I was doing some reading over at Centuri0n's place and I found this article linked there. It is by Mark Dever, and the gist of the short post is how we determine "genuine" professions of faith.
This is an important topic for Baptists especially. One of our hallmarks is that we believe in regenerate Church membership. That is, you cannot join the church without a valid profession of faith. Once someone has been recognized as having a valid profession, and then follows with a valid baptism, then they may join with full rights and privileges. In most Baptist churches, that means they get an equal vote and voice in the business meeting.
The problem is that sometimes folks who think they get saved really don't get saved. They may be simply trying to get saved. That is, they hear the evangelist, realize that they are in big trouble because of sin, and decide that a trip down to the front and a hand-shake may put them back on decent terms with "the Man Upstairs."
Another problematic part of an 'invitational' conversion is that children sometimes walk the aisle to talk to the preacher or evangelist. I'm all for children being saved, mind you. I just get nervous about the reality of conversion in anyone under ten. It can happen; I'm sure of it. However, it may be a response to pressure or manipulation and being scared of the boogey man also. Such things need to be handled with the utmost care for the sake of both the individual and the health of the church.
Typical scenario is this: a child gets "saved" and baptized at six. They live like the devil until they get married at 28 and have kids themselves. They feel guilty about their children being raised in a reprobate home, and so they go and rejoin the local church. Of course, this thrills mom and dad that their wayward children have "come back to Jesus" and the pastor is happy because now more people are there on Sunday and the numbers look better. The biting reality might be, however, that while the new church members are now more moral, they are still lost and will ultimately cause problems in the church if the previous "profession" at six is not earnestly questioned by the pastor or somebody who knows better. Again, this must be handled with care, but it needs to be handled. 22 years of rank rebellion cannot...or should not...be swept under the rug with a "nevermind about that" attitude.
I believe that it is wise to inspect the life of a professing believer for some sort of spiritual fruit. Without some sort of safeguard at the 'front door,' the church is basically defenseless against false converts. I don't think Mark Dever is out to lunch on this, do you?
We Must Do the Impossible
6 months ago