of your faith or commitment…

    Like

  44. The church in Ephesus (Rev 2) was criticized for losing it’s “first love”. Could we be seeing this?

    We love our Bible to the point where we make it, instead of God our authority in life. We love our churches to the point where we make the pastor and elders our authorities in our life.

    What happened to our love for Jesus and letting him be our authority? Our Shepherd? Something more than just “our savior”?

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Somebody should ask these guys if they think the same holds true for Christians joining underground churches in parts of the world where maintaining official member lists in any form may actually be dangerous. Then we’d find out in a hurry whether they believe these new requirements are *Biblically* necessary, or if they would admit that they just believe them to be highly advisable in our Western cultural context. I suspect the latter but they keep speaking like it’s the former.

    Liked by 4 people

  46. I just have to get up on my soapbox and I really hope no one minds :).

    I was saved by the Lord Jesus Himself at 9 years and have been going to church since I was born- 45 1/2 years. I was always an outlier, never truly finding my place in church; an invisible one. Now I do not say this to garner pity, because that is not my intent, plus I am really content now WHERE the Spirit has me (and I will get to that as far as the Spirit because this is key). I have been in many denominations and have heard all kinds of sermons (WOF, Reformed, Mennonite, Catholic, Southern Baptist, Independent Baptist, Fundamental Baptist, Church of Christ, Bible, Calvary Chapel, Non-denominational, Methodist) and not once did I hear of a consistent teaching of the Holy Spirit LIVING IN YOU and working out the fruits of the Spirit inside all Christians.

    Oh yes, I heard a lot of elder and pastor headship and the focus on church and being in it. Early on in my youth, it was great: Awanas, Bible Camp, Sunday School, Potlucks and my salvation. As the years rolled on I started to question but never knew where to ask. These questions then were stuffed underneath the back crevices of my mind; I just went along with the flow. Went to church and be a good girl- right?
    I started to develop a condition, however, it was called self-righteousness. Oh yes, I was still the invisible one, with no place to call home really and no place to use my gifts; but also in this “home” I developed a hard heart towards “those” on the outside. I was the good girl, I had church and God.

    I finally got married, but I did not know Jesus really. This attitude of self-righteousness spilled over into my marriage and uh….church- what did they notice?
    I was just a number, sitting in the pew. It was not until I miscarried, developed clinical depression, left my husband for six months did I realize who Jesus was; realized that there was, well…..a Holy Spirit. It was Him who brought my marriage back; It was Him who healed me from my depression (where I almost killed myself); It was Him that showed me I was His and loved, and not invisible. He was the one that I felt sitting on His lap and His arms around me- my experience with Him.

    Throughout the years (and still going) , I have painfully gone through areas of pruning from pride, self doubt, fear (still a hard one for me), guilt, self-righteousness. But this pruning did not occur with the help of an elder or pastor but the Holy Spirit. Now I am not saying that God does not use elders or pastors, I am just saying that THAT is not the only vehicle He uses. I am saying that the church and its structure is not the “end all be all”. It is not the ONLY way to see, know, feel and touch God. Throughout the years I had His Word to fall back on and study thankfully. However, I still went to church because that is what “I was suppose to do, supposedly”. Something had changed, however, I was starting to notice things. They were little but they continued to grow and fester. I still held on to self-righteousness, but I was increasingly getting anxious about the outside world around me. IT needed to change and the church must do the changing of the sinful world. I was a bigot. As I write this I am crying, because I see my own fallacies. I see where I was wrong.

    I ask forgiveness for the attitudes and words I have said to anyone that hurt their spirit; to the world especially for showing how a Christian should not be.
    I say these things for the sole fact that being a “Done” is not about leaving the church body out of rebellion it is out of self-preservation or should I say out of soul-preservation. I did not go because of hate, but because I want more. I want more compassion and love, to use my gifts, to be a better witness, to know become friends with those who don’t know Him, know Him more. So, if this is wrong in the sense of me leaving the church because of these things, I do not know what to say except I think it grieves the Spirit. Because He is the Wind and goes where He pleases.

    I will never forget the one phrase that finally put a nail in the coffin for me in leaving the IC. It was when I was in a home group (Reformed church home group) the leader of that group said this “Jesus cannot be your friend………because He is too Sovereign”. I left in my heart never to look back again.

    I do not say these things to push anyone into any direction other then to say …….Listen to the Holy Spirit. He is in you and will speak to you when we stop listening to the other voices.

    just my little box…….I do not want to step on anyone elses toes, but please leaders of the church listen to the Body of Christ and especially listen to the voice of the Spirit.

    Liked by 5 people

  47. In contrast, Bruxy Cavey recently stated: “We believe in the authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word of God. His name is Jesus.”

    Joelfrederick,

    It’s funny because as I was reading “We believe, that while God has revealed himself in his creation (Ps. 19:1-6, Rom. 1:18-20), he has spoken to us most clearly in his word (Jn. 14:25-26, Deut. 6:6-7).” I was thinking “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Heb 1:1-2a)

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  48. As I write this I am crying, because I see my own fallacies. I see where I was wrong.

    I ask forgiveness for the attitudes and words I have said to anyone that hurt their spirit; to the world especially for showing how a Christian should not be.

    t4ho,

    I completely get this. I have been in much the same place this past year. I have lost count of the tears I have cried over this. God seems to be doing this sort of thing with a lot of folks these days.

    “Jesus cannot be your friend………because He is too Sovereign”.

    The first thought that comes to mind when I read this is “this is blasphemy.” Jesus Himself said “But I call you friends.” And, “no longer do I call you servants, but friends.” And, “you are My friends if you do what I say.”

    I also can’t help but think, “Why do you call Me Lord but do not do the things that I say?” How is it these people can claim on God’s behalf that He cannot be your friend because He is too Sovereign when the Sovereign God they claim to represent has Himself said the exact opposite? It is a curious faith indeed that does not let the Sovereign Lord of that faith make His own rules.

    Liked by 3 people

  49. trust4himonly said, “I will never forget the one phrase that finally put a nail in the coffin for me in leaving the IC. It was when I was in a home group (Reformed church home group) the leader of that group said this “Jesus cannot be your friend………because He is too Sovereign”. I left in my heart never to look back again.”

    I have never heard this put this way but I have heard many approach this concept without expressing it directly. Yes, my God is sovereign but He is also my friend. I find that the difference between the Christian God and the one of Islam is the fact that God, Jesus wants to be and is our friend. One aspect of Christianity that is unique is that God wants to have a personal relationship with us and for this I praise Him. It is not a religion of just fire insurance. I came to Jesus for the fire insurance aspect but soon I realized He was becoming my friend and this soon became as important as the eternal life part of my relationship.

    Too sovereign? My Bible says that the curtain was torn in two and by using the term torn indicates to me that a pair of hands did the work and that was done by God Himself. This opened up His throne room for me and all to boldly enter and have a relationship with Abba (daddy) Father. Yes, my God is sovereign but He is also my friend and He loves my also.
    Jim

    Liked by 4 people

  50. I did not go because of hate, but because I want more. I want more compassion and love, to use my gifts, to be a better witness, to know become friends with those who don’t know Him, know Him more.

    I have heard this same sentiment expressed by other Dones. I wonder if a lot of traditional church goers hear the word “done” and assume they are done with everything, including Christ?

    Liked by 1 person

  51. I can’t help but wonder what my former pastor thinks about Christ as friend. That was never articulated. There was God (of wrath and judgment), Christ on the Cross (but not much else), and the only time I heard the Holy Spirit mentioned was in reading Scripture.

    Liked by 1 person

  52. So, Ken, what do you think about the idea of verbal church membership? Do you think church membership needs to be a signed agreement? I think the signing part is a big deal because it is a legal document and some controlling churches would take advantage of that.

    Like

  53. “I think the signing part is a big deal because it is a legal document and some controlling churches would take advantage of that.”

    Alliance Defending Freedom is even recommending that churches include a mediation clause in their membership contracts which will limit a signator’s options for legal recourse.

    Like

  54. In the comment thread on DeYoung’s blog, an aquaduck nailed it by making the observation that some ministers see themselves as part of a “fraternity of leadership” instead of members of their own congregations. We see this all the time on the conference circuit, online, in their many books, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. Julie Anne

    Great post.
    I recently found this foolishness on Nine Marks. There is NO date on it.
    And RevKev mentions Nine Marks, and Mark Dever…

    These guys are sumptin else… 😉

    “Can church members simply resign their membership in order to avoid church discipline?”

    http://9marks.org/answer/can-church-members-simply-resign-their-membership-order-avoid-church-discipline/

    ———-

    Of course their answer is..
    “Definitely not.
    Churches shouldn’t allow members to simply resign their membership in order to avoid discipline because:…”

    Seems nine marks does NOT want a member to…
    “…simply resign their membership…”
    “in order to avoid *church discipline.*”

    But, the nine marks form of “church discipline” is
    “excluding a person from membership.”

    Yeah – You heard that right.
    ———-

    Yup – nine marks wants you to sign a “legal document”

    to **legally protect itself** when they try to stop you from leaving

    So they can kick you out. Excommunicate you.

    Yup – these guys might have been turned over to a reprobate mind… 😉

    ———-

    Seems, nine marks wants to be able to “declare to the world”
    “a person who lives this way (serious unrepentant sin)
    does not belong to Christ” (And who determines what is “serious?”)

    And nine marks does this, “declare to the world,” by…
    “excluding a person from membership.”

    nine marks says…
    “When a professing Christian lives in serious, unrepentant sin, it is the church’s responsibility to declare to the world that a person who lives this way does not belong to Christ, which the church does by excluding a person from membership.”

    ———

    So, let’s see…
    A person wants to resign, and *Leave the church,* to avoid church discipline.

    Nine Marks won’t let you resign, and *Leave the church.*
    So they can minister “church disipline”
    And tell you to *Leave the church.*

    You can’t make this stuff up… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  56. If believers are blessed by being in fellowship with a certain group of believers, then no signature and list of commitments can add anything to that–they won’t want to leave.

    If believers are not being blessed by being in fellowship with a certain group of believers, then why oh why would you want to tie them down to that place with a man-made contract? I would say to Ken and others: Don’t you dare make a piece of paper vetted by an attorney a possible stumbling block to anyone who might be better fed elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  57. So, to answer a question posed to another by Keith above. Yes, I do believe those who thrust membership agreements on people are generally in sin. There is only one reason motivating these membership contracts, and that is FEAR. Fear of losing control, losing a giving unit, losing influence, losing your shot at building a mega. Even the fear of losing someone to Jesus is not valid in this context, because Jesus does not need your church or you. Jesus was saving people long before you or your church existed and He will be doing so long after both you and your church building are inconsequential dust.

    Liked by 3 people

  58. joelfrederick on May 14, 2015 at 7:59 PM
    Ok, I’m going to say some things here that may step on some toes. Forgive me if I do.

    1) DeYoung’s particular branch of religion seems to breed these sorts or thinking… I’m not surprised.

    2) I went to DeYoung’s church website looking and found this in their statement of faith: “III. Scripture. We believe, that while God has revealed himself in his creation (Ps. 19:1-6, Rom. 1:18-20), he has spoken to us most clearly in his word (Jn. 14:25-26, Deut. 6:6-7). The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are breathed out by God, holy, complete, and entirely without error in the original manuscripts (2 Tim. 3:16, Jn. 10:35, 2 Pet. 1:20-21). The Bible is our final authority in life, doctrine, and godliness (Mt. 4:4, 2 Pet. 1:3-4).”

    In contrast, Bruxy Cavey recently stated: “We believe in the authoritative, inerrant, infallible Word of God. His name is Jesus.”

    Joel –

    I was having a conversation with three men (two elders) at my former church one day about this very thing. I expressed concern about worship of the scripture. I often heard them pray about “gathering around the scripture for worship and prayer. — Hmmm. During the conversation they basically attributed the same authority to scripture (the Word) as to Jesus (Word). I was surprised. Though I probably should not have been. What I have come to realize is that the scripture as the (Word) is much more controllable (via their interpretation) than Jesus himself is controllable. If they leave off Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s working in out lives, and appeal to “scripture alone,” they have much more power and expediency to get what they want. Hierarchy by scripture, via interpretation, is much more controllable than the working of the Holy Spirit. In all honestly, I don’t think that the majority of those of the hierarchy bent even realize that this is how they are functioning. Others do know, and take full advantage of the power it affords them.

    Liked by 4 people

  59. “attributing the same authority to scripture… as to Jesus”

    Wow– that is so spot-on, Bridget. Things can get pretty screwy when people start worshipping their bibles.

    ~Lise

    Liked by 4 people

  60. Clockwork Angel MAY 14, 2015 @ 2:58 PM

    Clockwork Angel, I am so sorry for what you and your family endured, that church people let you down.

    I have seen this mentality from so many Christians and churches over and over. You can be a long term member at a church, tithing regularly or volunteering at various functions for years, yet, when YOUR turn to need assistance (emotional, financial or whatever) comes up, that same church will turn you down.

    Or, you can just be a hurting Christian, not necessarily a long time member of their church, and they should help you, but they will scold you with lines like, “church is about serving not being served.”

    They will devote money and time to homeless charities and so on, but not help the guy sitting next to them in the pew, – and I don’t understand that at all.

    You said,

    Seriously, why would anyone want to get saved and join a church if they’ll be downgraded to “we-don’t-care-about-you-anymore” status? Duh.

    That is it exactly. That is actually the intention of seeker friendly churches. They only care about drawing in new people, they don’t care about people who are already there or who are already Christians.

    Some of them, like pastor Steve Furtick, have actually made comments like that from the pulpit, he screams at his congregation that their church is all about the new guy, but once the new guy joins, they expect that new guy to turn around and reel in more new guys.

    Well, why on earth do I want to join your church if, the moment I attend or become a member, your philosophy is that you don’t care about me anymore? If I cannot turn to church people for help when I need help, I don’t see the sense in going.

    I’ve arrived at this in my personal life, too. My mother thought being a Christian meant only meeting other people’s needs, never getting your own needs met (because that would be selfish).

    So, over my life, I helped other people… but these people never wanted to help me when I could have used help. The relationships I had with people were one-sided (and exhausting), where I did all the giving, and they did all the taking. I no longer live life that way. Because when you do, you are allowing yourself to be used and exploited.

    But some churches ask me to be that way if I attend their church.

    You said,

    Even Candice Watters, from the Focus on the Family Boundless blog, wrote a Q&A just for me telling me to dump my mom if I want to get married. I had basically just wrote in wanting to know if she knew of any real-life Ruth & Boaz stories. I mean, she loves that Bible story so much. But I guess she doesn’t like the Naomi part. Ruth should have totally dumped Naomi so she could score Boaz, because there’s *no way* Boaz would want to take care of *two* widows! Ha. Ha. Ha.

    That is horrible she answered that way.

    Candice Watters and Boundless are horrible about singleness and marriage. They don’t deal with any singles who are over 30. They only care about singles who are under 30.
    Watters also thinks the way to help adult singles is to obsess over marriage even more – but obsessing over marriage is precisely one reason so many adult singles drop out of church. Singles don’t hear their concerns discussed or addressed by churches.

    Does Watters care? No. She just digs her heels in on that even more, insisting that churches keep pushing marriage and ignore singles.

    You said,

    But you have my condolences for your mother’s passing, and my prayers. I know that it’s not much to give, being long distance and all, but I can promise you your voice has been heard by someone, and that you’re not the only one. Hang in there. As part of the body of Christ (to which I am connected), you are dearly loved. How can I not love the arm/finger/ear/eye/etc. of my body that is suffering? We’re connected.

    Thank you so much. 🙂

    I’ve gotten through a lot of the grief in the last few years, but there’s still a hollow place. I’ve not had anyone to turn to (at least in real life) since my mother passed. That is still hard for me to cope with.

    I hope you and your mother do well. 🙂

    Like

  61. Someone above was mentioning how some Christians do not like other Christians thinking of Jesus as a friend.

    I was once friends with a guy who runs an apologetics site who thinks that 20th and 21st century Christians have really gotten the friendship understanding about Jesus wrong.

    I’ve read blogs by various preachers who seem to detest any Christian who thinks of Jesus in friendship terms. They seem to want Christians to have a stale reverence for Jesus / God, to view them only as holy, conquering, vindictive deities. They seem to think it weakens God or people’s perceptions of him to view him as a friend.

    Now, I do think some Christians err too much in making God out to be the friendly old Grandpa in the Sky, who never gets angry or upset about sin, but I can’t say as though I’m on the side of the “Anti Jesus as Friend” types, either.

    I think some Christians prefer an intellectual, stodgy, overly judgmental, repressive, faith and God. A faith or God devoid of laughter, compassion, understanding, second chances, and warmth.

    Liked by 1 person

  62. “I think some Christians prefer an intellectual, stodgy, overly judgmental, repressive, faith and God. A faith or God devoid of laughter, compassion, understanding, second chances, and warmth.”

    _____________________________

    This may be because some Christians (or shall I say “Christians”?) are stodgy, overly judgmental, repressive and lacking in laughter, compassion, and warmth.” Those types, however, are not what I would refer to as “Intellectual”, those types are generally quite full of themselves, but upon close analysis end up being rather intellectually constipated and dull.

    Liked by 2 people

  63. @ Julie Anne (May 15th, 8:35am): “So, Ken, what do you think about the idea of verbal church membership? Do you think church membership needs to be a signed agreement?”
    I like the verbal idea, and it’s what we practice at Grace. Rather than forming and signing a legal document, someone simply affirms to our leadership team that they want to become members of the church. We don’t have a document to sign anyway. We formally welcome new members in our service, but not all want to stand up or be recognized in public, so that’s cool, we just add them to our membership list, and go from there. I like that, because it replaces the power and significance of a person’s word alone as a basis of trust between them and the church. If it’s a matter of conscience that a person is not willing to join the church, formally, we have no problem with that–they’re considered members of the Grace family, but we ask that they not vote in church business meetings, although they’re welcome to attend. We have Grace ‘members’ who have never formally joined for the reasons found in the comments section of this piece, and we understand.
    I realize that formal membership is a very, very big deal to survivors of spiritual abuse, many of whom (like me) have formally joined groups in the past that ended up holding a vise-grip over the very soul–so the issue itself should be a good ways down the list of priorities in recovering from spiritual abuse. The balance issue that I’ve had to face is as a pastor of a historic church that sits on some prime real-estate in one of the most desirable places to live in the country, but is small and not very wealthy anymore. Also, we need a way that gives us some power in enforcing safety measures that we’ve taken, esp. for children, but also for our community. Also, (I know I keep beating this drum…) if the people who attend the church, week after week, and support it with their money, time, prayers, etc., do not step forward to determine the course and actions of that church–then someone else definitely will step into the void, and often that ‘someone else’ will not be the people you or I would want leading the church and determining its affairs. Formal membership is just a way of inviting those who feel Jesus has called them to a particular church to take a role in its life and decision-making, and it is tragic that membership is used by others as a means of control, nit-picking, and fear.

    Like

  64. Ken, that is the most reasonable response to church membership I’ve heard yet. I appreciate your perspective and your respect for the saints who might choose not to join in for whatever reason. I know you are sensitive to spiritual abuse survivors having experienced it yourself.

    Like

  65. What is your opinion if “membership” does not invite one’s input into any type of decision making for the church? Shouldn’t one be considered a member if one is attending, giving and serving, etc. What does a signed paper do?

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  66. A historic building and prime real estate neither outweighs Jesus’ admonition about not taking such vows or justifies locking a person who loves Jesus and is in regular fellowship with out from having a formal say in matters within your fellowship. If someone is unsafe around children or is the type who likes to step into voids and take control and place themselves between other believers and Jesus, then they ought to be asked to leave by you and other elders. I think you’d be better taking a wrecking ball to the historic building and selling the prime real estate and giving the money to the poor rather than letting it guide your decisions in this manner.

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  67. It seems to me these leaders/pastors/shepherds have forgotten everything Jesus said about sheep. It is the shepherd’s responsibility to feed the sheep, care physically for the sheep, look after the sheep, protect the sheep, heal the sheep, count the sheep and go after the one(s) that is/are missing.

    I think church leaders like RevKev had better leave the sheep-tending to The Good Shepherd, and be very careful how they treat God’s flock!

    Liked by 3 people

  68. @Ken,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply to me. I appreciate it.

    I came out of a spiritually abusive church and I will not sign a membership agreement again. A dear older Christian man from East Asia was ordered by the pastors/elders not to come to church any more, he’d been coming for six years, because he didn’t believe in membership covenants. A godly doctor, married to his wife for 40+ years, was ordered to be excommunicated/shunned because he disagreed with the way the pastors/elders were leading the church and pointed out the Biblical errors to them, in private. I was ordered to be excommunicated/shunned after eight years because the pastors/elders had moved a friend of theirs who was a convicted sex offender on Megan’s List into positions of trust and leadership without telling parents or members about it. The pastors/elders said he was ‘safe’ and ‘coming off’ Megan’s List. His supervising law enforcement agency called that ‘all lies’.

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  69. @Truth Detector: Well, I’m glad you’ve found a church that allows you equal input, regardless of your status as a member or non-member. The “this could be sold and given to the poor” argument isn’t a new one, but I think I’ll hold off on the wrecking ball idea…
    @Loura: Thanks for the reminder, and the warning. One of the great ironies of the Great Shepherd is that He would entrust His most precious flock to the care of men and women who are sheep themselves! I don’t take the responsibility lightly, nor do most of my friends who are also pastors. I don’t know if “RevKen” was a jab or not, but I’m actually not ordained by a denomination or missions board (we’re an independent church), so I’m very pleased to just be Pastor Ken! 🙂
    @ Michaela: I am very sorry for the horrible situation of abuse at your old (and I am hoping it is “old” to you!) church. I hope that although membership covenants are not for you (understandably), you are still able to find support and peace in fellowship with other like-minded, tenderhearted believers. Thank you for responding!

    Like

  70. Look, Ken, honestly I’m not playing the Judas card on you, so in all candor I rather resent the implications. Perhaps an attempt on your part at humor? A really awkward, halting, cringe-worthy stab at it? Not sure.

    My point is simply this: Your main argument out of the starting block for why you needed membership was to protect the historic building and that prime real estate (I suppose from those who might attempt to take over your church and get their greedy hands on all these valuable things). You sound more like an over-eager real estate agent in your defense of the necessity of membership.

    In light of my concerns, and rather than just getting cute and linking me to Judas, please address my point: what exactly justifies locking a person who loves Jesus and serves the fellowship from having a formal say in the direction of the church, if they are indisputably part of the true Church? Do you think Jesus will buy the line about the prime real estate as a justification? Should He?

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  71. I’m sure it’s been said before here on SSB, but it bears repeating. Why is it that so many of these controlling churches are Reformed, i.e.: Calvinist? I have my own ideas, but I’d like to hear what others have to say.

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  72. @Truth Detector: I imagine whatever transpires between Jesus and me is between Jesus and me. Let’s just consider the conversation as over–and simply agree that we don’t agree on this.

    Like

  73. “I’m sure it’s been said before here on SSB, but it bears repeating. Why is it that so many of these controlling churches are Reformed, i.e.: Calvinist? I have my own ideas, but I’d like to hear what others have to say.”

    You know, I’m not sure it’s just the neocals who are doing this. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the idea of legal membership covenants took off and we started seeing a number of other denominations adopting them. I half expect the New Apostolic Reformation to start using them next.

    As far as Calvinism goes, theoretically any tradition adhering to the “doctrines of grace” would be grace-full, yet many of us are all too familiar with the cage-stage phenomenon, men who seem to enjoy doctrinal controversy, and highly intellectualized jerks. On the protestant side of things, Calvinism is a fairly comprehensive theological system that covers every possible sphere of life, and I think that attracts certain kinds of people. By modern standards, you could say Calvin himself was pretty controlling while in Geneva (when he wasn’t being booted out), although I think he was a man of his times.

    Beyond that, I know some Christians have read the Institutes and seen a primary emphasis on the sovereignty of God or the Holy Spirit (instead of Christ). I once read somewhere that as a very young man Calvin had originally trained as a lawyer, and I think his writings and the later Westminster standards reflect that. Reformed theology seems to have more of an emphasis on the law of God and sanctification than the Gospel itself and justification.

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  74. Ken wrote~

    “I don’t know if “RevKen” was a jab or not, but I’m actually not ordained by a denomination or missions board (we’re an independent church), so I’m very pleased to just be Pastor Ken!”

    RevKev is his (DeYOung’s) chosen twitter name. He is not only someone to whom people should give reverence (high esteem, high regard, great respect), but he’s the SENIOR pastor too because, you know, it’s important people know that (in his mind).

    Kevin DeYoung
    @RevKevDeYoung
    Senior Pastor, University Reformed Church. Married to Trisha. Six children. Saved by grace.

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  75. Bridget

    Great insights @ MAY 15, 2015 @ 10:05 AM…
    “What I have come to realize is that the scripture as the (Word) is much more controllable (via their interpretation) than Jesus himself is controllable. If they leave off Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives, and appeal to “scripture alone,” they have much more power and expediency to get what they want.”

    “Hierarchy by scripture, via interpretation, is much more controllable than the working of the Holy Spirit.”
    ————

    John 3:8 NKJV
    The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it,
    but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.
    **So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.**

    Yes – WE, His Sheep, His Ekklesia, are to be “Led by the Spirit.”
    NOT “Mere Fallible Humans.”

    Rom 8:14 KJV
    For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
    ———-

    Jesus NEVER asked His Disciples to “Follow a Mere Fallible Human*
    Jesus ALWAYS asked His Disciples, His Sheep, to “Follow Him – *Jesus*

    John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they *Follow me:*
    John 12:26 If any man serve me, let him *Follow me*…
    Mt 4:19 …*Follow me,* and I will make you fishers of men.
    Mt 16:24 …let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and *Follow me.*
    Mt 19:21 …thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come *Follow me.*

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  76. “As far as Calvinism goes, theoretically any tradition adhering to the “doctrines of grace” would be grace-full, yet many of us are all too familiar with the cage-stage phenomenon, men who seem to enjoy doctrinal controversy, and highly intellectualized jerks. On the protestant side of things, Calvinism is a fairly comprehensive theological system that covers every possible sphere of life, and I think that attracts certain kinds of people. By modern standards, you could say Calvin himself was pretty controlling while in Geneva (when he wasn’t being booted out), although I think he was a man of his times.”

    It really helps to view the European and English Reformations as political. Not spiritual. Otherwise it makes no spiritual sense. Geneva, like others, were tired of sending tribute to Rome. Back then religion was the state, too. And because of that, they needed a system. The help of Calvin who was known as having written a comprehensive system for religion was enlisted. But some who had power at the time were resistant to his system. Calvin insisted it had to be followed exactly and was not exactly the type to make concessions. He went back to Strausborg.. Some of those people were either brought to heel or worse and the council begged him to come back because Catholicism was making inroads. But, Calvin had conditions. And he got them. And the rest is tyrannical history from Geneva to the Boers in SA to the Puritans and Southern Slave owners.

    To say he was a man of his times dismisses those who gave their lives to disagree with him and the other Reformers. There were men and women who were considered “Radicals” who believed in believers baptism, the Lords Supper as an ordinance not a sacrament and separation of church/state over conscience. Many were drowned for a “third baptism”, imprisoned, tortured, banished and even burned all over Protestant Reforming Europe. Calvinism is not “grace-ful”. it is deterministic. Spiritual “fate” as in what Allah wills. If you have read the Insitutes you would know that it is possible, according to Calvin, to look like a Christian, act like a Christian all your life but really be reprobate but not know it until you die.

    Calvinism has obviously undergone its own constant reformation as it tends to die out and then reinvent itself in other ways usually going more liberal. And there are many wonderful Calvinists today.

    But, the sad fact is that most Calvinists today know little of its heritgage, writings, and historical results. They are attracted to a system that is based on Augustine’s doctrine of imputed guilt and dualism imported from Paganism and relies heavily on phiolospher kings who know best for the rest of us— and it basically redefines Jesus Christ

    Liked by 1 person

  77. @Diane: “RevKev is his (DeYOung’s) chosen twitter name.”
    Thank you so much for correcting me on that! The internet may be a 24/7 animal, but this guy shouldn’t trust his eyes past about 9pm!

    Like

  78. Dear Truth Detector,

    This may be because some Christians (or shall I say “Christians”?) are stodgy, overly judgmental, repressive and lacking in laughter, compassion, and warmth.” Those types, however, are not what I would refer to as “Intellectual”, those types are generally quite full of themselves, but upon close analysis end up being rather intellectually constipated and dull.

    Interestingly enough, Lewis once wrote about a similar kind of person: people who have an appearance of intelligence, but only by divorcing themselves from human sentiment. He called them “Men without Chests”, the “chest” referring to the heart, or stable, reasonable sentiment.

    “The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called
    Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as
    Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks
    Intelligence. It is not so. … It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.”
    — C.S. Lewis, “The Abolition of Man”

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  79. SKiJ

    That is an excellent quote. I have that book. Haven’t read it in so many years I might as well have not read it at all. I will have to dig it out and read it again.

    Like

  80. That sounds fine, Ken, but I would seriously consider dumping that choice real estate, as it may well have become a stumbling block for you if it’s affecting the manner in which you consider the input of fellow believers who meet with you regularly in that magnificent historical building.

    You never did give me a good answer.

    Like

  81. It seems as if guys like RevKev are trying to restore a form of the OT priesthood. They want to tell the “little people” where they can worship, what rules they must follow, how much they must pay and to whom, how they must spend their time, when they can leave, with whom they can associate, etc. They seem to think they need to run interference between the peons in the pews and God. Funny, I thought Jesus already took care of that.

    At it’s core, I think that this need to micro-manage other Christians is really about maintaining power and control in the hands of a small number of Christian “leaders.”

    Liked by 2 people

  82. @ GC

    I’ve heard some come right out and explicitly talk about themselves in light of Moses’ priesthood, as if the priesthood of all believers had never occurred, as if the Holy Spirit had never been granted freely to all who love Jesus, as if Paul had never said a word about different gifts, different parts of the body, greater honor to “lesser” parts, as if, frankly, Jesus had never died at all for the sins of the world (which to your average neocalvinist like DeYoung, never actually happened anyway, who cares if the Bible says in Greek that Jesus died for “the cosmos”, surely the Lord must have just made a mistake in inspiring that unfortunate word, or “Here, let me tell you about this parallel passage that John Piper told me about that makes that passage mean the opposite of what it says.” ).

    Best just not to dwell on some things too much, makes your head want to explode.

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  83. I don’t think DeYoung would be considered a neo-Calvinist. His church was RCA (i.e liberal Reformed) and recently left to become PCA. I think he is a cradle Calvinist.

    Lydia00: The European reformation was not monolithic. Luther preceded Calvin, and was himself preceded by others. Luther and Calvin had very different views on a number of issues. As regards the English Reformation, some in the forefront were in much agreement with Luther, such as Cranmer, but the political issue was what drove the movement.

    Lydia00: Are you aware that many Boer are now destitute and homeless, and many have been murdered since the ANC took power? Do you have any sympathy for these people who did not choose to be born there? RSA is a violent place, it has the horrible distinction of being one of the “leaders” in the world in the crime of rape.

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  84. “Do you have any sympathy for these people who did not choose to be born there?” I suppose it would be something of a cheap shot to suggest that that was something of a cheap shot, but I’m having some difficulty getting my mind around how the current condition of homeless Boers has anything to do with depredations worked by their reformed ancestors–if I have the history right. It’s kind of like defending southern slavery on the basis that somebody doesn’t have enough sympathy for impoverished white southerns. Not trying to pick a fight here, but I am doing a bit of head scratching here.

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  85. @GC~

    “It seems as if guys like RevKev are trying to restore a form of the OT priesthood. They want to tell the “little people” where they can worship, what rules they must follow, how much they must pay and to whom, how they must spend their time, when they can leave, with whom they can associate, etc. They seem to think they need to run interference between the peons in the pews and God. Funny, I thought Jesus already took care of that.”

    A three minute video clip on the tithe is alive by RevKev taken from his sermon Our Neglected Stewardship two years ago. Ten percent is mandatory, and only a beginning, according to him.

    Like

  86. That’s a new one on me: “cradle calvinist”.

    In all honesty, in this day and age, I tend to lump everyone who calls themselves reformed and who calls themselves calvinist into the same camp. Over the last two decades, because of the excesses and abuse, the twisting of truth, the exaltation of secondary doctrines to hill-you-die-on primary truth, the calvinists have essentially made calvinism a dirty word and not a very marketable one (as surely John Calvin himself had made adherence to his set of beliefs a dirty, ugly thing in Gneveva and much of Europe (and lest you think me an Arminian, perish the thought, the worst abuse I’ve ever seen in my life in the church was at the hands of Arminians). So they retrenched and now refer to themselves as “reformed”. It is not so much a doctrine as a way of life and way of viewing the world, and, in my opinion, a spirit that’s very, very ugly and destructive.

    So Deyoung can call himself what he wants, matters not, calvinism or calvinism lite is all the same to me, it leads to the same forms of idolatry and ugliness in time.

    Liked by 2 people

  87. Regarding the video posted by Diane, it is my opinion that whenever a preacher demands 10% of people’s income, as a matter of obligation, that preacher is a thief.

    Liked by 2 people

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