Thursday, December 15, 2005

Lost People in the Church: Absurd and Undiscerning?

Okay, I got a little carried away there in the last sentence of the last post. It happens sometimes when you are arguing with yourself and feel that you are clearly winning. (If you don't understand that, then you haven't lived in my head long enough.;p) So, that is a little strong. I'm backing off a bit.

Some of you reading this blog are baptists, and others of you aren't. Regardless of your association, you have probably heard this type of thing said in a sermon before:

"Are you sure that you're saved? Are you sure that you're sure? Are you really sure? You could be a tare! You could be a weed in God's beautiful garden! You know what happens to weeds and tares, don't you? That's right, they get pulled up and burned. Roasted forever over the hot coals of God's wrath! So you'd better be sure. You better not be one of those people who just walk down to the front and shook the preachers hand and repeated a prayer. You may have been a member of Sleepy Baptist for 50 years, but that don't mean you're saved! You'd better remember a time when you accepted Jesus or you'll probably burn in hell. Yep, I'm talking to people tonight who are going to burn because they think they are saved but aren't really saved."

Now, it is good for a preacher to exhort the people to make their calling and election sure. But that is not the hellfire and brimstone type of preaching that I want to do. (I have done some hellfire and brimstone preaching, you can check the sermon log at, but it's different than this.) What I don't want this church discussion to turn into is a witch hunt for 'fake' members.

I have no doubt in my mind that there are people who are 'members' of my local church, over which God has called me as overseer, who are lost. They don't attend; they bare no fruit; they are Easter/Christmas members. They aren't really members at all.

As a person who holds to the eternal security of the believer (or better yet, the perseverance of the saints), I have often been asked this question:

"You mean that if somebody gets saved then they can just go out and do whatever they want to and they'll still go to heaven?"

My typical response:

"No, if they live like that it indicates that they were never saved in the first place. You see, following Jesus Christ means that a person is changed..."

I would never say, "Yeah, they were saved, but they lost it."

That, to me, is analogous to saying, "Yeah, they were church members, but they weren't in the real church."

I have no problem saying that there are folks on our roll and folks who say they are saved and that say they are 'members' of our fellowship. It would seem that they are. But they aren't really members, are they?

I think the next baptism talk will revolve around how one becomes a member of the church. This is really where the rubber meets the road. And Pilgrim, if you are still reading, thanks for coming over. We need some Presbyterians around here to keep us straight.


Jim said...

Preach it brother! Let them sinners have it. :)

You are not alone in your nauseous repulsion of this oft repeated banter. Could this be the reason why the typical church has only 70 members? How many people can one pastor trust, but wait, he might be a tare as well? Let the witch hunt begin.

Well, Daniel at Doulogos is collecting an assortment of oddball quips currently being hashed as truth in our esteemed halls of "higher" learning. Maybe you could add your most favored relativism.

Click here to accept

Doug E. said...

Good points!

It seems to me that solid preaching of the word, especially on justification and salvation by faith alone is the only way to continuosly be examining themselves to see if they are members of the Universal Church or not.

I also think a little concern about possible being one of the tares is a good thing also. As long as it doesn't turn into some overwhelming fear. Spurgeon once said, "Being a little over concerned for your soul and being saved is better than not having any and being lost.


Anonymous said...

At the Baptist-affiliated school where I teach, we've had at least four chapels this year that have been "all about" the question(s) of "Are you REALLY saved?" If there is any single parable these kids will remember in their lives, it will be the one about wheat and tares.

Overdosing on this kind of preaching (or any type, I guess) is BAD. I agree that it's good to "exhort the people to make their calling and election sure," but the incessant browbeating (usually accompanied with scare tactics and melodramic and, I suspect, untrue, "stories") gets hollow after a while.

What scares me is that this kind of preaching is what eventually made me doubt myself and my own beliefs ... "yes, I THINK I'm saved ... but what if I'm misguided? What if I'm really an insincere person and I don't even KNOW it? What if all of those talks with God, all of that sense of security and joy from having a relationship with God has simply been SELF-DELUSION? Oh, no! Jesus, please come into my heart ... AGAIN... really, I mean it this time, that is, if I didn't really mean it last time, even though I really thought I meant it LAST time ... oh no, what if I think I mean it this time but I don't? What if I'm not capable of the kind of sincerity needed for this? Jesus, I REALLY mean it, I promise ..." Repeat this process ad nauseum for a decade or so, and you end up with a seriously messed up person.

When I hear these sermons as my school (many using "scare" tactics of "you just might die today and go to Hell--think how bad it would feel to BURN--so are you really, really, REALLY saved?"), I just want to walk out and take those poor, innocent kids with me.

I think the constant repetition of such sermons displays lack of intelligence and creativity on the preacher's part. And I feel sorry for these kids because I don't want them to go through the church-induced neuroses I suffered.