Thursday, March 10, 2011

Keep visitors away from the Body!

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.


Jeremy Myers said...

Wow. I have enjoyed some of the stuff coming out over the years from 9Marks, but this is over the top. Unbelievable.

David Rudd said...

I saw this same post and was very uncomfortable with it. On the whole, I'm a big fan of the 9Marks guys.

However, I continue to really wrestle with their views on "church membership". It seems like they have to do some real hermeneutic gymnastics in order to make the Bible support their view...

I guess we all have our blind spots, eh?

Misplaced Honor said...

thank you for writing this. This time last week I was looking forward to a meeting with a local Acts 29 church planter over coffee. It did not turn out like I hoped. After talking about ways of serving our city together the subject matter turned to their hopes of having a building to meet in soon to do worship services every Sunday. That led to a question and answer session about my ecclesiology which in turn led to him telling me I was not welcome at their "village group meetings" unless I desired to be a member of their up and coming institutional church gathering. I was floored. I'm still trying to move past it without becoming bitter.

Again, thanks for the post. As you can now see, it came at a perfect time for me. I haven't blogged all week because I didn't want to say the things I have been thinking. You're like my mouthpiece. You let me know I'm not all alone in a corner building my theology.

Arthur Sido said...

David and Jeremy,

I appreciate a lot of what 9 Marks does but it seems that they are so caught up in the traditional view of the church that they are off kilter right from the get go.

Arthur Sido said...


That stinks, it is disappointing when people refuse to even consider a different viewpoint. On the other hand, I am always happy to be the one ranting about something. It suits me!

Misplaced Honor said...

yeah, I'm guessing it comes from the same 9 marks teaching. They are just following protocol. Kinda makes sense of his comment about how he questions if our house church can be called a church without recognized, ordained elders but that's for another post.

Unknown said...

This is also how Sovereign Grace Ministries works, across the board. (My guess is they took it wholecloth from 9Marks, though I suppose it could be the other way around.)

The flipside is that the leadership in these churches are also the ones who tell you to "stop dating the church" (i.e., go through the formal membership process here, or go away and find some other congregation whose membership process you're willing to go through).

What you hear from the pulpit is (a) Sunday morning is nice, but small groups are vital to your growth; (b) you can't get into the small groups unless you go through the pastoral approval process; and (c) if you don't want to go through that process here, you should leave.

Once you put the pieces together, you start to see how they're pushing the hard sell -- using your desire to grow spiritually as the carrot to their "shepherding" stick.

It's sad. I know a few pastors in those circles who have such potential, but they squander it on these psychological games and power ploys. They just can't give up "trying to be the 4th member of the Trinity," as Scotty Smith recently wrote on Twitter.

Arthur Sido said...


Makes you wonder who they are proclaiming, Christ or their local church?

James said...

This reminds me of a time when a local fundamentalistic...well, they say they aren't fundamentalist, baptist church evangelism pastor's contacted me via my blog...Deliver Detroit. They were interested in the evangelism ministry and outreach that we had been doing and wanted to know more.

Who knows what the intent was, but not having a real place to meet regularly, I started attending. Needless to say, after going through all the "hoops" for the membership requirements, the straw that broke the camels back for me was that I could not go out and "do" evangelism with members of the church until I was officially a "member."

Now, this comes from a place where the college group can study a book called "Don't Waste Your Life" for 30 minutes, and spend 3 hours doinking around and "socializing."

Still don't recall any of them ever taking up an invitation to leave the "doinking" and go to evangelize and feed the homeless...

Yeah...just a bit of a bitter taste in thee ol' mouth on that one..

Arthur Sido said...


Could it be that they are more interested in getting more members (who put money in the plate) than they are in making disciples?

Just wondering...