Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Children, Adults, and Professions of Faith

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?

4 comments:

Jim said...

You make some interesting points here.

My brother prayed the pray at age 7, and yet there was no real desire in his heart for the things of God.

When he was 28, he had a major spiritual awakening and now pegs that time as his true conversion. Things started falling into place and the hand of God was very evident in his life.

I agree that our acceptance of other believers must be based upon an understanding and confession of the blood of Jesus as their sin cleansing, and Christ being their Saviour.

Anonymous said...

Hi Brad,
The dilemma we have as pastors is that there are no categorical requirements for NT local church membership..i.e other than those stipulated which should be consistent in the lives of all Christians. That sounds as clear as mud so let me elaborate....A NT local church member should be saved, regenerated, born again, indwelled and sealed by the Holy Spirit, all would agree. Most would also agree that the aforementioned should also be obedient to the Lord through the symbolic baptismal waters. The question comes next as to whether anything else is to be required to ber a full-fledged voting member of the Baptist church which often decides church matters through Congregational votes. Is it right that a person who attends church once every 2 years(but is a professing Christian and on the role) have equal say to your most loyal deacon, SS teacher, or outreach person? Is it correct to allow people who rarely darken the doors of the church to show up for special votes in the church, but never for serving? Is it legitimate that a person who makes well into 6 figures but gives next to nothing for God's work having the same voice in a church vote as those who sacrificially and faithfully give? I would say NO. Although my antinomian friends may disagree, I believe that membership in the local church should mean something....serving and sacrificing for our Lord....isn't that what He taught being a Christian is about( the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve...)? If a person is not about these, I would not necessarily question their salvation, but I would question their obedience. Grace does not mean that we are free to do nothing.Lest I become too long -winded....
On the issue of childhood salvation.....choose to agree or disagree but I have noticed that often people who have become saved later in life(20's, thirties or later) may question the validity of others who have responded sooner. Certainly, some childhood professions are done with no understanding and little explanation by the teachers/pastors. This "experience"definitely creates confusion for the child and his parents later in life(b/c no salvation occurred). However, This does not negate the validity of true salvation by young ones. I was saved definitely by age 6, and have never doubted this. I knew I was a sinner, knew Jesus was the only way for forgiveness and salvation, and received Him as my Saviour. If a church makes a distinction between "professing" Christians( I'm saved but not ready to serve) versus local church membership(i.e. serving Christians), a few problems are eliminated. This idea is not one which is necessarily popular b/c it does limit church size b/c there is an accountability to actually be serving, but I have found it seems to greatly minimize the problems often found within the church...KA
BTW - Elizabeth just had a 9 lb baby boy

Even So... said...

Brad, what happened to your pending resolution you talked about a while back about "members" who you haven't seen in a long time?

Did you rewrite it, submit it, send it out, did it come to fruition or what is the status of such?

Sojourner said...

JD,

We are attempting to contact people before the letter goes out, and I want to make certain that everyone is on board with this before we move.