Involuntary Church Membership

Your views? (Please read 1st post)

  • I Agree with "Voluntary Membership"

    Votes: 11 42.3%
  • I Agree with "Involuntary Membership"

    Votes: 4 15.4%
  • I Disagree with Both of them

    Votes: 11 42.3%

  • Total voters
    26
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buggy

Puritan Board Freshman
What is your belief on the nature of church membership? I hear two different viewpoints and I would like to hear your views. Please use Scriptures (as always) to justify.

My definitions below.

"Voluntary" Membership:
- The true church is the universal church; with the local church a subset of it (but consisting of unbelievers too). While joining a local church is important, it is by no means important compared to receiving Christ as Saviour. Should a member find his church policies' unacceptable, he may leave his congregation to commune with another local body of Christ. His membership in the local church has no tieing to his salvation.

"Involuntary" Membership:
- The true church is the universal church; the local church is a subset of it (but consisting of unbelievers too) and it is the only institution Christ had made to symbolically represent the universal Body of Christ. Therefore, church membership is a thing of utmost importance; nearly as important as one's salvation; one may only leave a congregation by death, letter of transfer or excommunication. A person who therefore is excommunicated, is under the curse of God even if he joins another congregation, until he repents.
 
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Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
I voted neither.

The voluntary doesn't stress the importance of membership enough. Also it was worded too loose for me because the term " Should a member find his church policies' unacceptable, he may leave his congregation". Policy is a very wide street.

The involuntary shows proper regard for importance of membership, but has no escape clause if the local congregation or the synod/Presbyterian. goes apostate.
 

jayce475

Puritan Board Freshman
; one may only leave a congregation by death, letter of transfer or excommunication.

Excommunication or death as as the only means (since letter of transfer would not have been possible) to leave the tongue speaking, vision seeking and miracle falsifying charismatic church that I used to be a member of?
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
the local church is a subset of it (but consisting of unbelievers too) and it is the only institution Christ had made to symbolically represent the universal Body of Christ.

I voted for none of the above. I take issue with the above quote. The church catholic (or universal, if you wish) is visible. It is not merely the symbolic body of Christ. It is the body of Christ, visible. And it is not merely a local institution. It is a worldwide institution (hence: catholic or universal.) There is the one true visible catholic church and the one true invisible catholic church. The former is the outward manifestation of the latter on earth.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
There are a lot of issues tied up in this, which makes it difficult to meaningfully choose one of the two options given.

Reformed theology has a "high" view of the church, and that is biblical as a general precept.

The visible church is the ordinary place where the sacraments are administered and the Word is authoritatively taught, and where there is some accountability of belief and practice (discipline).

I'm not sure what your question is you are asking- can you be more specific?
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Under your definition of "voluntary" you seem to be confusing two ideas: 1) membership in a particular local body vs. 2) membership in any local body.

Embodied in (2) is a take it or leave it attitude towards a local body. I've known people who think that local membership is totally optional.

I agree with the Confession when it teaches, "The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion; and of their children: and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." This seems to deny any "voluntary" notion of church memebrship.
 

buggy

Puritan Board Freshman
Okay, the bottom line is whether membership is something that is voluntary or is not.

You see, some churches regard membership as something that resembles any voluntary group or society - if you join us, you must be a baptized believer, you have some biblical responsibilities, and if you have a good reason that something's wrong with our church, you may leave anytime you want for another church. In other words membership may be unilaterally terminated by the member. Of course, things like church discipline applies if you are a member.

Others see the local church as binding on the member once he joins it - he cannot voluntarily leave. You leave only if the elders and/or the congregation permits you to do so. This is either by letter of transfer to another like-minded church, by death or by excommunication. One exception is of course if there is doctrinal error in the church.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
It is a biblical duty for a believer to come under the discipline of a suitable local Church where this is possible. In certain cases it may not be possible.

The visible Church isn't a voluntary organisation for the believer, like a golf club, where he is in an indifferent relationship to it.
 

tcalbrecht

Puritan Board Junior
Okay, the bottom line is whether membership is something that is voluntary or is not.

You see, some churches regard membership as something that resembles any voluntary group or society - if you join us, you must be a baptized believer, you have some biblical responsibilities, and if you have a good reason that something's wrong with our church, you may leave anytime you want for another church. In other words membership may be unilaterally terminated by the member. Of course, things like church discipline applies if you are a member.

Others see the local church as binding on the member once he joins it - he cannot voluntarily leave. You leave only if the elders and/or the congregation permits you to do so. This is either by letter of transfer to another like-minded church, by death or by excommunication. One exception is of course if there is doctrinal error in the church.

In every reformed church, either the elders (Presbyterian/Reformed) or the congregation (Baptist??) votes to accept members into the body. Why should the elders or congregation not have some say in how one may depart? Where in the Bible is departure cited as being unilateral?

I think this definition of “voluntary” is far too individualistic to be supported either 1) from Scripture or 2) from any Reformed confession/CO.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Okay, the bottom line is whether membership is something that is voluntary or is not.

You see, some churches regard membership as something that resembles any voluntary group or society - if you join us, you must be a baptized believer, you have some biblical responsibilities, and if you have a good reason that something's wrong with our church, you may leave anytime you want for another church. In other words membership may be unilaterally terminated by the member. Of course, things like church discipline applies if you are a member.

Others see the local church as binding on the member once he joins it - he cannot voluntarily leave. You leave only if the elders and/or the congregation permits you to do so. This is either by letter of transfer to another like-minded church, by death or by excommunication. One exception is of course if there is doctrinal error in the church.

The second option is getting to my point. Thanks for clarifying. I'll use a silly example to show my concern. Let's say the congregation holds to the LBC1689, but decides to add "you must believe in Christ and drink water from the Jordan river to be saved" . At this point I would have to be permitted to leave or be excommunicated because I would challenge the elders about their apostasy and protest this heresy as often as I heard it.
 

Iconoclast

Puritan Board Junior
What is your belief on the nature of church membership? I hear two different viewpoints and I would like to hear your views. Please use Scriptures (as always) to justify.

My definitions below.

"Voluntary" Membership:
- The true church is the universal church; with the local church a subset of it (but consisting of unbelievers too). While joining a local church is important, it is by no means important compared to receiving Christ as Saviour. Should a member find his church policies' unacceptable, he may leave his congregation to commune with another local body of Christ. His membership in the local church has no tieing to his salvation.

"Involuntary" Membership:
- The true church is the universal church; the local church is a subset of it (but consisting of unbelievers too) and it is the only institution Christ had made to symbolically represent the universal Body of Christ. Therefore, church membership is a thing of utmost importance; nearly as important as one's salvation; one may only leave a congregation by death, letter of transfer or excommunication. A person who therefore is excommunicated, is under the curse of God even if he joins another congregation, until he repents.

What is your belief on the nature of church membership? I hear two different viewpoints and I would like to hear your views. Please use Scriptures (as always) to justify.

My definitions below.

"Voluntary" Membership:
- The true church is the universal church; with the local church a subset of it (but consisting of unbelievers too). While joining a local church is important, it is by no means important compared to receiving Christ as Saviour. Should a member find his church policies' unacceptable, he may leave his congregation to commune with another local body of Christ. His membership in the local church has no tieing to his salvation.

"Involuntary" Membership:
- The true church is the universal church; the local church is a subset of it (but consisting of unbelievers too) and it is the only institution Christ had made to symbolically represent the universal Body of Christ. Therefore, church membership is a thing of utmost importance; nearly as important as one's salvation; one may only leave a congregation by death, letter of transfer or excommunication. A person who therefore is excommunicated, is under the curse of God even if he joins another congregation, until he repents.

you say this in both definitions;
- The true church is the universal church; with the local church a subset of it (but consisting of unbelievers too).

Biblically Jesus has died for His body,the church. He did not die for unbelievers....so although they[the unbelievers] do assemble with or among the true people of God, they are not in reality the church at all. Hebrews 2:9-16...Rev. 2-3.

then you offered this:
and it is the only institution Christ had made to symbolically represent the universal Body of Christ.

In what way do you mean symbolic? A local assembly should be representative of the actual church that will actually assemble on the last day.Each assembly is actual however.
Random christians[past,present, or future] when not assembled are more a part of the kingdom of God....then the visible assembly the church.
 

Joseph Scibbe

Puritan Board Junior
I can't vote for either because I see it should be somewhere in between. If I am allowed to leave if I take issue with a churchs policies then the moment they do something I dont like...I'm gone but if I can only leave by death or being kicked out I am prone to making a huge ruckus and getting kicked out, call it the rebel in me, which is not the best way to "live at peace with all men". I think somewhere in between is a good dround to stand on.
 

Willem van Oranje

Puritan Board Junior
Okay, the bottom line is whether membership is something that is voluntary or is not.

You see, some churches regard membership as something that resembles any voluntary group or society - if you join us, you must be a baptized believer, you have some biblical responsibilities, and if you have a good reason that something's wrong with our church, you may leave anytime you want for another church. In other words membership may be unilaterally terminated by the member. Of course, things like church discipline applies if you are a member.

Others see the local church as binding on the member once he joins it - he cannot voluntarily leave. You leave only if the elders and/or the congregation permits you to do so. This is either by letter of transfer to another like-minded church, by death or by excommunication. One exception is of course if there is doctrinal error in the church.

To "voluntarily leave" is equivalent to self-excommunication without process. It should be considered so. If there are scruples or issues which lead one to desire to unite to a different fellowship, this must be discussed with the leadership of that congregation to which one has made membership vows. To leave and go to another body without permission of the elders (after making vows of obedience) is equivalent to either declaring yourself not a Christian or else declaring that congregation to not be a true church of Jesus Christ.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
What has bothered me in the past is people referring to local church membership as though it is a covenant equal to marriage, and submission to elders like that of marriage. Marriage is a very unique holy and sacred covenant reflecting Jesus and His bride, and church membership is just not quite the same. If somebody for some reason thinks they are called to another church, or fit better in another church, they should not be treated like they are getting an unbliblical divorce and breaking a sacred vow on the level of marriage.

If you move to another state and can't even consider another denomination, I think you have a problem. Membership is very important and serious, but it isn't marriage.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Okay, the bottom line is whether membership is something that is voluntary or is not.

You see, some churches regard membership as something that resembles any voluntary group or society - if you join us, you must be a baptized believer, you have some biblical responsibilities, and if you have a good reason that something's wrong with our church, you may leave anytime you want for another church. In other words membership may be unilaterally terminated by the member. Of course, things like church discipline applies if you are a member.

Others see the local church as binding on the member once he joins it - he cannot voluntarily leave. You leave only if the elders and/or the congregation permits you to do so. This is either by letter of transfer to another like-minded church, by death or by excommunication. One exception is of course if there is doctrinal error in the church.

The membership vows must be considered. The vows are witnessed, taken before God, they may be an ordinance of worship. That's not the way many seem to imagine them, but it is what they are biblically.

Generally, one leaves by death, approved transfer or excommunication, but I would also say if one comes to a major disagreement of doctrine, one would also have grounds, always seeking the church's blessing if possible, and in accord with the procedures provided for in their polity.

Contrast that with the broadly evangelical view- the church is merely a loose association of consenting adults, with membership conditioned on convenience and/or personal preference at a given point in time. This is not biblical, and reveals how carelessly we take vows and our responsibilities to Christ's Body.

This can be made more difficult because some churches, that have a "low view" of the church have little or no formal process for membership at all. In other situations, one moves and there may not be the same church reasonably near by. In all such cases, however, Scripture would apply to us a principle of communicating to whatever authority of the church exists, seeking relief, transfer within the bounds of any promises made, stating any reasons that might apply, and attempting to leave in peace, on good terms.

Anything less betrays a problem in us understanding the nature of Christ's Body and our part in it.

(I don't think either of the poll options quite hits these points)
 
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