As always If you are just joining the discussion then please check out the foreword, intro, and chapter one. You can catch up pretty easily. If you have yet to buy the book I would suggest buying it for a paltry 9 bucks, here.
If you want a healthy church then it is quite obvious that before anything else the church’s members need to be regenerate. But, how do you ensure that every person accepted into membership is truly converted? That begs a question though. Is “church membership” even a biblical concept? Dever will be the first to admit that “evidence is not abundant”, but there are examples in Scripture and thereby he also says, “it is clear, and it is consistent”. I believe with Dever that church membership is biblical—perhaps not in its current form—but if defined as“a means by which we demarcate the boundaries of the church”, then I have to agree that it is indeed biblical.
The question is now asked, how do we make certain that those we consider “members” are indeed regenerate? Dever’s first suggestion is to hold a new members class. He also suggests having members sign a church covenant. Sometimes it may even be beneficial to have members use the church covenant before partaking in the Lord’s Supper, or perhaps read corporately before business meetings.
Another suggestion, and perhaps the most important, is a membership interview. During this interview the “primary purpose is to gather” spiritual information. A few things to look for are: 1) an explanation of the Gospel 2) previous church experience and why they left 3) are they biblically baptized 4) have they ever been disciplined by a church? 5) their personal testimony. Dever also provides a helpful sample church membership interview form in the Appendix.
This chapter closes with a couple words of caution. First, caution is to not encourage the new members to “jump right in”. For one we do not know their previous church experience. There could still be serious misunderstandings of the Gospel. Consider 1 Timothy 5:22. Secondly, we have to realize that at the end of the day wheat will grow with the tares. Even still we must be careful to not use this as an excuse. “Don’t leave the front door unlatched”.
“…it is surprising how careless many Christians and even pastors have become about the spiritual security of the local church.” (59)
In regards to being intimidated when asked to explain the gospel in 60 seconds, “it is better for them to stutter in front of you now than to stand speechless before the Lord on the last day.” (64)
“…if membership is a local church’s external affirmation of a person’s spiritual conversion, then the most unloving things we can do is mislead condemned people into thinking they are saved by conferring membership upon them too hastily”. (65)
- Dever’s church does a new members class before membership. When does your church do such an interview? Why might it be beneficial to do it before? Why after?
- Do you know your church covenant? How does your church use it? Do you even have one?
- What do you think about the issue of church membership?
- What are we communicating as a church when we have ~650 members but only 150 actively attending?