Church membership, church discipline, Pastor Eric Davis, Cornerstone Church
Church Member Responsibility and Church Discipline According to the Cornerstone Church By-laws
I recently wrote about how Julie Anne and I dared to comment on an article at The Cripplegate which subsequently caused our comments to be deleted and comments to be closed. Pastor Eric Davis provided an entirely too long explanation about how the discussion had run its course, more humbleness in being a part of God’s community was needed, and that there was too much focus on logistics. Let’s not forget that he provided the wonderful 16-point article challenging excuses for not going to church. But who’s focusing on logistics?
I was up most of the night wondering who Eric Davis is and what kind of church he runs. Here is Eric’s profile at The Cripplegate:
Eric’s bio on Cornerstone Church’s site states that he holds an M.Div. from Master’s Seminary and a M.A. in Biblical Counseling from The Master’s College. It is important to note that all but one leadership team member at the church hold some type of degree from The Master’s College or Master’s Seminary. Oh, look! Cornerstone Church even shows up on The Master’s College site as a TMS Alumni Church!
While I can’t find the specific article, I remember reading something on 9Marks (or The Gospel Coalition?) about membership responsibility. What stood out then was how members who live too far away from a “good church” should move, and if members are working on Sundays that take them away from church, they should get their work schedules changed. These two points were in Eric’s post and it caused me to be suspicious that Cornerstone Church might be affiliated with 9Marks. I looked up Cornerstone Church on the 9Marks site and sure enough, they’re affiliated (Search by zip code 83001. It’s a different physical address but same web link). No surprise to me.
So now we know that we have John MacArthur taught leaders in a 9Marks affiliate church. What could their by-laws be like? Since the original post Julie Anne and I commented on was specifically about members, we’ll look at membership and church discipline at Cornerstone Church which is found in Article V of the by-laws.
How to apply for membership:
Section 4. Applications for Membership – All requests for membership shall be made to a Pastor, Elder, Deacon, or Steering Committee Member. Upon making such a request, the person shall be given an application for membership, along with a copy of the Statement of Faith contained in the Articles of Incorporation and a copy of the Bylaws. …… Each applicant shall assent to the Statement of Faith, subscribe to the Bylaws, and shall testify publicly before a duly appointed Committee of the Board, per Article VI, Section 17 of these Bylaws, at a regularly held meeting for prospective members.
Your membership may be denied:
Section 5. Denial of Membership – If, upon review of an application for membership or after meeting with a prospective member, the Board of Elders, or Steering Committee if not yet replaced by the Board of Elders, determines that the applicant does not confess Jesus Christ as his or her Lord and Savior, or that there is a lack of evidence of a Christ-like lifestyle, membership shall be denied. The decision made by the Board, or Steering Committee if not yet replaced by the Board of Elders, shall be final and there shall be no appeal to any court from that decision.
The Board of Elders holds the power to deny your membership if they deem that you are not a true believer or if they think your lifestyle is not Christ-like enough. Forget going to court over it; their decision in final. Why bring up appealing to court over a denial for membership? Does this happen? I guess it must or, this is simply 9Marks talk to cover all bases.
How you are admitted into membership:
Section 6. Admission of Applicants – Applicants admitted to membership shall, if possible present themselves at a worship service designated by the Pastor and Board of Elders, at which service such applicants shall publicly affirm their membership commitment and be publicly acknowledged as members.
Here one stands before the congregation to acknowledge commitment to the church. Keep reading, though, . . . you’ll find that you might “stand” before the congregation for another issue – perhaps not physically, but surely in spirit.
Section 7. Responsibilities of Members – Members shall seek to exercise their spiritual gifts for the work of service to honor Jesus Christ and build up the church and shall submit to the loving shepherding of the Elders, or Steering Committee if not yet replaced by the Board of Elders.
Serve Jesus and accept loving shepherding. Now we move on to the “loving shepherding.”
Purpose of church discipline (Church Discipline is Section 8):
a.) Purpose: The purpose of church discipline is to glorify God by: 1) pursuing a sinning believer for the purpose of helping them be reconciled to God and the church (Matthew 18:12-18, 1 Corinthians 5:5, Galatians 6:1) 2) promote the holiness of Christ in the local church (1 Corinthians 5:6) 3) promote a biblical fear of God and turn away from sinning (1 Tim 5:20).
PPP – pursue, promote, promote. Honestly, it’s the pursuing that concerns me.
The process of church discipline:
b.) Process: Members of this church and all other professing Christians who regularly attend or fellowship with this church who err in doctrine, or engage in conduct that violates Scripture as determined by the Board of Elders, or Steering Committee if not yet replaced by the Board of Elders, shall be subject to church discipline including dismissal according to Matthew 18:15-18.
Say I’m a member of this church and I need to undergo church discipline. For this scenario, we’ll say I’m questioning the leadership by commenting on a blog post in regard to doctrine or church policy (because we all know that would happen):
First, someone who knows about my sinful conduct should come alongside me to warn and provide correction. If I do not repent, then the next step would be for the warning individual to find one or two other people who agree with my sinful nature. Those individuals would also provide warning and correction. But, I’m stubborn and I still do not repent.
My continued stubbornness causes the elders to investigate the matter. If they are able to determine that, yes, I am sinful in my questioning and that I have been warned but did not repent, then:
(b. iii.)…the Board of Elders, shall inform the church and the congregation thereof at a regularly scheduled worship service in order that the church may come alongside the erring individual to call them to repentance and restoration.
Yes, airing my sinful nature during a worship service would totally signify to me that they are walking along my side. Say I still do not repent, even after public rebuke. Now I am publicly dismissed from the church during a regular worship service. The elders can choose to bypass the first two steps and go straight to the congregation if I publicly refuse to repent, disseminate “doctrine deemed false or erroneous by the elders” or if I disregard two warnings.
But here’s the real kicker:
d.) The members of this church, and all other professing Christians who regularly attend or fellowship with this church, agree that there shall be no appeal to any court because of the dismissal or because of public statements to the congregation at the third or fourth stages of church discipline. Members who are under discipline by the church, as defined in the previous paragraphs, forfeit and waive the right to resign from this church. Resignations from membership are possible only by members who are in good standing and who are not under any disciplinary action.
Did you catch that? You cannot appeal this decision or any statements made publicly in a court. The only recourse you have is to appeal to the elders. If you are under church discipline, you “waive your right to resign from this church.” WHAT??!! With the expectation of members fully adhering to the leadership and the process of church discipline, is it any wonder that Eric Davis has opinions about the reasons people give for not going to church?
I did not see anything that states that members need to sign a membership agreement, but I would venture to guess that this happens. Don’t do it folks! You are only giving written permission for this leadership to call you out for what they deem as conduct that “violates Scripture.”
I’m sure that includes asking questions.