Practicing Discernment: How Membership is Viewed in Grace Church in Allen, Texas

This is a discernment exercise for people to look at and weigh in on. Today you have the opportunity to look at how Grace Church in Allen, Texas views membership. Grace Church is a part of the Evangelical Free Church of America and it is led by Joel Walters. Analyze this statement and let me know what your thoughts are on this church.

“Intelligence is something we are born with. Thinking is a skill that must be learned.”

Edward De Bono

“To live is to think.”

Marcus Cicero

That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.

Acts 17:10-12

Here is another opportunity for you to practice discernment and weigh how Grace Church in Allen, Texas views membership. Grace Church is an Evangelical Free Church in the Texas and Oklahoma District which is led by Bob Rowley. Grace Church is led by Joel Walters who is the Senior Pastor. Additional pastors on staff at Grace include Blair Abbott, Wes Tarbox, and Bill Yuhasz. I am showing my colors when you read this but I really have to state that as I work through the Evangelical Free Church of America it is long past time that this denomination return to it Lutheran roots. I am going to let you read how they view membership and ask for you to comment and weigh in below. The more people who comment the merrier because these posts eventually tag the church website and people can learn from them when they are looking for a place to attend. The goal of this blog is to create people who think on their feet, ask hard questions and investigate a place so that toxic and questionable organizations can be avoided as well.


 

Membership at Grace EFC

Greetings!

We are pleased that you have expressed an interest in becoming a member of Grace Evangelical Free Church.  We are excited about what God is doing in the family of Grace and through the family of Grace, and we would love for you to become part of it.
Why membership?

We understand that people have different understandings about membership and what the Bible actually has to say about becoming a member of the local body.   While you won’t find the verse “become a member” in the Bible, we believe that there is an association with the local body that implies a deeper level of commitment that we think is best carried out through the process of membership.
1) It has a Biblical foundation. Jesus established the local church and all the apostles did their ministry through it. The Christian life in the New Testament is church life. Christians today should expect and desire the same.
2) The church is its members. To be “a church” in the New Testament is to be one of its members (read through Acts). And you want to be part of the church because that’s who Jesus came to rescue and reconcile to himself.

3) It’s how to officially represent Jesus. Membership is the church’s affirmation that you are a citizen of Christ’s kingdom and therefore a representative of Jesus before the nations. 

4) It’s how to declare one’s highest allegiance. Your membership on the team, which becomes visible when you wear the “jersey,” is a public testimony that your highest allegiance belongs to Jesus. Trials and persecution may come, but your only words are, “I am with Jesus.” “I am part of the team.”

5) It’s how to embody and experience biblical images. It’s within the accountability structures of the local church that Christians live out or embody what it means to be the “body of Christ,” the “temple of the Spirit,” the “family of God,” and so on for all the biblical metaphors (see 1 Cor. 12). And you want to experience the interconnectivity of his body, the spiritual fullness of his temple, and the safety and intimacy and shared identity of his family.

6) It’s how to serve other Christians. Membership helps you to know which Christians on Earth you are specifically responsible to love, serve, warn, and encourage. It enables you to fulfill your biblical responsibilities to Christ’s body (for example, see Eph. 4:11-16; 25-32).

7) It’s how to follow Christian leaders. Membership helps you to know which Christian leaders you are called to obey and follow. Again, it allows you to fulfill your biblical responsibility to them (see Heb. 13:7; 17).

8) It helps Christian leaders lead. Membership lets Christian leaders know which Christians they will “give an account” for (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2).

9) It enables church discipline. It gives you the biblically prescribed place to participate in the work of church discipline responsibly, wisely, and lovingly (1 Cor. 5).

10) It gives structure to the Christian life. It places an individual Christian’s claim to “obey” and “follow” Jesus into a real-life setting where authority is actually exercised over us (see John 14:15; 1 John 2:19; 4:20-21).

11) It builds a witness and invites the nations. Membership puts the alternative rule of Christ on display for the watching universe (see Matt. 5:13; John 13:34-35; Eph. 3:10; 1 Peter 2:9-12). The very boundaries which are drawn around the membership of a church yield a society of people which invites the nations to something better.
Resource:  Jonathan Leeman is the author of The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing Church Membership and Discipline (Crossway, 2010) and is the editorial director for 9Marks.

How to become a member?

We welcome all those who are interested in becoming a member of Grace Church to complete a Membership application.  The application asks you some basic questions about your relationship with Jesus Christ and your desire for a relationship with the local body of believers, that being Grace Church.  It’s not a test!  It’s simply our attempt to get to know you a little better and begin to understand where you are in your spiritual journey so that we might help you grow in your relationship with Christ and with his body.
We will also ask you if you agree with the Biblical beliefs of Grace Church.  Don’t worry.  You may or may not understand all of the points of doctrine, but we are interested in if you understand those things that we believe are fundamentally important to understand about the Bible and the work of Christ.  It’s ok if you don’t necessarily agree with a certain point of the doctrinal statement.  Just explain how your belief differs and we can have a good discussion about how that impacts our unity in the body.
What you believe is important, but how we live and function together is also important.  We are also asking you to sign a membership covenant which expresses your intent to practice the Biblical principles that we believe.

Membership Process

When you desire to become a member of Grace, you will go through the following process.

  1. Attend the 2 week Membership Class. Check the Connection Point for the next scheduled class.
  2. Fill out the membership application.
  3. An Elder will contact you to set up a time and place for an interview.
  4. Examination of applicants for membership shall be conducted by the Elders as to:
    1.  Your salvation relationship with God through Christ.
    2. Your agreement with the Statement of Faith.
    3. Your willingness to abide by our Constitution and out Statement of Faith.
    4. Your willingness to join in the covenant of membership of the church.
    5. You will become a member of Grace Church by acceptance of the application by the Elders.
    6. (The removal of a member of Grace Church requires a motion from the Elder Board.)

For the rest of the application process and looking at the covenant I would direct you to their webpage. You will have to download their membership covenant.

11 thoughts on “Practicing Discernment: How Membership is Viewed in Grace Church in Allen, Texas

  1. As an exercise replace every occurrence of “church” in the membership document with “institution” and I think you will get a truer picture of what you will get yourself into if you sign this contract from “Grace” Church.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Now, the longer reply to the 11 points — directed at the original author(s) of said points:

    1. Formal membership is not a biblical concept. Involvement in a local body of believers is, but there is nothing in the Scriptures about formal membership being a requirement. Furthermore, folks like Paul and his fellow apostolic workers would go from one congregation to the next, and that was biblical.

    2. No, the Church is made up of her members. Collectively, Christians are the body of Christ, with each member being a part of that body. As for Christ coming to rescue and reconcile the Church to Himself, the Scriptures also say that it is not God’s will for anyone to perish. While Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and while no one comes to the Father, except through Him – and while Christ will ultimately only rescue and reconcile to Himself those who believe in Him – the Gospel message was intended to be communicated to all people – not just churchgoing Christians – so that everyone would at least have the chance to believe in Christ and be saved.

    3. What makes a Christian a Christian, is profession of faith in Christ, not allegiance to a local congregation.

    4. Why are we giving our allegiance to anyone other than Christ? It should not be about allegiance to a given congregation, but about allegiance to Christ. Lest we forget, Paul and his apostolic workers would go from one congregation to the next, and no one disputes the sincerity of their faith. The one thing early believers all had in common was allegiance to Christ, not allegiance to a given local congregation. Moreover, strong allegiance to a given local congregation can lead to division among believers who attend different congregations. Such division is not from Christ.

    5. While there is biblical support for these analogies, they must be balanced with a few biblical concepts: folks not lording it over one another; the priesthood of believers actually being empowered collectively, rather than some members having more clout than others; and false teaching being rejected. There is nothing in your statement indicating what your congregational leadership structure is, or whether or not it operates in a biblical manner. If the congregation operates in a manner more akin to a cult or other abusive group, that would negate the scriptural analogies, anyway, rendering their usage nothing more than Bible abuse.

    6. You do not need church membership to serve other Christians or other people. All you need to do to serve fellow Christians is to serve other Christians. Yes, church attendance – not membership per se, but attendance – can help you identify Christians, to be able to serve fellow Christians; but why not adopt the attitude of a servant toward folks in general?

    BTW, you people seem to really harp on concepts like membership and responsibility. I thought Christianity was supposed to be about what God has done for us, not what we can do for God. I mean, if Christianity is about what I do for God, then how is Christianity actually different than any other religion, and what hope, then, do we actually have in Christ, if Christ only accepts me, based on the good works I do?

    7. Whoa, timeout! Christians are to follow Christ. If I need an institutional structure to recognize appointed leaders, then those are leaders I am not called to follow. Human leaders I recognize as church leaders are those who do not demand submission and obedience to themselves, but who act like Christ and earn the recognition of leadership by their humble, Christ-like attitudes. When you demand that I submit and obey, you show me that you are not qualified to be Christian leaders, because Christianity is not about lording it over the flock. I don’t have a biblical responsibility to obey human “church leaders” who insist on lording it over the flock. In fact, I have a biblical responsibility to resist those types (1 Cor. 7:23).

    8. You cannot have an over-emphasis on leadership vs. other gifts, or permit church leaders to have unbiblical levels of authority over the lives of members. Frankly, the fact that you people harp so much on membership and leadership tells me that you are probably more into legalism and lording it over the flock than actual Christianity.

    9. And will church leaders be held to the same accountability standards as other members, or will non-leader members be subjected to harsher standards than leaders?

    10. Holy cow, again with this emphasis on authority! Who are you people, that God has given you all this so-called “authority” over other Christians? Because I can tell you quite plainly: Christ gave essentially no authority to church leaders over other Christians. Seriously. Read what Christ taught his disciples about leadership. Obeying God is about obeying God, not about obeying humans. Following God is about following His leading, not that of men.

    11. “Builds a witness and invites the nations….” Let me level with you: I am a marginal Christian at this juncture. All your talk about submission, obedience and spiritual authority – even structure and membership – I find a huge turn-off. I am a free spirit. That’s how God made me. What invites people like me is personal liberty, not one human controlling another. If Christ is all about ruling with no love and kindness, then I don’t want to be a Christian. For me, “better” is not being lorded over by another entity, but being allowed to be my free self.

    9Marks…. How does that not surprise me at all? I read that stuff and think, “Wait, are we talking the nine marks of a cult?” I know that’s not a fair statement, but 9Marks beliefs come across that way sometimes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ok, and the membership stuff: scary. They’re looking for conformity, not love or respect among believers.

    My opinion?

    RUN!

    Stay away!

    Reading that stuff on membership, I felt like I was reading the initiation / membership material of a cult. That part about a motion from the elders being required for membership removal I find especially problematic. I mean, does that mean that you’re not free to leave their congregation at any time? What if you move to another area? What if they abuse you? Then what?

    Eagle, I think you got it spot-on with the music video for DcTalk’s “Consume Me”.

    These guys strike me as being somewhat outta control. Makes me glad I’m not in their congregation. ;o)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The information onthe Evangelical Free Church and on Church Discernment is invaluable. Thanks for your time investment. Reading your posts gives great practice at THINKING which is much needed in the present church world.

    Another helpful pointer for me is the page that gives information about the STAFF. I’ve been really surprised by the number of churches with numerous staff who formerly worked in sales or marketing professions. I ardently want to avoid churches which are marketing Jesus (usually not the true Jesus at all).

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  5. “We are excited about what God is doing in the family of Grace and through the family of Grace, and we would love for you to become part of it. ”

    I wonder what God IS doing in and through the family of Grace? What is one agreeing to become a part of? It’s not even defined. Each person imagines what it means in their own mind. In reality, it doesn’t really mean anything.

    “Christians today should expect and desire the same.”

    Why? They just agreed it isn’t in the Bible, yet have the nerve to state what “Christians today” should expect and what they should desire. Who are they to make this demand if God doesn’t make it?

    Well, reading on, I could go on and find deception and error in pretty much every single sentence after that… People, read the Bible for yourselves and see what it really teaches. I could tell you what it does and doesn’t say but the point is, if you won’t take the time to read it yourself, others will direct you with what it supposedly says and you won’t know any better. How long does it take to read the book you’re supposedly basing your whole faith on? Read it and read it again. Just read it to see what it says without anyone else’s input. When you’re familiar with it, then start looking for a church and test it by what you’ve read.

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  6. I wish I have more time to post in every single articles you write Eagle. Thanks so much for digging up all these dirts from neo-Calvinists. =)

    Back to topic, I took a quick look at their Membership Covenant. And a few things jumps out.

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/574335982b8dde8413b3b1b2/t/583c949d5016e1d8b7cbedff/1480365213562/Membership+Process+and+Covenant+2014+%281%29.pdf

    1. I will protect the unity of Grace Church,
    • by acting in love toward other members (Ok)
    • by seeking to be a peacemaker (Unless someone is abusing me physically, psychologically or sexually. Then I should be allowed to fight back I hope!)
    • by following the leaders (What if the leaders turns out to be full of falsehood and tell us to follow Prophet Muhammad? Are we supposed to follow them when they pray to Allah?)

    2. I will share in responsibility for the health and growth of Grace Church,
    • by praying for its continued health and growth (OK)
    • by inviting the unchurched to attend services and events run by the church (OK)
    • By warmly welcoming those who visit (OK)

    3. I will serve in the ministry of Grace Church,
    • by discovering my gifts and talents (But are my gifts what I noticed they are? Or are my gift whatever the elders “say” I have even if I don’t feel any of it?)
    • by being willing to be trained and equipped (But to what extend? How many hours a week must I serve the church?)
    • by developing a servant’s heart (But what is the definition of NOT having a servant’s heart? Is it serving less than 10 hours for free a week?)

    4. I will support to the best of my ability the cause, community, and corporate life of Grace Church,
    • by attending worship services faithfully (But how many services I must attend a year to be consider faithful? )
    • by living a godly life (Oh boy! If I can be perfectly Godly I won’t need Jesus. It is exactly because I cannot be perfectly Godly that I need Jesus. So I have to consider what does it actually mean here by living a Godly life. )
    • by giving financially regularly (But how much money I must donate a year to be consider regularly?)

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  7. Pingback: Practicing Discernment: Grace Church in Allen, Texas’ Child Protection Policy | Wondering Eagle

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