Speaking of our culture of acceptable disunity…
I read a short post on the 9 Marks Church Matters blog and was frankly a little nauseated by the title itself: Protect the Flock by Excluding Visitors . Then I started reading and it got worse….
So in our church, non-members are welcome to attend and participate in the public services of the church. We are happy to have them in our Sunday morning gathering, our Sunday evening gathering, and our fellowship meals.
But we don't let people attend small groups or serve among the children or lead music until they are members. In order to join the church, a person must be examined by the elders and approved by the congregation. Once a person has been through that process, we feel reasonably comfortable that they are safe (that is to say, not a wolf).
In what world does that make an ounce of Scriptural sense? If you aren’t a “member”, you can’t even attend a small group? Not lead one, attend one! You can sit and listen to a sermon but you can’t be involved in something where you can speak? Of course there is the small problem of a lack of any sort of elder-interview leading to formal church membership in one local church to the exclusion of all other Christians to be found anywhere in the Bible. Not to mention that there were no “small groups” mentioned, probably because the church met in that format anyway (small groups in homes) rather than massive meetings where everyone sat silently while someone else preached and they had to form "small groups" just so people can actually get to speak to one another (as long as they are "members" of course)
Why are we surprised that we have so much disunity in the church when we have one of the leading authorities on the church promoting the fencing off even small groups from "non-members"? If your people are being equipped properly they should be able to handle a “heretic” or “wolf” who comes to a small group. Or, gasp!, perhaps that small group is an outlet to invite someone who is an unbeliever to come to a less intimidating setting than listening to someone preach an hour long sermon.
Let’s assume there are 1000 “members” of Capitol Hill Baptist Church and/or Guilford Baptist Church (the home church of the author, Michael McKinley). They are both affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. There are 16,200,000 members of the Southern Baptist Convention, a highly dubious number but that is what they report. Based on this policy, the 16.2 million members of Southern Baptist Churches that are members of churches other than CHBC or GBC are not welcome to come to a small group meeting. A Southern Baptist Church that bars other Southern Baptists from attending small group meetings?
Stuff like this makes me even more convinced that the institutional church is warped and divided beyond repair.