Hotel California Churches (Think 9Marks) Want to Control Members Even When They Leave.

A clear look at Neptune’s rings. @NASAWEBB

“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some fresh air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.” –Gossip Girl.


Membership covenants are a way for leadership to control the folks even when they are leaving their church.

I am opposed to membership contracts, popularly known as membership covenants in order to make them sound “godly.” I continue to hear stories of churches that don’t let go. Almost all of them use the materials from 9Marks (affectionately known as 9Marx)  which I call the “Hotel California of the evangelical set.” You can check in (become a member) quickly, but you can never leave.

If the reader is in a hurry, here is the bottom line. Do not sign a membership contract. If you do, get out of it. I wrote two posts (among many others) on the subject: link and link.

Only leaders should “help” a member to relocate.

The thought seems nice. Let’s help those leaving the church find another church. However, in the Calvnista crowd, it involves more than you think. The Gospel Coalition posted Relocation Services: Help Members Move to a New Church.

The goal of leadership is outlined rather quickly. “Leaders” are the ones who need to assist in this process.

as pastors, pastors’ wives, and ministry leaders, we have a responsibility to assist our members when they transition to a new community.

This raises another question. “Why just leaders? Why can’t the average Joe Schmo member in the church help another member find a new church? Better yet, why can’t a functioning adult, moving to a new community, find a church? There is no problem with asking the pastor or “leaders” if they know a good church in Scranton. Knowing the pastor from the last church I attended, I would only have been directed towards a Reformed church of the “theo-dude” type.

For example, I know that the pastor would have failed to mention the church that I have now attended for years. My husband and I were determined to find a church where we could worship, and we talked about our unique experiences and needs. In other words, we were capable of doing our research.

those members who’ve invested deeply in the life of their local body, the transition is painful as the roots are deep and the ties that bind them are strong. Some may need extra care to transfer their commitments to a new church family.

The one that leaves darn well better go “well” and find a church that the current “covenant” church leaders allow or else.

Read this next part with a jaundiced eye. They are catechizing members to find a new church of which the current “leaders approve.”

Our job as ministry leaders is to help brothers and sisters see God’s plan for his church while they are making hard transitions. Teaching about the importance of the local church ought to begin in the front door of our membership classes. It ought to be reinforced in our church covenants, as in my local church where we promise, “If we leave this church, we will join another gospel-preaching church as soon as possible where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.” That way when they head out the back door, they’ve been biblically catechized in their responsibility as Christians.

Let’s talk about how this works using examples that I have known.

  • They don’t want a member to leave. There have been articles written encouraging individuals to rethink their reasons for leaving. Didn’t they commit to the church? Is this all about the member’s selfish wants and needs? They do not want a giving unit to leave and will sometimes play hardball to keep them present.
  • What if the members want to take their time and visit some churches? These Hotel California churches want you to make the decision immediately. Let me share a secret with you. You should pick one of their “gospel” churches, tell them you are attending, and then look for a new church. This will keep them off your back.
  • If one does not pick a church immediately, one can expect “retroactive church discipline.” They won’t let go, (often acting like rabid dogs. This is what the church contract is there for. This is what happened to Todd Wilhelm. I invented that term due to Todd’s situation in a 9Marx church previously known as UCC Dubai. They changed their name recently to Evangelical Christian Church of Dubai.

How to avoid nasty goodbyes?

  • Don’t sign a church covenant. Attend, but don’t join. If you give, they will be happy, at least for a while.
  • Do not give a reason for your departure. They may try to get you to change your mind.
  • Once you have decided to leave, do so quickly and quietly.
  • Do not go into any meetings with any leader. Tell them you’re too busy and will miss them very much. 😉  Trust me on this one. These meetings rarely turn out well for the leave-taker.
  • If you want to say goodbye to church friends, call them and take them to dinner. Do not involve any church leader unless you can trust them. (Pro tip: Most times, you can’t.)
  • Send your former church a certified letter, remove your church membership, and keep a copy of the receipt.

And next time around, do not join a church that heavily features 9Marks materials. That’s all you need to know.

DO NOT SIGN a CHURCH COVENANT!!!


Comments

Hotel California Churches (Think 9Marks) Want to Control Members Even When They Leave. — 90 Comments

  1. “They do not want a giving unit to leave and will sometimes play hardball to keep them present.” (Dee)

    The bottom line really is the bottom line with authoritarian churches … lose pewsitters, lose income. NeoCal/9Marx churches claim they are concerned about a member’s spiritual health at the same time they abuse them spiritually with aberrant belief and practice, the beauty of complementarity, and bondage to membership covenants. They don’t want you to exercise your freedom in Christ to attend the church of your choice. Church is voluntary. DO NOT sign a membership contract with the dudebros! The only covenant you need to enter into is the one written in red by Jesus.

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  2. Max: They don’t want you to exercise your freedom in Christ to attend the church of your choice. Church is voluntary. DO NOT sign a membership contract with the dudebros! The only covenant you need to enter into is the one written in red by Jesus.

    Yesterday our AG noted, “The Rule of Law is never a given but requires constant vigilance.”

    I would add: Church leadership integrity is never a given but requires constant vigilance.

    IMHO, church membership covenants, like church NDAs, are a misstep.

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  3. The main covenants we see in the scripture are always between God and his people (singular or plural), not between two men or a between a man and an institution. They were initiated by God and centered upon promises that God was making to his people. These covenants are the foundation of God’s eternal redemptive plan to save a people for himself. How arrogant to elevate a man-made contract to this level of importance and commitment by calling it a “covenant”!

    I’m also uncomfortable refer to marriage as a covenant for similar reasons.

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  4. Huh. These churches forget something very important: the letter of membership transfer. That prevents people from leaving and joining the wrong kind of church. The PCA and OPC have had this down pat for a long time.

    Well, kind of. I joined a PCA church after an OPC. The new church never requested a letter, in spite of me giving them the info. On a visit to the old church, I was informed that they were about to enact church discipline on me for failure to join a new church. I had joined one months earlier. It deeply upset me that my old church couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone and ask me, prior to accusing me (and not even telling me) of abandoning the church.

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  5. “If you give, they will be happy, at least for a while.”

    When you give money to a church, it should go to the shepherds in charge who are supposed to distribute it. After 40 years of church attendance, I have disagreed with how the elders and pastor have used my money. I started voicing my opinion to the leadership about 10 years ago. They really didn’t want to listen to what I had to say. I tithe significant amounts of money. I am still baffled as to why their ideas are supposedly better than mine. My husband and I have now left all those churches because we didn’t trust the leadership. That includes the Anglicans, the Presbyterians and the CREC (Doug Wilson’s group). My new belief is that the pastor has to take a vow of poverty or near to it. And until I trust the leadership, my tithing will follow accordingly. I sometimes wonder if the pastors of old were as untrustworthy as the ones we get today. Very discouraging and very sad state of affairs.

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  6. I found this article very helpful when I had to find a way to break contact with a very difficult person. Even though this article is about people, it is applicable to dealing with abusive churches, especially the part near the end of the article on how to deal with malignant narcissists.
    https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-recognize-a-malignant-narcissist-4164528

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  7. dee: I have, in the past, suggested that if one is concerned about their church, that they give money directly to the ministries that are meaningful to them

    It’s better to sow into the Kingdom of God, as He leads, rather than financing the religious kingdoms of men.

    I recently had a conversation with a man who opted to stay at an SBC church after the NeoCals took over the church and its resources by stealth and deception, resulting in a church split. Even though he didn’t agree with NeoCal belief and practice, and the roughshod treatment of long-established non-Calvinist members, he felt he should stay to “protect” the assets he had put into the church over the years by financing church building projects, etc. He said that he would continue to tithe even if the young reformers didn’t use his money correctly, that they would be responsible before God not him. I replied “No, you are responsible before God for giving into a ministry whose message and method you don’t agree with.” He was stunned with that assessment and walked away shaking his head.

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  8. Ken F (aka Tweed): It’s odd for Calvinist churches to be so controlling since they believe God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. If people leave a church it is because God ordained it.

    Or if they leave, they weren’t predestined elect after all … so why mess with them?! But, I guess such churches have no problem picking the pockets of those damned before the foundation of the world.

    Beware of ministers/ministries which desire to exercise control over you by manipulation, intimidation and domination through the terms and conditions of membership covenants. It can’t be repeated enough: DO NOT sign their contract … RUN!

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  9. freemarketmises: until I trust the leadership, my tithing will follow accordingly

    Good advice. Sadly, one needs to watch and listen carefully to EVERY pastor these days over a period of time to know who they really are. Gone are the days when you could walk into just about any church in America and trust that church leaders were committed to God, preached the precious Gospel message of Christ, and ministered to those in need. Wolves in sheep’s clothing? Nah, the wolves have found it more prosperous to dress in shepherd’s clothing.

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  10. Max: Or if they leave, they weren’t predestined elect after all … so why mess with them?! But, I guess such churches have no problem picking the pockets of those damned before the foundation of the world.

    It Was Predestined Before the Foundation of the World.
    Just like the Get-Out-of-Hell-Free cards of the Predestined Elect who are picking those pockets.

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  11. Regarding resisting pressure to put one’s signature to a church membership contract, I think that one can argue from the fundamental commitments of the Protestant Reformation, going back to Luther’s “it is never wise to go against conscience”, that one cannot predict the future course of what one will conscientously believe to be true about matters of doctrine and polity, so that it would be unwise to pre-emptively bind one’s conscience by making legally-documented vows to commit to specific views or to obey the commands of church officers or to unquestioningly submit to their judgments.

    If the leadership of a congregation wants to “hold onto” the members of the congregation, IMO it would be better to do that through the beauty of the community that is fostered among the membership, rather than through forms of legal compulsion. Legal compulsion as the mechanism of “member attachment” to the group might be less grievous to the Spirit than the alternatives.

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  12. I don’t know if they still do it, but back in the day the very non Calvinist Church of the Nazarene had “moving Nazarenes.” When you were in a relo situation, your pastor would send your name and info to that service, which would have a pastor in the new town waiting to meet and greet. It usually went well, but what if you figured the relo was a good time to change denominations?

    These days, I suggest not only not signing covenants but maybe, if you are attending a church with clergy, memberships, and the whole nine yards, not officially joining.

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  13. Samuel Conner: Legal compulsion as the mechanism of “member attachment” to the group might be less grievous to the Spirit than the alternatives

    that should be “… more grievous …”.

    There is already a ‘last resort’ mechanism available to church leaders to deal with difficult people — exclusion from the Lord’s Table. I intuit that the reason churches want legal membership contracts is to protect themselves from a) the consequences of their own high-handedness, should justly aggrieved members seek their own legal redress and b) predatory legal actions by evil-hearted ‘members’ seeking to ‘attack’ church property for personal financial gain. “b)” does happen from time to time, but I suspect that “a)” is much more common.

    Perhaps the churches would be better off if they did not have so much property to protect. Worry about protecting the value of valuable material asserts might get in the way of biblical forms of ministry.

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  14. Samuel Conner: Worry about protecting the value of valuable material asserts might get in the way of biblical forms of ministry.

    “If you wish to be perfect [that is, have the spiritual maturity that accompanies godly character with no moral or ethical deficiencies], go and sell what you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” But when the young man heard this, he left grieving and distressed, for he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God].” (Matthew 19:21-23 AMP)

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  15. This is basic control freak run amuck. There is a part of the typical 9marks covenant that says “If you are under church discipline, you are not permitted to speak in the church meeting that discuses your discipline.” And another that says you are not permitted to resign your membership if you are under church discipline.

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  16. Bob M,

    It’s so incredibly wearying, isn’t it? This is something I have experienced recently first hand. And the tentacles are still trying to hold on . . . . and I was never a significant ‘giving unit’. I do agree that you should find ministries you are in agreement with to give your tithe to. I did that years ago, even before I got out.

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  17. JAE,

    We have discussed, at length in the past, the tendency of the theodudes, aka Calvinistas, to use the word “gospel” (note “) and apply it to anything that they believe is the one true gospel. This word “gospel” can be applied to all of their activities such as gospel church attendance, gospel counseling, etc. You can read a post that I wrote about this: https://thewartburgwatch.com/2020/04/23/scot-mcnight-and-matthew-bates-define-the-gospel-for-the-gospel-coalition/
    Now, in regards to this post, when you leave, you must attend a church that has the “gospel” seal of approval. That will include, but is not limited to, regular church discipline and a church covenant that limits one’s ability to leave a church free and clear. I hope this helps.

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  18. Still, the question bears asking again, what causes regular and often times intelligent folks to put up with control freakery in these kinds of churches?
    Is it because they feel that God endorses the power structure of these 9-marks type outfits?
    And if so, do they then fear that they’re going against God by entertaining even private thoughts of leaving?
    Ideas anybody?

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  19. Muff Potter,

    One explaination is what Max reutinely says (they do not know they are being decieved becuase you are decived) or a collary to what he said… pew peons do not know what they do not know. If they knew there Bible, they would know that we pew peons do not need these “theo dudes” to come between us and G&d…
    While I reutinely speak negatively of my Fundamentalist education, they rammed the Bible into us…. to the point that one can begin to resent it, and the associated “piety” of “knowing your Bible”
    BUT, I never thought that all of the training will help to “protect me” from false teachers like this… for this I am VERY grateful..

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  20. Muff Potter: what causes regular and often times intelligent folks to put up with control freakery in these kinds of churches?

    Just because you are intelligent doesn’t necessarily mean you are smart. Blind trust in church leaders dulls critical thinking. Nothing worse than getting thrown under the bus than throwing yourself under it by subjecting yourself willingly to a control freak called “pastor.”

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  21. dee: Now, in regards to this post, when you leave, you must attend a church that has the “gospel” seal of approval.

    To the 9Marx bunch, Calvinism = Gospel. Moving your membership to a church other than a Calvinist congregation would not be under the “gospel seal” … thus, opening yourself up to excommunication from their version of the Kingdom of God where only Calvinists reside.

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  22. Again hailing from an ancient civilization that still exists: the ordinary, functioning congregation. As a lifelong churchgoer, I have never signed a church contract. I have easily transferred membership within a denomination when I didn’t think our congregation was meeting our family’s needs. The church has precisely no control over my life, my time, or my money. When I show up, they welcome me. If I left, they would not pursue me.

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  23. Ken F (aka Tweed):
    It’s odd for Calvinist churches to be so controlling since they believe God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. If people leave a church it is because God ordained it.

    I’ve met some that believe that you aren’t just elected to God but to them as a pastor. And they, as pastors, are the only ones who God ordains to be in charge. That’s why they are so hard on complementarianism. The power of the husband over the wife and children represents the power of the pastors over church members.

    Where they usually fall apart is when you ask the how they became a pastor. Most of them just decided to become one and/or started their church. That part of their was designed to work more in a setting with a larger heirarchy, but then they wouldn’t have the financial power autonomous churches do.

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  24. Muff Potter:
    Still, the question bears asking again, what causes regular and often times intelligent folks to put up with control freakery in these kinds of churches?
    Is it because they feel that God endorses the power structure of these 9-marks type outfits?
    And if so, do they then fear that they’re going against God by entertaining even private thoughts of leaving?
    Ideas anybody?

    It’s their Theology otherwise. Many people are convinced Calvinists but are not Paedo-baptists, and most of these churches are calvinistic Baptists.

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  25. Muff Potter: Still, the question bears asking again, what causes regular and often times intelligent folks to put up with control freakery in these kinds of churches?
    Is it because they feel that God endorses the power structure of these 9-marks type outfits?
    And if so, do they then fear that they’re going against God by entertaining even private thoughts of leaving?
    Ideas anybody?

    Most of them don’t even realize it, sadly. They don’t sign the covenant having sat down and thoughtfully considered every point.

    Many of them happily go through their church life thinking they have the best church ever until they asked the pastor a question he didn’t like or tried to leave the church, and then they go ballistic on the member.

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  26. Samuel Conner: There is already a ‘last resort’ mechanism available to church leaders to deal with difficult people — exclusion from the Lord’s Table.

    Yeah, about that… It’s a pet peeve of mine.

    The churches in question hold paradoxical views about Communion. They teach that one must not take communion unless one is a baptized, covenanted member of an approved church. With this, it appears they take the Lord’s Table seriously.

    But wait a minute… they also hold these views and practices:

    1) That the Lord’s Table is Remembrance only–not even Symbolic, let alone Real Presence or, God forbid, Transubstantiation.

    2) They serve Communion, or the Lord’s Table, only once per month, or twelve (12) times per year. In other words, they are already excluding people from the Lord’s Table forty (40) times per year.

    So I ask: why do they expect us to take Communion seriously if they claim to, but really don’t? And why should exclusion be considered discipline?

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  27. Ted: The churches in question hold paradoxical views about Communion. They teach that one must not take communion unless one is a baptized, covenanted member of an approved church

    From what I can tell, this has been going out of fashion in many of the bigger ones. It scares too many people away. They try really hard to pretend like they are open, welcoming churches and I guess this was a tell to visitors that they are not. So now some of them don’t fence the table anymore. I am seeing some really angry annoyed people in another forum I visit that their local New Cal church allows anyone at communion (that forum has a lot of OPC people, I think).

    Has their theology changed? I don’t know. I think they still might say they believe it among their peers. But they seem to change a lot of views when the numbers aren’t working out for them.

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  28. You know, at the beginning of this movement, it appealed to those who really wanted to be holier than thou and more right than everyone else. Many of the ones I know thought God was going to give them whatever their hearts desired because they jumped on the bandwagon, as is probably typical of new cults.

    But now they are realizing that not only will God not make them all superstar megachurch pastors along with being super rich with a super hot wife, but it’s really hard now to get noticed in the movement as part of the newer generation. A lot of Christians have wised up and moved on. They have to lie about their affiliation and their theology, and now are doing the same with other things like communion.

    I really think New Calvinism might have stayed a lot more successful without the covenants and the heavy handed church discipline, without changing much else. They thought that God make them succeed no matter how controlling they got, and they were wrong. So they are losing people in droves and people just call them a cult on social media. It was never going to work to take over the US evangelical machine, but they probably could have maintained more success over time.

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  29. Bob M: This is basic control freak run amuck. There is a part of the typical 9marks covenant that says “If you are under church discipline, you are not permitted to speak in the church meeting that discuses your discipline.” And another that says you are not permitted to resign your membership if you are under church discipline.

    Just a reminder for American citizens. Belonging to a church is *voluntary* and you can leave *any time*, even if you’re under discipline. Just write a letter, saying you’re no longer a member, maybe throw in some stuff about not being bothered and how you are no longer subject to their discipline, then mail it (certified, if you want a receipt) to the church and don’t go there anymore.

    If you signed a church covenant, you might want to have an attorney look it over to see if it has teeth or not. It’s probably not a valid contract, given that the member doesn’t get any “valuable consideration” out of it. There are churches that don’t treat members like “giving units” or who need heavy handed observation by the “elders.”

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  30. Ted,

    Doesn’t have to be. You could check out the “approved” congregation for a Sunday or two!

    I don’t like being deceptive either, but if the other party is seeking information they don’t have a right to, and the truth (or a direct refusal to provide it) may be used against me, I don’t think I’m obligated to be straight with them. Abusive spiritual leaders/churches take advantage of people with sensitive consciences.

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  31. CMT: why would these churches not want to let members speak in their own defense?

    In totalitarian church systems, such as elder-ruled NeoCal churches, individual freedom is not permitted – all aspects of members are subordinated. Women are subordinated to the beauty of complementarity, non-elder men have no say … heck, even Jesus is subordinated by their false doctrine of Eternal Subordination of the Son! You sign away freedom in Christ as a believer when you sign their membership contracts. Discipline is a one-way street with these bad-boys, you have no say in your fate. But thousands (perhaps millions) continue to attend their churches … go figure!

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  32. HereIStand: These covenants are the foundation of God’s eternal redemptive plan to save a people for himself. How arrogant to elevate a man-made contract to this level of importance and commitment by calling it a “covenant”!

    I can accept the “marriage as covenant” argument based on the text in Genesis, though I would add a caveat that sin might have nullified the covenant nature of marriage.

    That said, I am in full agreement with you on the elevation of church membership to convenant status. In fact, I was thinking along these lines this morning while taking my foster son to PreK. When I served as a bivocational pastor (single staff, rural church) I went through the Biblcial covenants one advent season (Adam/creation, Noah, Abraham, David, Jeremiah/New). Church membership was not listed and should not be so elevated.

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  33. Max,

    Well, a desire for control is probably the most obvious reason “why.” I’m more wondering how that rule could be rationalized so that wouldn’t give people immediate pause. It seems to be tipping the authoritarians’ hand. So much so I guess it’s hard for me to believe it is a actually a common thing. I’ve never heard of it before, though that’s not saying much.

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  34. Max: In totalitarian church systems, such as elder-ruled NeoCal churches, individual freedom is not permitted…
    You sign away freedom in Christ as a believer when you sign their membership contracts.

    My Dear Wormwood:
    That IS the New Definition of “Freedom in The Enemy”!
    Always use the Proper Code Words!

    Discipline is a one-way street with these bad-boys, you have no say in your fate.

    Dom or Sub, Top or Bottom, Hold the Whip or Feel the Whip, nothing in-between.

    And the men salivate at the thought of Pastor/Elders seeing their Loyalty and making them an Elder – “Now *I* Hold The Whip! Just like Pastor! Just Like GOD!”

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  35. CMT: a desire for control

    Certainly this was my big worry as a teen in a youth group that grew quite extreme. I totally believed that I needed the strong grip of a church (oh and Jesus), or I’d end up in addiction or worse.

    Truth was, I was a rule-following kid in a family that was collapsing. I wanted peace and quiet, not sex or drugs. The youth group and its nutty teachings saved me from nothing, and exposed me to a predator.

    Bible study, prayer habits, weekly worship with the far more normal adult congregation, and good Sunday sermons, helped me enormously. It was like belonging to two different churches—but I did not see that at the time.

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  36. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes: Just a reminder for American citizens. Belonging to a church is *voluntary* and you can leave *any time*, even if you’re under discipline.

    American residents as I suspect Americans residing in Germany may have found (its voluntary but you may have to pay to leave a religion). And American residents who aren’t citizens are also entitled to change their religion.

    Also those in the US under 18 don’t really have the option unless their parents/guardians agree.

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  37. Erp: Also those in the US under 18 don’t really have the option unless their parents/guardians agree.

    I don’t quite understand this, so please say more if I’m totally missing your point.

    Children generally can’t sign contracts in the US. How could they be required to fulfill the terms of a contract—if indeed a church membership covenant is a legal contract?

    If a US youngster does not want to attend church, this is usually a private family matter. Students in religious schools might incur school discipline.

    Apart from that, in case anyone does not know, the US government does not keep records of every person’s religion. (People who join the all-volunteer US military can stipulate their religion, mainly to facilitate chaplain support.)

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  38. Friend: Children generally can’t sign contracts in the US. How could they be required to fulfill the terms of a contract—if indeed a church membership covenant is a legal contract?

    IMO, children cannot be considered church members unless they have expressed faith in Christ. But, I suppose, the 9Marxists consider the family “unit” as all members when Dad signs the membership contract (children of the elect are elect nonsense).

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  39. Max: He said that he would continue to tithe even if the young reformers didn’t use his money correctly, that they would be responsible before God not him. I replied “No, you are responsible before God for giving into a ministry whose message and method you don’t agree with.”

    I don’t understand how many people just don’t see this. Many many people have financed abuse and paid for NDAs to silence victims YET KEEP GIVING.

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  40. JAE: Dee, thank you. What do you mean by ‘tell them you are attending and look for a new church’ ? It sounds like we are to mislead them. I know you don’t mean that.

    To be absolutely honest even if you were misleading the previous church it really isn’t wrong if they’re abusive. Just as misleading a rapist who is pursuing you is just fine.
    I personally don’t think it’s lying if you’re talking to an employer who is interfering in things which are none of their business, and I pride myself on being scrupulously, brutally frank in true Brummie style.
    In these cases my view is the other party isn’t following the clear rules of social interaction so the contract between us is broken and I don’t have to follow the rules either.

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  41. Friend: Children generally can’t sign contracts in the US. How could they be required to fulfill the terms of a contract—if indeed a church membership covenant is a legal contract?

    I bet some of them have tried anyway. Either claiming that their parent can decide for them (even as an adult) or that it’s a contract with God and the law is irrelevant.

    I mean, they’ve done so many coercive things already. Would it really be that surprising? My last New Cal church tried to retroactively implement the covenant to all members after the takeover.

    And this doesn’t seem to different than my (New Cal) college theology professor announcing that he had forced his 13-year-old daughter to sign a contract that he would arrange her marriage.

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  42. In the British Methodist Church, we have an annual Covenant Service at the start of the new year, where we make our vows to serve God in his presence and before one another. We also have systems in place to enable transfer of membership to another Methodist church if members move to another area.

    It seems to me that British house church leaders, who practiced heavy-handed shepherding back in the 1970s/80s, were fumbling amateurs compared with these churches which operate membership covenants. (Does anyone over the other side of the Pond know about Gerald Coates, Bryn Jones and other house church leaders?) Evangelist David Pawson in one of his best moments said there was “too much shepherding and not enough fishing” going on in some churches.

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  43. Ted,

    It makes things worse. Because of false ecumenism, and false communion within the oldest denominations, we have surely got to watch what we are seen to wed our souls to. The only safe thing is to drop out of all communion ceremonies whatever.

    One of my griefs was being pressured when refraining. So far, I’ve never been a “church member”. The older and better system in Roman churches pre-televangelist JP II was that most mass attenders simply didn’t “go up”. This incidentally afforded politicians tactful cover.

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  44. Michael in UK: Because of false ecumenism, and false communion within the oldest denominations, we have surely got to watch what we are seen to wed our souls to. The only safe thing is to drop out of all communion ceremonies whatever.

    I view this differently. Communion is between God and me. The humans who offer it might have flawed teachings, or they might be personally horrid. However, they cannot pollute Communion for me, or make me accidentally commune with the wrong individuals, denominations, or some other god.

    In my opinion, Communion should be open to all and voluntary for all. Still, I obey the local rules. If my kind is not welcome, I refrain; it’s not my congregation, after all. The exclusion never makes me want to join that church—quite the opposite. I am not sure I would ever join a church that excludes people because of their membership status or doctrinal affiliation.

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  45. dee: Well said.

    I do not get too many positive comments here. Even though all I do is either:

    Comment out of my own logical processing brain. This is what this comment came from. So many things are so straightforward once a person stops paying attention to what other “Christians” claim is important to them and instead look at what they actually DO. This removes all lying and manipulation which is as rampant inside the Church as outside of it. This blog would not exist if this were not so true.

    Or I comment out of my own life’s experiences. I am not the only one who does this as most all other comments here are the same. It is true that my experiences are more unique than others but there are reasons for that. I came into this life as a complete mess, but when I turned to God and took discipleship very, very seriously that was all taken care of. In this I became grateful and am very loyal to God as my very literal savior. I would have no peace if it were not for his power manifested in my life.

    This is why I hate hypocrisy so much. It takes the literal power of God to take your life and fix what is broken in it and just shuts that right down like a door slammed onto your fingers still wrapped around it. I am being as honest as anyone can be about my own experiences. Mock that if you want but you will reap what you sow. Your own real experiences will get mocked in return. Disrespect simply is what it is…

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  46. I want to share something I heard @ 40 years ago. Over time millions of people from Oklahoma, Texas and the South moved to California. My family was one of them. Tons of them were Baptist. Anyhow the saying was that the snow in the California mountains was the membership records of all the Baptists who never set foot in church again after they moved to California. My parents and the parents of my high school friends were among those who quit church once they got to California. I would say they were all southern cultural christians not genuine Christians. The laxity and loosey goosey traditional SBC Churches I feel laid the ground work for the more stricter Calvinist takeover. I belonged to a SBC church in Norwalk CA that had 2000 yes thousand members and 50 in Attendence. We had VBS schools where we baptized endless numbers of 6 year olds. “Do you want to go to heaven, raise your hand and get baptized” Some children enjoyed it so much they got baptized several times. I understand the Calvinist backlash, but since I don’t do Calvinism my wife and I are now very happy in our LCMS Lutheran church.
    genuine Christians. Its time for the SBC to call it a day and the sincere Christians to find other mission funding agencies and affilation.

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  47. CMT:
    Bob M,

    “You’re not permitted to speak in the meeting that discusses your discipline” whut???

    I wouldn’t treat my 7 yo that way. Why would any adult agree to that? And why would these churches not want to let members speak in their own defense?

    They don’t tell you that until you are under discipline. At least they didn’t tell me. It was really just a power play because I did not agree with the politics of the main pastor.

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  48. Max: Just because you are intelligent doesn’t necessarily mean you are smart.

    In my D&D days this was called “Intelligence 18, Wisdom 3” and I’ve been on both sides of that equation. Including the receiving end of its weaponized version.

    Also, Chesterton’s Father Brown alluded to something similar with “You don’t need any intellect to be an Intellectual.”

    Just make sure you don’t weaponize it against anyone who has a higher IQ than you. Too many Christians do, and it drives us away.

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  49. Mr. Jesperson: So many things are so straightforward once a person stops paying attention to what other “Christians” claim is important to them and instead look at what they actually DO.

    Sounds like something said by the priest in charge of my RCIA catechism class back in the Eighties:

    “Sin is not only morally wrong, but if you can look at it from the outside it’s also Terminally Dumb.”
    –Fr Joseph C Justice

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  50. ishy: And this doesn’t seem to different than my (New Cal) college theology professor announcing that he had forced his 13-year-old daughter to sign a contract that he would arrange her marriage.

    Thus clearing the way to sell her off to House Bolton so his descendants would inherit the lands and titles.

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